Thursday, November 26 , 2015, 5:33 am | Fair 39º

Yachts of Love Charity Regatta Sets Sail to Benefit Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care

Santa Barbara Yacht Club hosts the fundraiser, with proceeds supporting care services at VNHC's new Serenity House

Santa Barbara Yacht Club Commodore Dave Baxter, from left, SBYC board member and regatta chairman Tom Parker, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care CEO Lynda Tanner and VNHC board president Michelle Martinich, with a check for $133,000 raised during the Yachts of Love Charity Regatta to support VNHC’s Serenity House.
Santa Barbara Yacht Club Commodore Dave Baxter, from left, SBYC board member and regatta chairman Tom Parker, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care CEO Lynda Tanner and VNHC board president Michelle Martinich, with a check for $133,000 raised during the Yachts of Love Charity Regatta to support VNHC’s Serenity House.  (Dawn Sherry Noury photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

The eight annual “Yachts of Love” charity regatta benefiting Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s Serenity House was held at the scenic and historic Santa Barbara Yacht Club and featured a day of fun-filled festivities, tasty down-home barbecue and competitive boat racing.

VNHC partnered with SBYC for this special afternoon fundraiser that was open to the public and included a beautiful day on the water in spectator boats with dining at the yacht club.

“The SB Yacht Club has a choice every year of what organization they would like to benefit through the charity regatta, and now for the eighth year they’ve chosen VNHC because of the strong, strong presence that we have in the community and the services that we provide,” said Rick Keith, executive director of foundation for two months. “And so we’re very honored and very blessed because we realize they have a choice of which community organization that they would choose — there’s so many.”

The mission of VNHC is to provide high-quality, comprehensive home health, hospice and related services necessary to promote the well-being of all community residents, including those unable to pay. For more than 100 years, the nonprofit organization has served Santa Barbara residents in need of care who are facing the last stages of life.

This year’s event proceeds will help ensure subsidized care at the new 18-bed Serenity House, VNHC’s end-of-life care facility. As the only licensed hospice inpatient facility in Santa Barbra, Serenity House provides around-the-clock care by a team of specially trained doctors, medical social workers, spiritual counselors and nurses who have tendered more than 315 patients and their families since opening in August 2011.

“Our first year has been a truly rewarding one,” says Lynda Tanner, VNHC president and CEO. “It has been such a joy to realize the longtime goal of so many in the community who helped us open our doors to more patients in need and provide them with compassionate care.”

SBYC, founded in 1872, seven years after the Civil War, graciously opened the clubhouse to friends, family members and fellow Santa Barbarians as the noontime sun reflected off the cobalt blue of the shimmering sea and a slight wind fluttered over the boat harbor. Guests who lounged on the balconies were also treated to the unique and awe-inspiring view of the magnificent USS Halsey anchored several miles offshore.

David Baxter, commodore of the SB Yacht Club, spoke of the special relationship that has formed with VNHC over the years.

“They’re such a great group and they’ve done so much for the citizens of Santa Barbara that we fill a real strong tie there to that group, and it’s just carried over from year to year. It’s certainly one of the biggest events that we put on here at the club, and we’re very happy to be involved with them,” Baxter said. “It’s gotten better every year, and we’ve continued to be able to get more sponsorships and a larger check almost every year that goes to Visiting Nurse and it makes everybody feel good. It’s good for the community, it’s good for the club — it’s a win-win all around.”

In the downstairs deck of the yacht club, visitors registered to board one of the dozens of member spectator boats for the highly anticipated boat races, while others surveyed the silent auction items on display, including Kenny Loggins fan memorabilia, dinner for six at the Santa Barbara County firehouse and a one-of-a-kind painting by artist Ralph Waterhouse.

Meanwhile, a handful of friendly staff members and VNHC volunteers offered $10 raffle tickets to attendees, with prizes ranging from two guest passes to Hearst Castle, an airbrush tan at Ibiza Hair Design and wine tasting for four at Cambria Estate Vineyards and Winery.

The yacht club has hosted hundreds of visiting yachtsmen from across the world for decades, and on this day many excited visitors boarded dozens of spectator boats provided courtesy of club members who were equally excited to view the race.

Guests on the vessels were all smiles as they settled in for departure while hosts offered a variety of homemade sandwiches, fresh fruit, cheeses, wine and beer to guests, and the skipper in charge explained the safety rules and features on-board to attentive onlookers.

Out at sea, spectators on decks snapped photos of passing powerboats and sailboats, waved at one another and shouted words of encouragement as an assemble of boats swirled around one another with hulls tilted far over into the sea. Water splashed over decks as they raced along under full sail, playfully cutting through a shimmering sheet of waves with their colorful sails reflecting off the mirrored water.

Before the race there was a sober moment of reflection when harbor patrol conducted a cannon salute marking the day of remembrance on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to honor the men and women of the armed forces, including military personal aboard the USS Halsey.

After the race, attendees found their sea legs again and headed back to the clubhouse for barbecue grilled salmon, chicken and burgers with corn on the cob, smoked baked beans and fresh tossed salad prepared by SBYC’s talented culinary team.

During the award ceremony, Julia Kauffman received the Volunteer of the Year award for logging more than 300 volunteer hours at Serenity House, and Kauffman was commended for her ongoing devotion, commitment and invaluable service to the community and the agency.

Next, Commodore Dave Baxter and regatta chair Tom Parker presented awards and trophies to the race winners, with up to 30 boats competing in the highly charged and competitive charity regatta.

First-place winners included skipper Jeff Robinson and Dave Baxter on Blues Crews, who won the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet Race, Skipper Stephen Keneally on Liberty, who won the Club Handicap Racing Fleet Race, and the Yacht of Love Trophy was awarded to Mary Lee Hopkins, skipper of Allegro Non Tropo, who received a trophy for the boat that raised the most money for VNHC per foot.

The Santa Barbara Yacht Club annual Charity Regatta fundraiser has raised $800,000 in proceeds for VNHC over the years and this year raised $133,000 that will directly benefit the subsidized care program at Serenity House.

The event is also important to open the doors toward community membership in this historic club, and Francie Lufkin, vice commodore of the SB Yacht Club, who will next year be the first female commodore in 141 years — following in the footsteps of her father, Llew Goodfield, who was commodore in 1997. Lufkin proudly wore her father’s stars on this day and spoke of her goal to increase membership and to cast light on common misperceptions of the yacht club members.

“We had a commodore eight years ago, Dennis Friederich, and he felt that it was really important that there was a misperception that the Yacht Club was full of people who were elite, wealthy, and that’s not the case,” she said. “You’ve got everybody, all different income groups, that are represented at this yacht club. So he wanted us to do something that was giving back to the community. And each year we’ve had club members talk about their personal experiences with VNHC, and people have these amazing stories that make you tear up because they provide such an amazing service.”

VNHC offers specials thanks to the generous sponsors of the 2012 Yachts of Love:

» Hutton Parker Foundation, Impulse, The Bank of Santa Barbara, Venoco Inc., Tom and Sheila Cullen, Leonard Himelsein, Jack ‘N Tool Box, VNHC Board of Directors, Victor Atkins Jr., Ron Boehm, Riley and Susan Bechtel, American Riviera Bank, Noozhawk, Rusack Vineyards, MarBorg Industries, Young Construction, Frank Schipper Construction, Roger and Sarah Chrisman, Seed Mackall LLP, Brown & Brown Insurance, Holland Electronics and the Dreier family.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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