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Annapolis-area Hospice Cup Regatta celebrates 40th anniversary today

Hospice Cup board president Terry Murray and board member Jean Kluttz display a floor covering painted by local artist Kathryn Leonard and donated to the Hospice Cup’s silent auction. The 23rd annual regatta and shore party will be held Saturday, September 11, 2004. Courtesy Photo
Hospice Cup board president Terry Murray and board member Jean Kluttz display a floor covering painted by local artist Kathryn Leonard and donated to the Hospice Cup’s silent auction. The 23rd annual regatta and shore party will be held Saturday, September 11, 2004. Courtesy Photo (XX)

Four decades ago, two women with vision came up with an innovative idea to raise funds for a worthwhile charity.

It all started when Virginia Holland Brown was introduced to Dr. Josefina Magno, a medical oncologist who had studied in England under the renowned Dame Cecily Saunders. Hospice outreach had already begun in England and Brown was personally aware of its value, having cared for her husband at home in a similar manner.

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Shortly thereafter, the volunteer development director of the fledgling Hospice of Northern Virginia (now Capital Hospice) asked Brown to chair a fundraising event for the cause.

Josephine Noerr Erkiletian was also eager to help Hospice of Northern Virginia in its infancy and reached out to Brown. They agreed on hosting an event that would be outdoors and involve families.

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Erkiletian offered her spacious home on the Eastern Shore for a gala party and suggested a sailing race could finish there. Thus was borne the Hospice Cup Regatta, which this Saturday will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Brown and Erkiletian did not know much about sailing, so they reached out to Al Van Metre, one of the most successful sailors on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. Van Metre owned the most renowned sailboat based in Annapolis harbor, the Sparkman & Stephens-designed 61-footer Running Tide.

Van Metre served as race committee chairman for the inaugural Hospice Cup, which attracted 45 boats in 1981. In hopes of increasing participation, Van Metre reached out to Jim Muldoon, who served as schedule coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association at the time.

Muldoon, who has owned a series of large racing sailboats named Donnybrook, gave the Hospice Cup Regatta a big boost by an official CBYRA-sanctioned event. In 1982, the second Hospice Cup drew more than 100 boats.

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The Annapolis-area Hospice Cup was the first of its kind in the United States. Now there are 18 different Hospice Cup regattas in 13 states across the country, including in such sailing hotspots as San Diego, California and Rochester, New York. However, there are also events in non-traditional locales such as Nashville, Tennessee, and Summersville Lake, West Virginia.

Those initial founders established a template for the Hospice Cup Regatta on the upper Chesapeake Bay with Erkiletian setting the standard of hosting shore parties at private waterfront homes.

Van Metre and his wife Joan established the tradition of taking sponsors and VIPs out on a luxury powerboat to watch the racing action. In the early years, they welcomed special guests and supporters aboard their motor yacht Silver Seas.

Over the span of four decades, the Annapolis-area Hospice Cup has raised more than $9 million for a wide range of not-for-profit hospice organizations in Maryland, D.C. and northern Virginia. Montgomery Hospice has been a consistent beneficiary for many years, while Capital Caring and Hospice of the Chesapeake have also received a significant amount of funds.

Hospice Cup was the first of three charity regattas established in the Annapolis area. Renowned sailor, author and lecturer Gary Jobson founded the Leukemia Cup in 1993. Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating more recently created the CRAB Cup to support its mission of getting disabled and underprivileged persons on the water.

“It’s important for our sport that we’re raising money for charity causes. We’ve shown that sailors have good hearts,” Muldoon said.

Jobson conceived the Leukemia Cup after seeing first-hand the success of the Hospice Cup. He was recruited from the outset by Van Metre, who knew having the renowned America’s Cup winning tactician involved would raise the regatta’s profile.

“Al Van Metre deserves a lot of credit for promoting the Hospice Cup in the early years. Al worked really, really hard to build the regatta and when he called people, they responded,” Jobson said.

Jobson was among those who stepped up, sailing as a special guest on different boats then later providing commentary about the racing aboard the VIP boat. In 1989-90, Janice Jobson served as chair of the Hospice Cup and pressed her famous husband into duty as honorary chairman.

Jobson was rewarded for his dedication to the cause later in life when both of his parents wound up in hospice care down in Fort Myers, Florida. He is proud that sailors have rallied behind such a worthwhile charitable cause.

“From a larger scope, I think it’s very important that sailors support causes outside of sailing such as hospice care or cancer research,” Jobson said. “Obviously, the Hospice Cup is a standard-bearer among charity regattas, and the fact it has enjoyed such longevity speaks volumes.”

Having an honorary chair is another staple of Hospice Cup with a long line of notable individuals serving in the role. In 1996, McGarvey’s Saloon owner Mike Ashford recruited his friend Walter Cronkite as honorary chairman, and the renowned news broadcaster’s presence helped Hospice Cup raise $350,000.

Willard Scott, weatherman for the Today Show on NBC, was another heavy hitter as honorary chair. Scott filmed his daily weather broadcast from Spa Creek aboard the Naval Academy racing sailboat Morning Light in advance of Hospice Cup X.

