WITH JUST MORE than a month before the starting gun kicks off what is billed as America's largest charity regatta, organizers of Hospice Cup XX are hoping to raise plenty of money.
But they also hope that the people who come to the mouth of the Severn River on Sept. 15 will have fun - and learn about the selfless caregivers who help the terminally ill and their families in their time of greatest need.
"People get involved for many reasons, but often it's because hospice has somehow touched their family," says Dave Cyphers, a Hospice Cup board member and president of the Cyphers Agency, an Annapolis marketing agency that is donating its services to the regatta. "They've seen what hospice care can do at a very difficult time. It is an incredible service to provide."
The regatta offers many ways to get involved, even for nonsailors and those without a lot of money.
"It's a really cool endeavor," says Jean Kluttz, president of the National Hospice Regatta Alliance and longtime volunteer for the Chesapeake-area Hospice Cup. "With this many people working together, it just keeps getting better."
Race organizers will accept entries and financial contributions until the last minute.
The organizers are volunteers, mostly from the hospice and sailing communities, who have worked for a year on the event. Because the event has no paid staff and businesses donate so many products and services, more than 80 percent of proceeds from the race go directly to hospice.
The honorary chairman is Dr. J. Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer of Celera Genomics. Venter is known for his work in molecular biology and human genome research. In February, he and his colleagues at Celera published the sequenced human genome in the journal Science.
Venter is an avid sailor and owns a 95-foot sloop called Sorcerer II.
"His incredible scientific accomplishments are known worldwide. For him to lend his support for our efforts is a great honor," says Beth Kahr, president of Hospice Cup XX.
As this year's honorary chairman, Venter joins a list that includes Walter Cronkite, Pat Sajak, William F. Buckley and William Donald Schaefer.
Annapolis-area artist Kathryn Leonard created the artwork for the regatta poster, T-shirts and printed materials.
"Kathryn was chosen because her work is extremely creative and fun and celebrates the Chesapeake Bay," says Kahr. "Also, her strong ties to the sailing community made her a natural selection."
Leonard's creation, incorporating bright colors, playful shapes and sail material, reflects the fun, relaxed atmosphere of the regatta.
The original piece has been purchased by Dick and Susan Franyo of Eastport, owners of Boatyard Bar and Grill, soon to open on Severn Avenue. They plan to display the work in the restaurant.
Two decades ago, three Northern Virginia sailors organized the first Hospice Cup as an informal race to the Eastern Shore. About 40 boats raced, with proceeds benefiting Hospice of Northern Virginia.
The next year, Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association sanctioned the race, and Shearwater Sailing Association, which still organizes the race, added the competition to its regular racing schedule.
In 1984, Anne Arundel Home Health & Hospice came on board, followed in 1988 by Hospice of the Chesapeake. Today, eight hospice organizations from Virginia, Maryland and Washington organize the event and share the proceeds. Since its first year, the Hospice Cup has raised more than $4.3 million, $400,000 of which was raised last year.
This year, regatta organizers have an extraordinary weekend planned for sailors, donors and their friends, neighbors, families and colleagues.
The weekend kicks off Sept. 14 with a party at the historic Charles Carroll House on Spa Creek for donors who have contributed $1,000 or more.
The regatta will be held the next day. Sponsors and those purchasing a $250 ticket will be able to watch more than 100 of the best sailboat racers from one of four luxurious spectator boats provided by Annapolis-based Watermark Cruises and Lady Pintail Charters.
The ticket includes a place on a spectator boat, continental breakfast and food provided by local caterers, and admission to a post-race shore party at Holly Cove, a waterfront property owned by Ray Nichols.
Results of the race count toward sailors' scores in Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association's High Point competition.
The race also is a local qualifying event for a national championship sponsored by National Hospice Regatta Alliance, an organization founded to help clubs start and expand Hospice Cup races and to publicize hospice care.
"There are now 17 regattas around the nation and we expect 18 to 20 by next year," Kluttz says.
Edgewater sailor Fred Caison won last year's Hospice Cup aboard his boat Defiant. He will return this year to defend his title and compete in the national championship.
At the shore party, some of the finest restaurants in the region will serve their specialties while partygoers swing to the music of a live band, stroll along the water's edge and bid on auction items.
At dusk, the 20th anniversary regatta will conclude with trophy presentations and recognition of race founders.
All donors and racers are admitted. The cost for others is $60 in advance.
Information and tickets: www.hospicecup.org. The Web site was created by Cheryl Jersey of Jersey and Associates of Annapolis.