SBYC Bridge: Rear Commodore Andra Escola, Commodore Scott Deardorff, and Vice Commodore Garry Pawlitski | Credit: Gail Arnold

On September 7, once again the Santa Barbara Yacht Club hosted its Charity Regatta to raise funds for Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC). More than 400 guests enjoyed a splendid day at the club and on board members’ yachts cruising the Santa Barbara coast and watching the regatta. This year’s event honored the VNHC rehab team and was expected to net about $100,000. That brings the total raised over the past 15 years to more than $1.5 million.

The day began with a gourmet, champagne buffet brunch on the Yacht Club’s deck, with perfect weather, harbor and ocean views, and Ross Harper’s Island Time steel drum music. A short program included the presenting of the colors by Boy Scouts Troop 33, the singing of God Bless America by David Gonzales, and a warm welcome by Event Co-chairs Nick Sebastian and Francie Lufkin.

Fred Kass, VNHC Boardmember and Ridley-Tree Cancer Center Director of Medical Oncology, shared how over his career he has routinely referred patients to VNHC and would constantly hear praise about how much the services received meant to them.  He also had the opportunity to experience the gift of VNHC services when his own mother needed care. Kass called VNHC, which brings healthcare into the home where people need it, our community’s healthcare safety net and noted that it is VNHC’s “model of empathy and compassion that sets it apart.”

He reflected on how recent events, including the 1/9 Debris Flow and the Conception boat fire, remind us how vulnerable and fragile a species we are. Kass emphasized that “we need to constantly honor those people who take it as their task to walk alongside those of us whose burdens at times seem overwhelming and to help everyone in need find a way to rediscover the joy and normalcy that sometimes is so hard to find in times of tragedy.” He shared how glad he was that the event is dedicated to VNHC’s Rehab Team, which includes  30+ physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists who care for more than 2,000 patients each year.

Then it was time to hit the water! Many guests boarded one of 17 spectator motoryachts generously provided by yacht club members.  Along with 28 others, I boarded Torqua, Geoff and Alison Rusack’s 86 ft. Ocean Alexander luxurious motoryacht. We were greeted by the crew with Rusack wine and appetizers and a choice of multiple indoor and outdoor lounge areas to relax in and enjoy the regatta and passing scenery.  

Seventeen racing sailboats competed in two classes, each with a VNHC Rehab Team member on board as a celebrity skipper. The predicted 25 mph winds turned out to be about 5 mph, which made for less than an exciting regatta, but guests were perfectly happy mingling while cruising the gorgeous Santa Barbara coastline.

Upon returning to the harbor, guests joined others who had opted to stay at the clubhouse and the after-party began. A tri-tip and chicken buffet dinner was served and guests dined at tables in the sand and inside the club while Paradise Kings provided rock and blues tunes.

An awards ceremony concluded the day, with Venom skippered by Jeff Grange and Skookum skippered by George Brown winning in their respective classes.

Founded in 1908, VNHC provides comprehensive home health and personal care services. It offers hospice services both in-home and at Serenity House, serving about 12,000 people annually. VNHC never turns away a patient for an inability to pay. Last year, it provided about $1.3 million in reduced-rate or free care. VNHC provided another $1.1 million in other community benefits, including bereavement care, support groups and workshops, music, pet, and integrative therapies, and the We Honor Vets, Among Us, and No One Dies Alone programs. VNHC’s Loan Closet loans medical equipment free of charge to more than 4,000 people each year. Many Yacht Club members have benefited from VNHC services, making them passionate supporters.

VHNC has about 125 volunteers and always welcomes new ones. Training for new hospice volunteers begins October 1. For more info about VNHC, go to For more information on the Santa Barbara Yacht Club, visit

For coverage of other events, go to Send invites to

Event Co-chairs Nick Sebastian and Francie Lufkin
VNHC COO Jo Ann Mack, VNHC Foundation Executive Director Rick Keith, and VNHC CFO Karen Wallace
Boardmembers Dr. Fred Kass, Dannell Stuart (treasurer), and Mark Mattingly
Event photographer Fritz Olenberger and Gretchen Olenberger on Torqua
Steven Estrella and Ingrid Lino on Torqua
Spectator yacht Torqua (owned by Geoff and Alison Rusack)
SBYC Bridge: Rear Commodore Andra Escola, Commodore Scott Deardorff, and Vice Commodore Garry Pawlitski


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.