The Edgartown Yacht Club: Staying up to speed in the winter

— Photo by Kristófer Rabasca

Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. – Lewis Carroll

At the Edgartown Yacht Club, Bill Roman and his winter staff of five can’t stop moving forward just because most members have sailed away. The administrative offices of EYC at 1 Dock Street in Edgartown keep regular hours – 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. “Planning, planning, planning,” says Mr. Roman, club manager for the past 24 years. “In September, we start getting ready for the following year. We start looking at calendars, we start budgeting, we update yearbooks, and do promotions for our regattas and Around the Island Race. There is just non-stop preparation.”

On a typical off-season afternoon Mr. Roman, Alleyne Hughes (the office manager), and Amy Eisenlohr (CFO) manage to avoid being distracted by the water views out almost every window and plow through stacks of papers, make phone calls, and commiserate on the prevailing project. The phone rings frequently and construction sounds are barely audible from the nearby Main Clubhouse. The aroma of frying burgers wafts up from the snack shop, The Galley Grill. Outside, it’s peaceful. Inside, it’s hectic.

The main mission this winter is a rebuilding of the Around the Island Race. It’s currently celebrating its 75th year although it’s taken place in many different incarnations since its inception. This summer, it will be held on July 20, and will be preceded by two races — on the 18th and 19th. Bill explains his strategy: “We’re trying to create a series of races that will encompass that weekend and build the attendance for those events. We’ve already seen some steady growth in the past several years. By and large, we’ve made a concerted effort to revitalize the races and we think we’ll see upwards of 100 boats (participating) this year.”

Bill began his tenure at EYC as a chef, then made the jump to club manager. “The position came open,” he recalls. “My predecessor was leaving and said, ‘you should apply.’ It’s hard to believe it was that many years ago.”

And the transition from running the galley to taking over on the bridge? Bill chuckles at the question. “I learned an awful lot,” he explains. “Managing a kitchen was one thing, but managing the entire clubhouse was a skill set I had to develop. It was challenging and still remains challenging.”

Edgartown Yacht Club was incorporated in 1905, the result of a faction splitting off from the Home Club — a gentlemen’s sailing and socializing organization. The departing group wanted a more intensive focus on sailing. The resulting EYC moved around to several clubhouses until the late 1920s when Commodore Elmer Jared Bliss purchased the derelict Osborne Wharf at the foot of Main Street in Edgartown. He had the old structure torn down and replaced it with a new pier and the building that would become the Main Clubhouse. The membership moved to their new, permanent location in 1927, leasing it from Commodore Bliss until 1929 when he was relieved of the financial burden by The Edgartown Associates, 38 committed members.

Since then, the club has continued to grow and expand to its present 850 memberships. A year after the clubhouse was built, the EYC purchased the old Chappaquiddick Association’s holdings — tennis courts and a clubhouse on Pease’s Point Way. Currently their facilities consist of the Main Clubhouse cluster (administrative offices, racing operations, The Galley Grill, and the building that houses the restaurant and bar), another cluster of buildings on Dock Street, the Junior Clubhouse, the Sailing Center (that serves the more than 200 children in the Sailing Program), the tennis facilities, staff housing on Pinehurst Road, a maintenance shed, and a stand-alone building that is borrowed by the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby to use as the weigh station. These all present more winter challenges — repair and upkeep.

Currently, the carpeting in the Main Clubhouse is soaked from the last deluge. In fact, the facility floods so frequently, the club has attached little metal plaques near a doorframe to indicate the high water marks from significant storms — just as parents record the growth of their offspring. Nearby, a vintage weather-beaten door lies prone across saw horses, waiting for restoration. The Ladies’ Room is being renovated — the plasterboard having been gradually reduced by floods to a lake of liquid Tums.

And there are the boats — the club launch, two committee boats to officiate at the sailing races, and more than 60 in the Sailing Program, five Whalers, and various dinghies, and other small utilitarian boats. All have to be in top shape when summer events begin.

This is all in addition to standard upgrading and upkeep of the other facilities, planning and promotion of events, and hiring for the upcoming season. But Bill Roman and his team are on top of it. “We’re continually trying to refine, do better, provide better service, provide better value,” he explains. “It’s all part of making it better every year.”