Yacht Club and VNA Take Sail in 18th Annual Regatta

By Sigrid Toye   |   September 27, 2022
Start of the race from a spectator boat (photo by Fritz Olenberger)

After a week of sizzling hot weather followed by the remains of tropical storm Kay complete with Florida-style humidity, the Santa Barbara Yacht Club (SBYC) community gathered to raise funds in support of VNA Health’s mission of caring with compassion. The 18th Annual Charity Regatta took place on Saturday, September 10, 2022, celebrating both VNA’s 120-year history of compassionate caring, as well as the Santa Barbara Yacht Club’s 150th Anniversary! In full celebratory mood and a newly renovated club house, the club was in Bristol Condition to host one of Santa Barbara’s most important charity events of the year. 

The first Charity Regatta was held in 2005 with 35 boats participating to raise $50,000. The success and popularity of the event attracted nearly double the number of participants the following year. The Regatta continued to expand and grow into the all-day immersive experience that it is today. Sadly, the event had to be shelved for two years as a result of the Coronavirus restrictions, however the COVID restraints didn’t stop SBYC members from successfully raising funds without an in-person bash during 2020-21. The generosity of the Santa Barbara community shone through the dark clouds of the global pandemic allowing VNA’s community care programs to continue regardless of the ability to pay.

The 2022 Charity Regatta, helmed by Co-Chairs SBYC Staff Commodore Francie Lufkin and Nick Sebastian, began with a mimosa-sprinkled buffet breakfast enjoyed by the guests with post-pandemic enthusiasm and ended with a BBQ dinner and after party, both accompanied by the music of David Felder’s band. Add to that a table full of enticing silent auction items! At mid-morning, emcee David Moorman began the Opening Ceremony by presenting SBYC Commodore Eli Parker, who welcomed the guests to SBYC’s 150th anniversary year and the newly renovated clubhouse. VNA Health’s new President and CEO Kieran Shah was then introduced. “It is a privilege to share this day with Yacht Club members, friends, supporters, and our VNA Staff, Volunteers, and Board, and it is so great to be together outdoors and on the water. Eli, Francie, Nick, and the Charity Regatta Committee have demonstrated the Yacht Club’s continued commitment to support the health and wellbeing of our community.” 

Each year a group of Celebrity Skippers are named in recognition of their dedication to caring for our community: This year SBYC chose to honor the Mental Health Workers of VNA Health. This group of deducted individuals included bereavement counselors, medical social workers, music therapists, and chaplains who remain dedicated to comforting and supporting patients throughout all stages of life. The 2022 Regatta also included a Memorial Boat Tribute during which fresh flowers are cast into the sea in memory of departed loved ones, a ceremony instituted last year as a result of the pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic this organization has maintained and increased its charitable community programs such as Serenity House, the Loan Closet, community and palliative care, music therapy, and bereavement services,” observed Co-Chair Lufkin. “For the last 18 years the Yacht Club has hosted this event as our way to give back to an organization that has touched so many lives.” She credited the Charity Regatta committee – all members of the SBYC Women – and VNA staff including Lailan McGrath, VNA Health Foundation Director, and Easter Moorman, Development Director, for the extraordinary teamwork needed to make the event the success that it was. 

At the Closing Ceremony the guests gathered for the results of the race and the presentation of the Charity Regatta’s proceeds for the benefit of VNA Health. The winners of the yacht race, in PHRF Rock ‘n Roll, Bernie Girod’s Farr 400, and in CHRF, Skookum, George Brown’s J-100, were presented with a trophy. The most important announcement, however, came with the revelation that the 2022 Charity Regatta had raised over $165,000, an amount that outdistanced previous years. At the conclusion of the ceremony, an unexpected surprise came from Linda Seals, diver Lad Handelman’s widow. In a generous gesture of infinite gratitude, a Legacy gift of $250,000 was presented to VNA Health. “After the accident that paralyzed Lad in 1985, he was given, at the most, five years. Thanks to the love, care, and clinical skills provided by VNA Health, his life was extended for 15 years. Our Legacy gift of thanks is to ensure that the services and loving care we received from VNA Health will continue into the future to be there for others.”  

Sigrid Toye is an Educational and Behavior Therapist with a PhD in Clinical Psychology, a freelance writer, and a storyteller. She loves all things creative, including her two (adult) artist children.


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