Sunday, Sept. 11, marked a day of remembrance, solidarity and celebration at the Seventh Annual Charity Regatta held at the Santa Barbra Yacht Club and benefiting Serenity House, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care’s new hospice inpatient facility in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Yacht Club, founded in 1872, seven years after the Civil War, opened the historic clubhouse to friends, family members and fellow Santa Barbarians for a fun-filled afternoon of food, festivities and competitive boat racing.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, this year’s event was also deemed a tribute to U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, also known as 3/5 Dark Horse from Camp Pendleton, who recently returned from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan.

“We wanted to honor the significance of the day and the men and women who have served both locally and abroad,” Staff Commodore Tony Papa said. “And we wanted to run a great Regatta and powerboat competition.”

Under mild temperatures, calm winds and billowy overcast skies, the activities commenced shortly after noon and the Santa Barbara Yacht Club bustled with activity. Live music poured from the second-floor balcony and guests mingled on the outdoor balcony overlooking the harbor, Stearns Wharf and the Pacific Ocean with scenic mountains beyond.

Hundreds of spectators arrived clad in baseball hats, T-shirts, jeans and sneakers eager to test out their sea legs as volunteers handed out programs and name tags and assigned guests to join spectator boats hosted by Yacht Club members. People paired off into small groups and walked along the harbor assisted by smiling young sailors from the Youth Sailing Foundation who escorted passengers to the boats.

An assemblage of powerboats and sailboats glided effortlessly across the gleaming water with elated passengers in tow and sails reflecting the calm ebb and flow of the sea.

Spectators lounged on decks, waving and calling out to other passing boats surrounded by the whitewashed buildings and red-tiled roofs of picturesque Santa Barbara with the Channel Islands in the distance.

Three Viper One planes made repeated flyovers above the harbor area to commemorate and pay tribute to 9/11 victims and the honorees, 3/5 Dark Horse.

A Missing Man formation paid tribute to fallen men and women of the armed forces during the air show when one of the planes broke formation, emitting gray exhaust from the rear of the plane. And Commodore Jack Byers called for a moment of silence before announcing the start of the boat races.

Sun rays magically parted through thick clouds, revealing patches of blue sky just in time for the boat races as principal race officer Brad Schaupeter announced the races with co-host and Rear Commodore Francie Lufkin, who will be the first female commodore in the history of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

Forty boats competed in the highly charged and competitive Charity Regatta. First-place winners included skipper Dirk Freeland on Skian Dhu, who won the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet Race. Skipper Max Lynn on Tranquility won the Club Handicap Racing Fleet Race, and skipper Kenny Kiedings on E won the Harbor 20s, H2O Fleet Race.

“This is the third time that we have been a spectator boat for the regatta, and we participate not only to be part of the Yacht Club experience but for the great causes the money goes to,” said Louise Casey on El Sonador, Yacht Club member since 2004.

After the races, passengers returned to the clubhouse for a traditional barbecue on the club’s front lawn where guests lined up along large barbecue pits to take turns charbroiling chicken, salmon and hamburgers. Event donors Jordano’s, Italia Pizza & Pasta, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail donated wine and beer for the event, and Impulse Communications offered tasty “Blue Pulse Cocktails” from a beach hut.

During the welcome presentation, Commodore Jack Byers praised Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care for outstanding work within the community. Byers has a personal affiliation with the organization as VNHC has helped several family members inflicted with cancer pass away with dignity.

“Me and my wife Karen really wish to thank VNHC,” Byers said. “They were there for us on all these occasions, and we don’t know if we would have gotten through some of it without you.”

Papa thanked board and committee members, sponsors, individual donors and host organizations for in-kind donations and raffle prizes.

“Our objectives, going back to January, were to raise money for VNHC’s Serenity House, but also, very specifically, to go to a subsidized care program for people who cannot afford to be at Serenity House,” he said.

VNHC board chairwoman Michelle Martinich also spoke on behalf of the organization and the new 27,300-square-foot Serenity House with extra beds delivering critical additional hospice care in the Santa Barbara region.

“We just opened Serenity House over the last few months, and it is an amazing place,” Martinich said. “We have this beautiful new facility with an unobstructed view of Santa Barbara, courtyards with fountains, and beds that can roll onto a beautiful patio with spectacular views. The point of Serenity House is that nobody dies alone, and there’s somewhere to go even if you don’t have family in town or nobody to care for you.”

Martinitch said she was honored by the special guests, 3/5 Dark Horse, because her father served 21 years in the Marines and retired as a master sergeant.

“As the daughter of a Marine, I need to honor the wives and children of Marines because that is not always easy,” Martinitch said over a roar of applause and whistles from onlookers.

Highlights from the Traditional Trophy Presentation Award Ceremony included Janet Davis, 91, recipient of the 2011 Hospice Volunteer of the Year Award, who was given a beautiful Tiffany & Co. vase provided by The Bank of Santa Barbara. Byers on Serengeti was also awarded the coveted Predicted Log Trophy for the power boat race, and the Yachts of Love Perpetual Trophy was won by Mary Lee Hopkins on Allegro Non Tropo, whose crew also raised the most money on the day of the race.

Darling 5-year-old Margot Ava Rodriguez sung her heart out and brought tears to the eyes of many onlookers in the audience during her serenade of “Proud to Be an American.”

The Yacht Club was honored to open its doors and boats to the community for a great cause and a special day.

“It’s great to take our friends and neighbors out to see this beautiful city from the water and share in the spectacular views,” Papa said. “Thus, the theme ‘Yachts of Love’ was at work.

“And, it is an added bonus that the Santa Barbara Navy League was hosting the Marines on this weekend and we were able to open our doors to them in a real big way.”

The Charity Regatta raised $130,000 with proceeds from the event benefiting VNHC and Serenity House. Sponsors included:

» Commodore Level: The Bank of Santa Barbara, the Hutton Parker Foundation and Impulse Communications

» Vice Commodore Level: American Riviera Bank, Ed and Ann Brady, the Mithun Family Foundation and the Venoco Foundation

» Rear Commodore Level: Geoff and Alison Rusack, Victor Atkins, the Dreier Family Foundation, Frank Schipper Construction and Noozhawk

» Staff Commodore Level: Brown & Brown Insurance, Community West Bank, Jack ‘N Tool Box, Young Construction, Seacoast Yachts, Seed, Mackall LLP, the Schlinger Chrisman Foundation, Holland Electronics, the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and PMSM Architects

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.