Regatta benefits hospices and crews

On the Water

September 03, 2006|By Annie Linskey

Next weekend, assuming the Chesapeake Bay isn't bombarded with gale-force winds, about 100 sailboats are expected to compete in one of the largest charity regattas in the state: The Hospice Cup.

The regatta has been sailed every year since 1981 - so this year marks its 25th anniversary.

Now there are 24 Hospice Cup regattas held in sailing communities all over the country, including in California, Florida, and the Great Lakes.

The first race, however, was on the bay. We reached Virginia Brown, one of the founders of the Hospice Cup, at her Tidewater, Va., home on Friday, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto passed through the Mid-Atlantic.

Tell me about the first race.

The day of the race was just one of those perfect, perfect days. The weather was just right. When it is good, it is great - being outdoors on the good old bay. I'm looking at it now and she's in a foul mood.

So that was lucky. We had the people, we had the place. We had a good enough time, and we made enough money, so that is how we got started.

Who hosted it?

There was a woman, Jo Erkiletian, who had a beautiful home on the Eastern Shore ... in St. Michaels.

What about the nonsailors? We chartered a tour boat, and word-of-mouth spread that we said we'd take people out [to see the race] and provide a lunch.

We ended up with a flotilla of boats out there. Then we went back to St. Michaels and had this wonderful down-home crab feast.

How did you decide on a regatta for a hospice fundraiser?

They asked if I would do a special event [for a hospice in northern Virginia]. I wanted to do something outdoors. This is 1980 - before people started doing golf tournaments.

I wanted something that would not be another black-tie dinner that would be written up along with 10 others over the weekend.

Why do people like it?

If you're going to do a sailboat race, you have to go give them really good food. Not just beer and hot dogs. And lots of trophies - the more trophies you can give them, the happier they are going to be.

And why do you think it caught on?

People wanted to join in the event. My feeling was the more, the merrier. We had no problem including people.

What we did is create a formula - I do take pride in that. We have a formula so it is equitable so that a very small hospice could be in the same event as a very large hospice.

How have attitudes changed toward hospices?

In the early years, [when the term hospice was used] I had to say, "No, it is not euthanasia!"

I think now people are hearing those individual stories and hearing what hospice care is.

Have you raced in any of the Hospice Cup regattas?

I don't have a race boat. I've gone along and crewed a few times. I'm in my mid-70s. It is a lot of work for me to run around a boat.

How old are you?

I turn 75 in a couple of weeks.

What is your sailing background?

I grew up on powerboats. My father did not have the patience for sailing.

But I'd go out in anything that I could. Anything that could go on to the water.

Is there a tie in your mind between hospices and sailing?

There is for me. I've see the guys and gals together on a race crew and it is a special brotherhood or sisterhood.

When you go out on the water, even on a clear day, you are really venturing your life. You're saying ... `Who knows what the wind is going to do, but we're going to do this.'

If you've met people who give hospice care - you have to exude confidence. You are [interacting with people who are] losing someone they love. You trust these people.

It is the special quality of care takers for hospice. You recognize the type. They are confident. It is a sort of a chemistry you have with people or you don't have. In my view that is the analogy.

For information on the Hospice Cup, visit or call Hospice of the Chesapeake at 443-837-1530.

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