Holmes Hole Sailing Association
History, Traditions, Stories and Trivia
The Homes Hole Sailing Association
    In 1976, a group of sailors from the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club saw a need for a different venue for sailing than that provided by the one design racing provided by the club at that time.  The idea was to provide a less formal, more inviting form of racing  for those less competitive in nature and for all levels of sailing experience, not just those raised in the yacht club environment.  Any sailor with a boat not less than 15 feet overall and able to pay the $8 dues was welcomed. The schedule was set for a triangular course within the chops for morning and afternoon races every other Sunday.  By 1978, 35 boats had registered and each sailor brought whatever level of competitiveness to the race as he chose.  To keep it simple, spinnakers were not allowed and the triangular course was used exclusively.  Frank Jewett, together with Pat West, Hugh Schwarz, Harry Jones, Tom Hale, Tom Mendenhall, Joe Low, Hank Scott, and Bud Haven were at the core of the group by 1980. 
    To establish handicaps for the boats in order to allow for the diverse fleet, Frank Jewett averaged times recorded for the triangular course over the years.  Although the handicaps were a matter of interest for most of the sailors the focus of the group was always on the sailing rather than the competition.  Two divisions were established to allow the high performance designs to compete with each other separate from the smaller and cruising boats.  Adding 3 Sundays of rendezvous races to the schedule in the early 80's really required the sailors to gain some skills.  When Harry Duane took over the handicapping in the late 80's, more attention was paid to the vagaries of the current's impact on the times.  Still, the regular attendees, ever fluctuating in numbers, focused not on the results but rather the blue skies and waters of the Vineyard Sound. 
    During the 90's, the average boat in the fleet grew in size and the members expressed interest in adding more races to the schedule which would test their skills racing in the currents of the sound.  Harry Duane designed 3 courses now called the "Sound" races which are about 10 miles long and give the larger boats a chance to strut their stuff.  Throughout the last decade, the schedule has included 13 Sunday races, a third of which could be "Thrown out" when scoring for the season's awards. 
    As the Soling one design fleet attendance slowly ebbed at the Vineyard Haven Yacht club, Club members who were also sailing with the HHSA, hoped to get VHYC members sailing with Holmes Hole by initiating "Thursday Evening races."  The VHYC had a couple of Sonars available for its members and the grill was made available to the HHSA sailors after the short informal races.  This venue has become very popular and many members of the VHYC have become aware of the HHSA racing program because of these Thursday Evening races.  Since the 1980's, the VHYC has made their committee boat, the Vigilant, available with captain to the HHSA for a very reasonable fee and together, the two clubs provide the largest regular adult sailboat racing venue open to all on Martha's Vineyard.
Around 2015 the Thursday Evening races have been included in the scoring for the season's championship.  6 Alerion 28 express boats have joined the fleet and have become regular racers all season long. The fleet continues its trend towards faster boats but as always, boats of any description have been welcomed and continue to be competitive thanks to the unique rating system.  In 2020 the Covid pandemic required an adjustment to the post race gatherings but that did not dampen the enthusiasm for the racing.  The fleet raced as one division. 2020 ushered in the H-12 one design fleet which will continue into 2021 with an increase in expected participation.  A review of the "Results" web page will give those interested a good rundown of the recent seasons' fun.  

Currents in Vineyard Haven Harbor
The basics:
Think of the moon-produced tidal current coming in from the ocean at Newport. It divides into a stream to the left into Long Island Sound and stream to the right toward Boston. As the Boston Stream gets to Buzzards Bay, some if it flows around Cuttyhunk into Vineyard Sound. The portion going north in Buzzards Bay tries to get through the canal but is forced to rush through the holes in the Elizabeth Islands (Canapitsit, Robinson's, Quick's and Woods) into Vineyard Sound, thus reinforcing the current there. Thus the “flood” is a strong current running east past West Chop. Approximately six hours later, the reverse occurs and there is an “ebb” current running west.

The effect on Vineyard Haven:
The current flooding past West Chop cannot turn the corner toward Vineyard Haven and continues toward East Chop where it is able to turn and run into the harbor along the East Chop shore. This happens about 1.5 hours after the current starts to flood in the sound off West Chop (counterintuitively, the water continues to flow out around East Chop during this 1.5 - 2 hour period). It continues to the Lagoon Pond breakwater at Eastville where some gets around in to the Lagoon, but most makes a right turn and either flows into the inner harbor circling back along the West Chop Shore, or is deflected by the Eastville breakwater and flows out toward West Chop.

When the ebb starts, water pours out of the lagoon and runs out along the East Chop shore. It also runs through the harbor and out the West Chop shore virtually all the time. Look at the floating line to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club's swim raft and you will notice it is almost always bowed north toward West Chop.

The racing considerations:
When the current is flowing along the East Chop shore, into the harbor and also when it is flooding out, there are back-eddies on the shore and about 100 yards out. They vary and can not always be seen on the surface. Sometimes tacking close to shore has a really helpful effect when heading into a foul current, but generally staying outside of the main stream of current is wise. With the tide flooding in on the East Chop shore, there is a noticeable current going out of the harbor at Buoy A (N6), and as noted above, it is almost always going out at Buoy B (N4).

The current in the sound reaches 3 knots. Tacking out into the flood is a major benefit if headed East, whereas a boat headed West would try to stay inside the current line which is generally just inside the line of the chops. (The line between B {N4} and C {C23a}.) The exception here would be a lee-bow current lifting you to windward.

While these comments are basically accurate, a protest that the current during a race was not as described will not be allowed, nor will a protest that one of the general suggestions did not work out.

Awarded to First Place finisher each division, each Sunday Race.
Also, starting in 2012, to First Place finisher of the Thursday evening race.
Awarded as a keeper cup to the Season's Champion each year.
This modest cup has been upgraded to a fine Pewter Cup more in keeping with difficulty in winning it.
Season's Champion retains the Jewett Award until the end of the next season.  Click on the picture for a larger view to see the past winners.  See Results page for the record of winners.                                         
                        Are you next? 
The Hugh Schwarz Memorial Cup awarded to the First Place Finisher
of the Fall Post Season Racing

2012 Winner = Wicked,  Phil Hale, 2013 = Gloria, Roger Becker, 2014 = Penelope, Mo Flam
2015 = Avanti, David Lott, 2016 = Penelope, Mo Flam, 2017 Uncontested, 2018 = Tamu, Tom Wescott
2019 = Tamu, Tom Wescott,  2020 = Silhouttee, Wendell and Beck Colson. 

Dan Culkin Cup:  Awarded annually starting in 2018  to member(s) attending most amount of races.   See Results page for record of winners.