A northerly breeze blew steadily at about 15 knots, sweeping up Lagoon Pond, gathering chill every inch of the way. Occasionally, a gust of about 20 knots added frosty emphasis. The air temperature was about 36 degrees, the water temperature about 38.
Still, a hardy, adventurous, competitive group gathered Sunday to sail, as they do many Sunday mornings through the winter. To a man, they said the elements were not even a distraction.
"I had a wool hat," said Lorne Lewis of Vineyard Haven, "and a lot of layers underneath. I was actually hot."
They call it frostbite sailing, and for those who love to sail, and love to compete, what's a little icy spray among friends?
"Most people think you're nuts to be out here," said Andrew Burr of Edgartown, a top competitive sailor and coach of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) sailing team. "It's always fun to go out there and test your ability. The only thing that gets cold is my hands."
Nevin Sayre of Vineyard Haven is also a top competitor and a constant nemesis to Mr. Burr on the race course. "The races are short," said Mr. Sayre. "One little mistake, and you're at the back of the pack."
Mr. Sayre sees more strangeness in sitting at home with warm slippers and a second cup of coffee than beating to windward through a short chop on a winter day. "We live on an Island and should be taking advantage of getting out on the water."
Each sailor is dressed in a dry suit, made of high tech material, along with gloves, boots, and hats.
"The most important piece of clothing for me is my Stop & Shop bag," said Bob Andrews of Edgartown. "It's the only way I can get my boots on." Though not the most competitive of the bunch, he might have the most fun. The sheer joy of sailing is apparent in his expressions, and seems to override any score sheet ranking.
"These guys are half my age," Mr. Andrews said. "That makes a big difference."
The dry suit, with snug seals at the neck, wrists, and ankles, protects the sailors from the frigid air, and even the frigid water if they happen to go in the drink.
They sail Dyer 9's, an open dinghy that sails fastest when weight is forward, the bow plowing through the water. Add a gusty breeze, and the boats are a split second from capsizing. Which two of them did, Sunday.
"A puff came from behind, the wind pushed my sail up and caused me to do a death roll," said Chris Edwards, a Martha's Vineyard Regional High School sailing team veteran who now competes for the University of New Hampshire. "It was a little frustrating, considering I was in first."
It should be noted that Mr. Edwards, and Mr. Burr, who swamped his boat a bit earlier, are both excellent sailors, and their momentary immersion in Lagoon Pond was the result of pushing their boats to the competitive limit, not poor seamanship.
Organizing, cajoling, weather watching, needling, timing, and judging the races is Brock Callen of Sail Martha's Vineyard.
"Two long, then one long, three short, then one long, then three short," he explains, as he whistles signals in 30-second increments, marking the two-minute countdown to the start of the race.
Then the wind gusts, the spray stings, and the fleet turns for the line once again.