The best pastimes are those that reach beyond simple gratification for the people involved and offer a genuinely positive impact for others. That's what Hospice Regattas across the US do every year, raising funds and awareness for the care of terminally ill patients and those close to them. In fact, over the course of the last 12 months the events that collectively comprise a national network of Hospice Regattas raised over $1 million for 39 hospice care centers in their communities. That's a lot of scratch, particularly for an amateur sport. Though the concept of the Hospice Regatta has been around for almost 20 years, it's likely that most sailors haven't encountered one. And that's one of the reasons why a few years ago the originator of these events, Virginia Brown, chose to create a national organization unifying the independent events around the countrythe National Hospice Regatta Alliance, which represents itself by way of the catch phrase "Sail for Others." Not long after establishing the alliance, Brown and her co-organizers conceived an even better way of sharing the good work of the Hospice Regattas with more sailorsthey created a national regatta with a fleet made up of representatives from each of the independent regattas. That's how the Lauderdale Yacht Club in Ft. Lauderdale, FL became the epicenter of Hospice Regatta activity over the past weekend. Hospice Regattas, says Jean Clark, the President of the NHRA, present a win-win situation for sailors and Hospice administrators alike. "These events not only raise money and awareness," she says, "they also turn people on to the sport of sailing. The money raised by way of these events comes from individual and corporate sponsors who actually come out and see the racing on spectator boats or from convenient shoreside locations
.Hundreds more of the public see or hear about these colorful events, which is good for hospices and good for sailing." Clark explains that the hospice supporters simply use the regattas as backdrop for their fund-raising efforts and don't rely upon the sailors for contributions.
A racing sailor herself, Clark remembers when the first Hospice Regatta got started in Annapolis, MD, in 1982. "I was initially sceptical as a sailor," she explains. "I said to myself, Who would want to do that event? It's not on the racing schedule.' But the next year it became part of our seasonal series and just took off from there." Since then, she says, that event has grown to become a fixture on the local racing schedule, not to mention its prominence on the area's social agenda. The Hospice Regatta in Annapolis raised over $400,000 last year, says Clark, through the fund-raising efforts of eight separate hospices.
The concept of a national regatta is still in its infancy (this year's contest was only the second one), but it's nonetheless becoming widely accepted and has even established a little cachet among competitors at the independent Hospice Regattas around the country. "I'd say it's an honor for sailors to come and compete," says Clark. Though each regatta is independently run and each orchestrates its own criteria for selecting a representative, once the field of participants is set, the competition intensifies.
At this year's event 13 teams materialized to go mano-a-mano on the waters off Ft. Lauderdale in J/105s that were kindly offered up by their owners through J/Boats, an event sponsor. Five races were staged over two days in mostly moderate sea breezes and clear, sunny skies. Despite the overall emphasis on raising money and awareness, the competitive element at the national Hospice Regatta is well intact. "Oh, it's a totally competitive event," remarked Danny Shea, the skipper of a team of San Francisco, CA sailors who had won their region's Hospice Regatta in order to qualify for attendance here. After posting a 1,1,2 on the first day to lead the regatta, Shea and his crewThomas Isler, Seadon Wisjden, Jim Fisher, Patrick Carroll, and Mark Chandlerenjoyed the off-the-water hospitality at the eventsocializing with the staff and volunteers from HospiceCare of Southeastern Floridabut maintained an all-business approach to the procedings. "Our boys are going home early tonight," said Shea that evening. With a narrow lead over Michael Lague's South Carolina-based team (3,2,1), the full time merchant seaman didn't want to take any chances. "We still have our work cut out for us" said Shea.
Despite similar weather conditions, the action in following day's two races was markedly more aggressive. In Race 4, Hank Stuart's team from Rochester, NY jumped ahead to take the gun just in front of Dave Alexander's Hampton Roads' team, while the Californians ended up third. Race 5 saw former J/105 national champion Steve Phillips and his team (representing Newport, RI) log a bullet, with Scott Kulp's group out of Havre de Grace, MD came in second.
Kulp, a truck driver and J/24 sailor said afterward that there were several individual recalls at the starts which reordered the final finish positions. "That kind of shook up some of the standings, but we're just relieved that none of the owners' boats were damaged," he said. "There weren't any collisions even though it was close racing." In the end, Michael Lague and his South Carolina crew managed to hold on to second place overall, but no one could get within nine points of Shea and his well-rested San Franciscans. As for Kulp and his crew of Fred Reynolds, Nip Brown, and Katherine Gleason, they ended up fourth at their first National Hospice Regatta: "These folks down here have done a great job with the event, and it's such a good way to help raise money for something that really is a good cause," said Kulp. At home, he's not just a competitor, but also a supporter of his own community's Hospice Regatta, which had 30 entries in its inaugural iteration last year. This year in Havre de Grace, he says, they'll experiment with a new way of rewarding the more successful fund raisers by inviting them out to race aboard several of the boats. "It's kind of like the 17th-man concept in the America's Cup," he explains. "Sort of the same thing that they do for the sponsors there."
Who knows, maybe Kulp's idea will catch on among the thousands of other sailors who attend Hospice Regattas across the country. That kind of refreshing integration could be just what the sport needs at the grass roots levela better way to secure positive exposure. It just might make for the perfect match. (For additional information on Hospice Regattas, log on to the NHRA's website at: http://www.kreative.net/hospiceregatta/.)
A Wealth of Competition
You never know what will happen when friends get together. The first Hospice Regatta was created in 1982 through the combined energies of 12 friends, who together with others and sponsors watched as 35 boats raced from Annapolis to St. Michael's, MD. The affair netted $30,000 to benefit hospice care in northern Virginia. Last year, the same event secured over $400,000 in donations. Now, from California to New York, there are 17 Hospice Regattas on the calendar, so sailors in almost every area of the country have an opportunity to compete and contribute all at the same time. Here's a list of the events to get you started. Additional information on each event can be found via the NHRA website at:>http://www.kreative.net/hospiceregatta/.
April 20-21 Lake Norman Hospice Regatta, Lake Norman, NC
May 18-19 Hospice Regatta 2001, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
May 26-27 San Francisco Hospice Regatta, San Francisco, CA
June 1 Harford Hospice Regatta, Havre de Grace, MD
June 9 Oswego County Hospice Cup Regatta, Oswego, NY
June 16 Hospice of the North Shore Regatta, Marblehead, MA
July 20-21 Hospice Regatta of Maine, Mt. Desert, ME
July 21-22 Stein Hospice Cup, Cleveland, OH
August 4 8th Annual Hospice Charity Cup Regatta, Henderson Harbor, NY
August 8-11 Niagara Hospice Cup Regatta, Niagara, NY
August 25 The Hospice Race, A Regatta of Hope, Rochester, NY
September 2001 Hospice Regatta of Southeastern Connecticut
September 15 Hospice Cup XX, Annapolis, MD
September 15 Hospice Cup of Rhode Island, Newport, RI
September 22 Hospice Regatta of Greater Hampton Roads, Hampton, VA
October 13-14 The Turkey Shoot, Rappahannock River, VA
October 20-21 Hot S'Yacht Hospice Regatta, Lake Hartwell, SC
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