There are many sailboat races in Vineyard Haven throughout the summer but the Pat West Gaff Rig Race is unique in its requirements. In our part of the world, before sails were mostly shaped like triangles, they had a fourth side at their tops, jauntily held aloft by wooden sticks called gaffs. Only gaff rigged boats are allowed in the Pat West Gaff Rig Race.

The race began 36 years ago, and eight years before that Greg Coogan began sailing the gaff sloop Welwyn out of Vineyard Haven harbor.

“My brother Ed, and Jim Lobdell and I brought Welwyn here in October of ’77 from Wickford, Rhode Island,” Greg said. “In a howling southeaster I steered through the rain around East Chop while Jim and Ed played cards down below. When we came into Oak Bluffs, Ed said, ‘I’ll take it from here.’ I was like, ‘No, thank you.’ Everybody was there waiting for us on the dock.”

Welwyn turns 100 years old this year, and was out on the water for Saturday’s race. But the wind didn’t howl on the race course. It barely showed up.

When wind is very light, in general, there can be great local divergence in its speed and direction. As the race began, Welwyn got stuck in a calm that we could see on the water in a circle around us. All the other boats sailed away.

Not a lot of wind on Saturday for Welwyn to make a run. — Harry Ricciardi

“This is pretty much the worst showing we’ve ever done,” Greg said.

The sun sparkled on the top of the low eastern swell, arriving in wide furrows as big weather pushed it past Chappaquiddick. Most of the fleet disappeared in disparate airs to the north and east, and we drifted past Oak Bluffs.

“We got nothing going for us, except it’s a beautiful day,” Greg said.

In the sun we were warm, though the air was cool. We were close enough to East Chop at one point to distinguish the road that runs along the top of bluff.

“When I was teaching I used to run that road every morning,” Greg said. “It’s always beautiful looking out. It’s different every day.”

For over 30 years Greg was a math teacher at the Tisbury School. For decades he has served the community in politics, as a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Oak Bluffs select board. As a child he lived at a summer camp on Vineyard Haven harbor run by his aunt called the St. Pierre camp.

Welwyn has helped Greg stay connected to the waterways and share them with his children and grandchildren.

The wind came up after we conceded the race and turned back toward Vineyard Haven. The serene slide of the 30-foot centerboarder with wide easy bilges, that cradle the boat’s motion in one plane, makes her feel more like a ship than a daysailer as she effortlessly slips through the chop and pushes out a wake.

“When she goes, she always has this feel,” Greg said.

The feeling, to people sensitive to it, is awe inducing.

Welwyn is an original design, created by the iconic New England draughtsman John Alden. Such old boats can require structural work and Welwyn will eventually qualify for some. It may be the next owner that finds the resources to get her back into the boatyard.

“I’m a believer in small boats,” Greg said. “That’s where I learned. I fell in love with it. That’s what I want for my grandkids.”

Every year there are more powerboats in and out of the harbor and anchorages around the Island. All of us who have spent a lot of time wrangling breezes wonder how to interest other people in doing it.

“This boat always took care of us,” Greg said. “It’s all so simple but it was really made by somebody who knew what they were doing.”

Welwyn has no winches, roller furlers, autopilot or navigational equipment besides a compass.

At the awards dinner after the race Nat Benjamin mentioned to the crowd that both the schooner Malabar II and Welwyn were turning 100 years old this season.

“It’s a testament to both these boats and their owners that they’re still with us,” Nat said.