Saturday’s regatta benefits armed forces
Approximately 60 boats in a variety of sizes and classes will be on the waters off Rose Island on Saturday morning for the start of the 11th annual Sail for Hope. The regatta, which began as a response to the events of 9/11, has raised about $800,000 over the years for a number of different charities.
In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Scott Murray, who works at New England Boatworks, was looking for a way to help the victims of the tragedy. “I went to town to give blood, but they wouldn’t take it,” he said. According to Murray, his mother had died from mad cow disease, making him ineligible to be a blood donor.
“A bunch of us sailors got together and figured we’d just do a little sailboat race,” he said. The group’s goal was to raise $5,000 to $10,000. “It turned into a pretty major race. I think we raised about $110,000 that year.”
The race was initially called Sail for Pride, but in subsequent years a decision was made to focus more on local charities. In 2005, when proceeds of the event benefited the victims of Hurricane Katrina, another $120,000 was raised.
This year Sail for Hope will benefi t the Wounded Warriors Project and the American Red Cross fund that assists those in the armed services. Different charities have benefi ted from the proceeds each year, with the Red Cross being something of a constant. This is the second year in a row that funds will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project.
Sail for Hope has always been a 19-mile race around Conanicut Island, with boats ranging in size from 22 to 80 feet. In the pursuitstyle race, the small boats start first, the biggest boats last. The start is off Rose Island and the finish is in Newport Harbor. The biggest boats complete the course in approximately 2 1/2 hours, depending on the weather.
“The main idea is to go out for a sail, raise some money and donate some money, and have a big social event afterward,” Murray said.
Money is raised in much the same way it is for other charity sporting events. Each competitor is expected to raise or donate funds. The money is directed to Sail Newport, the organizing authority for the event. It is then passed directly to the charities.
Brad Read, the executive director of Sail Newport, is one of the race’s founders, along with Murray and Mick Harvey. “Sail Newport has been an integral part of the organization since then,” said Murray.
According to Read, he and a number of other local sailors were scheduled to fly to San Francisco on 9/11 to take part in a regatta at the Saint Francis Yacht Club. Because of the attacks, sailors were stuck overseas because of travel restrictions and no-fly orders. Regattas everywhere were being canceled.
“It was October 2001 when we decided that the only thing we knew how to do to make things better was to run a regatta,” Read said. “When the three of us made a decision to run a regatta and get as many boats as we could, we decided to try to raise some money for the victims and the survivors.”
According to Read, the designated charities for the first regatta were the Red Cross, the United Way, and a fund for widows and children who lost someone in the attacks. Read immediately got his staff at Sail Newport fully involved.
“It’s one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. We run a regatta and we raise money for others. It’s a good outreach and a way to give back, in this case to the Wounded Warriors who come home with various afflictions. They need support, their families need support, and we’re happy in the sailing community to do it.”
Among the Sail Newport people involved in the event is Anderson Reggio, who is the race manager for the nonprofit organization. He will be the race director for Saturday’s regatta. Reggio’s responsibilities include breaking down the boats into classes so that there are evenly matched divisions. He also goes out on the water to pick a course that is appropriate to the weather conditions. “The ideal situation is to be able to send everyone around Conanicut Island other than the J/22s.” The J/22s, he said, will have a somewhat shorter course.
Reggio anticipated seven or eight classes this year, depending on the number and variety of boats entered. He expects the biggest boats in this year’s regatta to be one or two 12-Metres that are expected to participate, and the smallest will be the J/22s that are part of the Sail Newport fleet. They will be rented out to competitors for the race.
As always, there will be weather concerns for Reggio, particularly given the fact that the regatta is taking place in October. “In the fall, what we have for breezes is more frontal in nature than the typical sea breezes that you get in the middle of the summer,” he said. “You run the risk of having things get blown out if you get a big strong front that comes through, but for the most part you can anticipate a pre- or post-frontal breeze that will be in the 12 to 15 knot range.”
Several Jamestown boats are expected to be on the starting line on Saturday. Among them will be Paul Zabetakis’ Swan 42 named Impetuous.