Benefiting Sails Up 4 Cancer presented by Cooper Capital Specialty Salvage

Sailors on 34 boats reveled in breezy conditions while raising funds for Sails Up 4 Cancer. © Brendan Coyne


By Ruth Emblin

Our charity regatta on Saturday, April 30, boasting probably the longest event name I have ever had to announce over and over, could not have worked out any better. The event was quite extraordinary, as it was a collaboration by five local yacht clubs with one charitable mission, raising funds for Sails Up 4 Cancer. Following months of planning and promotional work to get the word out, we ended up with 37 boats registered, 34 of which battled it out amongst their fleets, and 250 party guests under the big tent on the Essex Yacht Club’s lawn.

What had started with just a trickle of registrations per day when we began promoting, turned into a veritable waterfall as we came closer to race day. In fact, we sold out of party tickets three days before the big day, which was a wonderful problem to have for a charity event. The day began with bright blue skies and blustery conditions, as crews gathered for the Skippers Meeting. The race committee gave last-minute instructions and reminded everyone to sail safely. Meanwhile, next door, volunteers from all five participating clubs were setting up tables and chairs, and a vast display of auction items to be enjoyed after racing concluded.

Skippers collected their goodie bags complete with donated t-shirts, water bottles, and the all-important Sailing Instructions, and began to rig their boats. Five classes competed, including MC Scows, Lasers, Ideal 18s, JY 15s and Etchells. The Connecticut River was the perfect place for this one-design regatta, held one weekend prior to the last day of Spring Frostbiting. Sailors from all five yacht clubs, Essex Corinthian, Essex, Frostbite, Duck Island, and Pettipaug, competed on the river in variable conditions with occasional rather substantial gusts, making for an exciting day on the water. A few powerboats, among them Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s Becky Thatcher, well known to some of you from past charity regatta parties, cruised along the Essex waterfront providing a front-row seat to all the action. Visitors to the Connecticut Spring Boat Show at Safe Harbor Essex Island were likewise treated to a spectacle on the river.

Following four to six races, depending on the class, the sailors joined guests from all five yacht clubs and beyond at the post-race party. Music by the band Cherry Pie, food provided by EYC, and plenty of drinks donated by generous sponsors kept everyone entertained until it was time for a few important announcements by the planning committee.

As the co-chair of the event, as well as Past Commodore of ECYC and current Vice Commodore of DIYC, it was my pleasure to introduce Mischa van Berkel, PYC Commodore; Carter Gowrie, EYC Commodore; Tom Atkinson, ECYC Commodore; Mark McCarthy, DIYC Commodore; and Sue Wyeth, FBYC Past Commodore to the assembled guests. A mission statement by Bob Davis, founder and CEO of Sails Up 4 Cancer, the benefitting charity, and a moving testimonial by Ken McGahee, a close friend and Leukemia survivor, brought the goal of the event back into focus: raising much-needed funds for cancer patients and their families in our community.


The race committee ran an outstanding series. © Brendan Coyne

Sails Up 4 Cancer is a local charity in Mystic, CT, founded by Bob Davis after surviving two types of cancer. After enduring countless treatments and the physical and psychological toll of his diagnosis, Bob wanted to help others who needed support dealing with cancer diagnoses that devastate patients and their families. He created a charitable organization to fund research, treatments, care and support for all types of cancers through the art and enjoyment of sailing. SU4C has been able to assist many local cancer centers as well as individual children, adults and their families struggling with the financial impact of cancer on their lives.

Party guests bid on exciting prizes in the silent and brief live auctions. Several guests generously pledged additional donations to support SU4C. Judging from the initial tally that evening, our charity event may have exceeded its goal of $50,000 raised! We will publish the final fundraising results when all auction winners have been contacted and bid payments collected.


From Left to right are Mischa van Berkel, PYC Commodore; Ruth Emblin, DIYC Vice Commodore & ECYC Past Commodore; Carter Gowrie, EYC Commodore; Tom Atkinson, ECYC Commodore; Mark McCarthy, DIYC Commodore; Sue Wyeth, FBYC Past Commodore © Peter Emblin


The event planning committee would like to thank everyone who helped make this day so successful, from club representatives, members of the race committee, to volunteers from all clubs, and the group of U.S. Navy cadets who came to lend a helping hand. We are very grateful to the Gowrie Group, our title sponsor, and specifically Carter Gowrie, as well as to Cooper Capital Specialty Salvage, our presenting sponsor, for their generosity. And, of course, a very heartfelt Thank You to all our other sponsors, cash and in-kind donors for their support. Our event would not have been possible without the help of our local sailing community and friends! ■