Artist John O'Neill, from Severna Park, shows off his painting that was selected to represent this years Hospice Cup Regatta. (Photo by Paul W. Gillespie - The Capital) 3/31/09
Artist John O'Neill, from Severna Park, shows off his painting that was selected to represent this years Hospice Cup Regatta. (Photo by Paul W. Gillespie - The Capital) 3/31/09 (XX)

Nothing is more closely associated with Hospice Cup than the artwork that is annually commissioned to help promote the regatta. Local artists such as John O’Neill and Kathryn Leonard have created sailing-themed prints that are selected to represent each edition of Hospice Cup. This year, residents of Atria Manresa worked together to create an acrylic print titled “The Great Race.”

Another individual who was instrumental in the growth of the Annapolis-area Hospice Cup Regatta was Peggy McCaig, who was an indispensable volunteer for more than three decades. McCaig helped found Montgomery Hospice and she served for many years on the Hospice Cup Regatta Board of Directors.

She and her brother Mike established the Martin F. McCarthy Trophy in honor of their father and it has long been the top prize for Hospice class racers.

Hospice Cup raises funds from a variety of sources with the bulk coming from donations solicited by participating sailors. Regatta entry fees account for a smaller portion of funds, while the silent auction held during the post-race awards party has always provided a significant amount of income.

Hospice Cup has relied heavily on a volunteer Board of Directors that usually numbers between 12 and 16 people. The organization has employed a full-time executive director and Karma O’Neill served diligently in that capacity for many years.

When O’Neill left to KO Events and Entertainment, Christine Lasser was hired as her replacement. Lasser took over in January 2020 and within two months the coronavirus pandemic had shut down Maryland and made her job extremely difficult.

Knowing donations would be down and wanting all funds directed toward the various hospice charities, Lasser agreed to forego compensation during the 2020 fiscal year. With Lasser leading the way, the Hospice Cup Board of Directors came up with several creative ways to raise funds and ultimately tallied more than $50,000 by the time Hospice Cup XXXIX had concluded.

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“I think it’s remarkable we had one of our best fundraising years of the last decade in 2020 despite COVID,” said Cedric Lewis, a longtime board member. “Christine has injected new energy into the effort; She is very forward-thinking and has brought a lot of great ideas.”

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Lewis serves as on-water liaison between the Hospice Cup Board of Directors and the regatta organizing authority, which is now Sailing Club of the Chesapeake. Shearwater Sailing Club ran the on-water aspect of Hospice Cup for many years and Eastport Yacht Club stepped into that role for several years afterward.

This is the fourth year for Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, which oversees three circles of racing. There is a government mark course used for distance racing, a windward-leeward drop mark course for the J/105 class and a harbor circle for the Harbor 20 class.

“It’s easy to stay involved because it’s such a worthwhile charity,” said Lewis, a board member for 11 years now. “It does not matter who you are, at some point hospice is going to touch your life. It’s unbelievable what these caregivers do for families.”

Mirage Crew Wins Hospice Cup XXX. Courtesy photo. The crew of “Mirage” celebrate their win by posing with the Hospice Cup Trophy. From left, crew members Cedric Lewis, Nicholas Salvesen, Melissa Salvesen, Frederick Salvesen and Dr. Vernon Sheen.
Mirage Crew Wins Hospice Cup XXX. Courtesy photo. The crew of “Mirage” celebrate their win by posing with the Hospice Cup Trophy. From left, crew members Cedric Lewis, Nicholas Salvesen, Melissa Salvesen, Frederick Salvesen and Dr. Vernon Sheen. (Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Lewis co-owns the J/105 Mirage with lifelong friend Fredrik Salvesen. Team Mirage was touched by the cause when Lewis’s mother in-law and Missy Salvesen’s mother passed away in hospice care. Mirage crew members garnered $7,500 in pledges as part of the 2020 regatta. Lewis estimates the team has raised a total of $35,000 for the charity over the past decade.

When Brien Jones-Lantzy moved to Annapolis 25 years ago he knew nothing about the Hospice Cup Regatta. He wanted to get involved in community service and someone suggested he fill an open seat on the Hospice Cup Board of Directors.

After performing due diligence, Jones-Lantzy realized the objectives of the organization were “in direct alignment with my own beliefs.” He is now president of the Hospice Board of Directors.

“I have been asked many times why I have been involved in Hospice Cup for so long. It is because I believe in our mission of raising funds for and awareness of Hospice Care,” Jones-Lantzy said. “I have seen first-hand how Hospice Care can offer services to those in need and their families. Hospice care is critical to the journey of our lives and touches all parts of our community.”

Muldoon will serve a second stint as honorary chairman of Hospice Cup XL, which will have 73 boats competing on the Chesapeake Bay Saturday. For the second straight year, there will be no full-scale awards party at a ritzy location due to COVID.

Hospice Cup organizers are hosting what is being called the “non-party, party at Horn Point Marina from 5-7 p.m. There will be a cake-cutting ceremony to recognize the 40th anniversary and the Orlando Phillips Band will provide live music. Racers are encouraged to pick up their awards and stay awhile to enjoy dark-n-stormy and Moscow mule drinks. Beer and wine will also be available, while a food truck will be on site.

Muldoon, founder and CEO of the D.C-based consulting firm Metcor, has donated a significant amount of money to Hospice Cup over the years. Five years ago, he established the Brendan Donnybrook Award to encourage skippers to recruit younger crew members. Boat with the most sailors aged 18 or younger receives the award, which is named jointly after Muldoon’s son and the name of his series of racing sailboats.

“Hospice is an incredibly valuable service. These wonderful volunteers take care of some folks that have nowhere else to turn,” Muldoon said. “I think hospice does a great job of providing people with some dignity toward the end of their lives.”

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