Marine News from the Great Lakes

Hospice Regattas Sail for a Compassionate Cause

Published: Friday, May 29, 2015


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The regattas run from spring through fall, in locations from Connecticut to California, and Toronto to Tennessee. The Great Lakes boast the highest regional concentration of events, and this year will play home to the championship for the fourth time.

The first Hospice Regatta was held in Annapolis in 1982, organized by Virginia Holland Brown and a small group of dedicated sailors. Brown had been looking for a new way to raise funds for a local hospice that had been of great personal value and meaning to her, and the idea of a sailboat race appealed to her as something new, different and more interesting than a typical charity function. Over the next thirty-plus years, Brown's homespun event grew into an international alliance of annual regattas that have, to date, raised over $21 million for local and regional hospices.

Today, 26 independent Hospice Regattas—eight of which are on the Great Lakes—are supported by the National Hospice Regatta Alliance, an all-volunteer nonprofit based in McLean, Virginia. In 2000, the Alliance began organizing a championship for the winning skippers from (the local regattas). Three of these championships have been raced on Lake Ontario, hosted by the Rochester Yacht Club. RYC will again host the event—for 2014 season winners—this coming June 11-14.

"Hospice Regattas are an 'everybody-wins' proposition," says NHRA President Tom Tomlinson. "Sailors get to have fun doing what they love for an important cause; sailing clubs and their communities get to play key roles in supporting increasingly-needed local services; the hospices get critical funds; and, of course, the patients and their families are the true beneficiaries." Tomlinson says that the charity is also highly-efficient, thanks to its locally-driven efforts and minimal overhead: "Boat crews raise money in the spirit of competition, and other fundraising events happen around each regatta. National and local sponsors provide financial and in-kind support. And because everyone is a volunteer—from the boat owners to the Alliance board of directors—most of the money raised goes where it's really meant to."

Tomlinson adds that the Alliance is now actively scouting and soliciting interest from possible host clubs for the championship in 2016 and beyond. In addition to its time in Rochester, the championship has been held at prestigious sailing venues like Annapolis, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Petersburg. Clubs interested in participating in Hospice Regattas at the local or national level are invited to contact the NHRA at [email protected]. For more information or to donate, visit


tags: Racing

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