The friendly relationship between the four local yacht clubs in Essex, CT is quite remarkable. While each club’s board runs its organization as they see fit, there are many events where members from all clubs intermingle. Inter-club social get-togethers and lectures happen regularly, and, of course, there are regattas and other on-water events.

This friendly bond among fellow yachtsmen and -women was the trigger for the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club to reach out to its neighbors and suggest holding a charity regatta on the Connecticut River. In earlier years, a PHRF regatta like this was held on Long Island Sound, organized by the North Cove, Duck Island and Essex Corinthian Yacht Clubs. Sadly, interest in the late summer event had been declining as a busy calendar of events up and down the shoreline made it hard for PHRF skippers to choose between regattas held close to each other. Subsequently the decision was made not to continue.

Ruth Emblin, Past Commodore of the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club and long-time co-chair of the event was not happy with this outcome, as the charity, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), is near and dear to her heart for various reasons. “We lost friends to blood cancer, know several people who are battling the disease, and a close family member would not be with us now without the research and treatments funded by LLS,” she said. “No longer running a Leukemia Cup Regatta in Connecticut simply was not an option I wanted to entertain.”

Leukemia Cup Regattas are held all over the country, designed to generate awareness about blood cancers and raise funds to support life-saving research to bring hope to those who are facing the disease. After witnessing a successful one-design Leukemia Cup with smaller boats in Annapolis, MD, Ruth went home to discuss options with some of her fellow members and friends from the other clubs. The Connecticut River just outside of Essex was the perfect venue, and the area already boasted several appropriately sized one-design fleets. The Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup Regatta was born, first as a smaller event involving three local clubs, and four the following year.

“I am thrilled to report that one of the former organizers of the PHRF Leukemia Cup, the Duck Island Yacht Club, has joined our efforts this year,” Ruth said. “This brings the count to five local clubs involved in this worthy cause.” All five clubs have been promoting the event, scheduled for Saturday, May 2, among their fleets and beyond. “We are inviting a variety of classes, including Ideal 18s, Etchells, Lasers, JY-15s, RS Aeros and Blue Jays. Anyone who would like to participate is welcome.”



One-design boats getting ready to race in the 2019 Connecticut River Leukemia Cup


Skippers register their boats online and encourage their crew, family and friends to raise funds. There will be a friendly competition between the participating clubs to see which can raise the most money for the cause. After the regatta, the Essex Yacht Club will host a great post-race party, complete with live music, silent and live auctions, and food and drinks.

As is customary at Leukemia Cup events, a so-called ‘Honored Skipper’ will provide a testimonial about dealing with blood cancer. Judy Watts Wilson, a retired architectural photographer, avid gardener, mother of two daughters and two Jack Russell terriers, accepted the invitation for 2020 and will speak at the post-race party. Judy, who is an American Yacht Club member with ties to Essex, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in 2002. Prior to then, bone marrow transplants were the only known cure, but she could not find a match.

Fortunately for her, Gleevec, the ‘blockbuster drug of the decade’ had just been approved by the FDA. The research that led to this drug was directly funded by LLS grants. Judy went into remission just months after taking Gleevec, but relapsed after five years. Over the course of several years she switched to two other drugs, each with less side effects. Finally, in 2016, she went into remission and completely went off her medications. “Ongoing worldwide clinical trials showed that almost 50% of people who have had a lasting remission remain in remission without the drug,” said Judy. “If it comes back, it usually does so in the first three months, so while I continue to be regularly tested, I am optimistic.”


Co-Chairs Ruth Emblin and Tom Atkinson accept the award for highest club fundraising results on behalf of ECYC.

Judy is a strong fighter and displays unwavering support for those who have battled and are continuing to battle cancer. Her story is the perfect example for why awareness-raising events like this are so important. The Leukemia Cup Regatta series combines the thrill of a sailboat regatta with the support of an organization that has raised over $70 million for life-saving research and patient services since the series’ inception.

“We would like to thank The Gowrie Group of Westbrook for acting as the title sponsor for the 2020 event,” said Ruth. “Thanks to their generous donation we are off to a good start, but hope to gain many more sponsors for this charity event. There are a number of sponsorship levels with a variety of benefits available, including recognition at the party and in our program booklet. All donations to LLS, whether private or corporate, are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.”

The Gowrie Group Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup will be held on Saturday, May 2, with a rain date of Sunday, May 3 for racing. The party is scheduled for May 2, rain or shine, beginning at 5 pm in the tent at Essex Yacht Club. Details on The Gowrie Group Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup are posted at

For online boat registration, go to Yachtscoring at Party tickets are available at For additional information, contact Ruth Emblin at ■