Many boating events across the Gulf Coast, whether a poker run or a boat parade, use their efforts and time on the water to support charitable organizations. Bringing people together who love to be on the water is payoff enough, but transforming those events into a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause adds an entirely new dimension. The Leukemia-Lymphoma Society (LLS) has turned this idea into an art throughout the country with their Leukemia Cup Regattas, which kick off this month.
Originating in the early 90s in Annapolis before branching almost immediately to New Orleans, these regattas are organized by statewide LLS chapters, which pair with local yacht clubs. They now have over 40 regattas and touch all three coasts, the Great Lakes, and many smaller inland sailing venues. Participating skippers and crews raise funds both individually and as a team leading up to the regattas to achieve certain goals and milestones for prizes, including an opportunity for the top individual fundraiser from each event to sail with world-renowned sailor Gary Jobson in Bermuda.
The New Orleans Leukemia Cup Regatta alone—held by the Southern and New Orleans Yacht Clubs and title sponsored by Peake BMW—raised nearly $350,000 in 2014 with over 60 boats racing. Deputy Executive Director Katie Triplett of the Louisiana LLS chapter is an active sailor herself and attributes the local event’s success to “the stellar racing, the competition that even draws from next door Texas and Mississippi, and the party that only New Orleans can put on.” In 2014, the New Orleans event easily raised the highest dollar amount through the regatta on the Gulf Coast and was second nationally after San Francisco’s event.
On the Gulf Coast, the Leukemia Cup Regattas have expanded into all five states including Mississippi, which will be hosting its 5th annual regatta in 2015 with the parties and regatta rotating between the coastal yacht clubs. While many events are hosted by single yacht clubs or sailing organizations, it is fairly common for groups of local clubs and organizations to bring all of their efforts and sailors under one roof each year and jointly host a Leukemia Cup.
For sailors, these are serious competitive events that also serve as a way to do something worthwhile alongside the pleasure of being on the water and perhaps winning a “pickle dish” or trophy. It also serves as a way to introduce corporate sponsors and spectators to the excitement and energy of competitive sailing, including the post-regatta parties. leukemiacup.org
Gulf Coast Events:
• Punta Gorda, FL – Isles YC – March 22-23: islesyc.com/Home.aspx
• New Orleans, LA – Southern YC – March 22-23: southernyachtclub.org
• Houston, Texas – Houston YC – June 20-22: houstonyachtclub.com
• Vincent, AL – Birmingham Sailing Club – September 13: birminghamsailingclub.org
• Mobile, AL – Buccaneer YC – September 13: bucyc.com
• Mississippi Coast – Gulfport YC – October 4: gulfportyachtclub.org
By Troy Gilbert, Southern Boating March 2015