Vineyard Haven Yacht Club

And now for a short history of the yacht club located at the foot of Frog Alley.

Just about everything to do with the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, which celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary just last summer, runs counter 
to what you imagine when you think of the word “yacht club.” No blue blazers, white trousers, or 
officer’s caps. No booze on the premises. Not even a clubhouse for the first twenty years of its existence. Just a crack sailing program that’s fielded three Olympic racers and captured an improbably large net tonnage of regional and national trophies going back more than seventy years – the North American Junior Championship six times between the 1930s and 1950s, for instance. The 
focus, from its first days on the water in 1928, has been on kids, on teaching them how to sail and race and letting them have fun along the shoreline. They play rag-tag on the beach (the person holding the rag is it) and have held contests to see who can jump a bicycle farthest off the club pier. “This is what the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club is all about,” says Polly Brown, a former commodore (in Vineyard Haven, women often serve as commodore). “It’s just a wonderful way to grow up. You make lifelong friends.”
Parents from Edgartown, Chilmark, and all over the Island send their children to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club junior sailing program. Half the kids in the program join without parents and pay reduced rates. They learn to sail in sturdy little Optimist prams and high-strung Collegiate 420 sloops. The club building – a long, low structure designed by Tom Hale, the former owner of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard in Vineyard Haven – was built in 1966 on the site of the old Bayside Inn (which was located at Frog Alley, now Owen Little Way) after the pavilion of the first clubhouse collapsed during a dance and the building was condemned. Tap-dancing classes have been held in the clubhouse, as well as jacks tournaments, exercise classes, and line-dance lessons. Club lunches, served on the porch, seldom get more elaborate than hot dogs, hamburgers, and lemonade.
The Vineyard Haven Yacht Club puts boats and racing at the very heart of what it does. But club members are nearly as competitive on land. For many years Art Buchwald and Fain Hackney, an Edgartown lawyer, played Fain’s parents, 
Sheldon and Lucy, in a tennis tournament that came to be known as the Hate Cup. The trophy was a chamber pot filled with flowers. Buchwald’s only instruction to his young partner: “Hit it to your mom.”
Yet as the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club 
rounds the mark on the upwind leg to its centennial, informality rules the day, and money, class, and even fame continue to mean zip to members – and employees – alike. When Lady Bird Johnson was once a little slow to pick up her meal, 
the kitchen staff issued a warning by loudspeaker: “Johnson, if you don’t pick up your lunch, we’re going to give it away.”