Sailing for a Cure: The Leukemia Cup Regatta

Every year Leukemia Cup Regattas are hosted at Yacht Clubs across North America. Last year, 10,000 sailors came together nationwide to raise $4 million dollars for research, patient and community support, public health education, and professional education.


greater bay area leukemia cup regatta, photo by: ellen hoke photography


greater bay area leukemia cup regatta, photo by: ellen hoke photography


greater bay area leukemia cup regatta, photo by: ellen hoke photography

The 2014 Leukemia Cup Regatta in San Francisco was hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere, raised a total of $500,000 and brought together sailors around the Bay Area in the joint effort to find a cure for blood cancers.

I decided to participate in this year’s regatta after an information meeting hosted by Mollie Hagar of Modern Sailing School and Club a long time sponsor of the event. I joined the team and committed to raising $2,500. A daunting task for a young professional, however, it was entwined with new friends, new skills, and astounding generosity.


katie holman and jonathan “wacky” wackler provided entertainment at my lcr fundraiser

To raise a bulk of the funds for my pledge, I hosted a fundraiser at a local cocktail lounge, complete with raffle prizes, paintings from local artist Daemon Morrison, and the musical styling’s of Katie Holman and Jonathan “Wacky” Wackler. The turnout was astounding and we raised $900 dollars.


the beautiful table setting, photo by: ellen hoke photography


honorary chairman tom perkins, guest speaker wendy schmidt and mark buell, photo by: ellen hoke photography

The evening of September 20, the San Francisco Yacht Club hosted a silent auction and benefit Gala. The dock-side Clubhouse set the scene for a silent auction surrounded by community members, donors, and regatta racers dressed to the nine’s, most of which were racing the next day. Former America’s Cup sailor, Paul Cayard joined sailors on the Bay on Sunday while Venture Capitalist, Tom Perkins, the Leukemia Cup Honorary Chairman attended the VIP dinner.


sail couture donated a gift basket of fun sailing, fashion and wine items – the ‘basket’ being a helly hansen duffle! photo by: ellen hoke photography

I particularly liked Sail Couture’s ‘sailing lifestyle’ themed gift basket – the basket itself was a Helly Hansen duffle! A few of the items included were: two tickets aboard ACSailingSF‘s USA 76, San Francisco’s 2003 entry in the America’s Cup; a tote, placemats and coasters from Sea Fever Gear; a bottle of Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet; an Ella Vickers Sailcloth Wristlet, a Sperry Topsider pareo/scarf and Toss Designs Traveller with sailing patch.

When the silent auction closed, attendees moved outside where the Master of Ceremonies, Liam Mayclem, was joined on stage by Commodore William W. Melbostad, and guest speaker Wendy Schmidt.


guest speaker wendy schmidt and honorary skipper rhett krawitt, photo by: ellen hoke photography

“When I found sailing, I knew I found my tribe. Sailors don’t discriminate,” she started her keynote.

As an impactful environmental philanthropist, dedicated sailor, and skipper, Schmidt started her keynote with a call to action amongst sailors punctuating the responsibilities we have to protect the world’s largest natural resource.


“cancer cells are the bad guys. for three and a half years I took chemo to get the bad guys out,” said honorary skipper rhett krawitt, photo by: ellen hoke photography

Honorary Skipper Rhett Krawitt, a Leukemia survivor at just six years old, drove home the reason that we were all there. “Leukemia is cancer in my blood,” he started, “Cancer cells are the bad guys. For three and a half years I took chemo to get the bad guys out.

Thank you for coming so that one day everyone can get the bad guys out. My name is Rhett and cancer ends with me!” Needless to say the room exploded with applause and a few sniffles here and there.


team modern sailing with honorary skipper rhett, photo by: ellen hoke photography

My teammates and I were fairly new to racing, so with enthusiasm and a will to win, we took a few classes and a racing clinic offered by Modern Sailing Club. On Sunday September 21, race day, we took to the water on Carita, the school’s C&C 32.

We weren’t the first to cross the finish line, but having fun was what mattered most. There were nine divisions, the most magnificent being the first of wooden boats.


yankee by the golden gate bridge, photo by: ellen hoke photography


the first division of majestic wooden boats, photo by: ellen hoke photography


martha, the oldest living flagship of san francisco yacht club, photo by: ellen hoke photography

This class had several majestic schooners racing, including, Martha, the oldest living flagship of the San Francisco Yacht Club.

After a relatively low-wind regatta, racers met back at the San Francisco Yacht Club to listen to good music, eat great food, and hear the results of the race and fundraising.


dr. louis degennaro, president and ceo of the leukemia and lymphoma society and john mcneill, skipper of the schooner Yankee, the top fundraising boat.

The top fundraising Boat was skippered by John McNeill and “Team Yankee” who was closely followed by the top individual fundraisers, David Joyner, Chris Kostanecki.

Fundraising is ongoing until November 1st and you can make a donation today by and visiting the Leukemia Cup Regatta website.


kimball livingston sailing aboard freedom, photo by: ellen hoke photography

Kimball Livingston, editor at Sail Magazine is a dedicated platelet donor who was inspired by his participation in the Leukemia Cup Regatta to donate blood platelets.

“I like sailing the Leukemia Cup Regatta because it’s a lot like our casual mid-winter races on the bay. Good people, good boats and the killer instinct can be left at the dock. In the big picture, the regatta is inspiring because of the research it supports, which lives up to the motto, “Cures now.” I can’t write a check that moves the dial, but even if I could, there would still be a crying need for the platelets that keep blood cancer patients alive, every day.”


team members lucas and julia aboard modern sailing’s carita, photo by: kira maixner

Lucas and Julia Saunders are new sailors, but long time veterans of fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “My favorite part was seeing all the generosity of our family and friends come through in the donations.

As far as the sailing goes, the best part for me was taking the ASA 101 class as it was fun and challenging, and learning a new skill is always great. Overall, it was a great opportunity to learn to sail while also raising money for a fantastic cause.”


event coordinator robin reynolds with honorary skipper lynn spiller – photo by: ellen hoke photography

Event coordinator Robin Reynolds hosted an amazing event but it couldn’t have been pulled off without the sailing community.

“It is truly rewarding to bring the Bay Area sailing community together to help make a difference in the lives of blood cancer patients and their families. Thanks to our incredibly dedicated Leukemia Cup Regatta Committee and The San Francisco Yacht Club, we have raised a total of $5.6 million and ranked as the top fundraising regatta in the country for eight years in a row.”

Kira Maixner does digital communications for San Francisco-based startup, GetMyBoat. When she has free time, she is learning to sail, daydreaming about travel and exploring the city by bicycle.

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