Society Matters | S.B. Yacht Club’s Charity Regatta Benefits VNA Health

One of S.B.'s Most Enjoyable Fundraisers Raises Critical Funds

VNA Health President & CEO Kieran Shah and VNA Health Foundation Director Lailan McGrath | Credit: Gail Arnold

On September 10, the Santa Barbara Yacht Club (SBYC) hosted one of Santa Barbara’s most enjoyable fundraisers —- its 18th annual Charity Regatta to raise funds for VNA Health (formerly Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care), which provides comprehensive home health and personal care services.

A midday champagne brunch reception at the Club kicked off the fun-filled day for the 300 guests, with Ross Harper providing steel-drum music on the balcony. A short program included the presenting of the colors by Montecito Boy Scout Troop 33 and the singing of the national anthem by David Gonzales. SBYC Commodore Eli Parker welcomed guests and explained the Memorial Boat Ceremony to follow, which honored lives lost in 9/11 and to COVID and paid tribute to passed loved ones. 

To show the impact of VNA Health in the community, Event Co-Chairs Francie Lufkin and Nick Sebastian asked guests who had used any VNA services, or had a loved one who had, to stand. A clear majority of guests stood, providing a striking showing of the widespread benefit of VNA Health’s services. Each year, the event honors a group of workers, paying tribute to them during the program and designating them Celebrity Skippers. This year, it was VNA Health’s mental health workers. 

Then the sailboat races got underway, with most guests departing for one of the 17 spectator boats. The forecast caused many skippers to opt for dock parties instead of going out, but others headed out in what turned out to be fine conditions. Some guests opted to watch the races and otherwise enjoy the afternoon at the club.

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Along with a dozen or so others, I boarded Torqua, Geoff and Alison Rusack’s 86 ft. Ocean Alexander luxurious motor yacht. We enjoyed Rusack Vineyards wine and appetizers as we cruised along the coast in style and comfort, watching the regatta.

Fifteen boats competed in two classes. The overall race winner was Rock & Roll, a J/111 helmed by Kelly Jane Paradise and the CHRF (Club Handicap Racing Fleet) winner was Skookum, a J/100 helmed by George Brown.

After guests returned to the club, the party continued with a buffet dinner, including delicious sea bass. Guests dined at tables in the sand while Davitt Felder & Band provided great music. An awards ceremony concluded the day.

In February of this year, Kieran Shah took the helm at VNA Health. In an interview, Shah related how VNA is continuing to focus on its staff and volunteers — its most valuable resource — who provide such a vital service to the community. He noted that VNA, along with other healthcare providers, faces the challenge of higher labor and supply costs alongside stagnant commercial and government reimbursement. Shah expressed gratitude to SBYC and other community donors, whose generosity enables VNA Health to be there for patients and families in their time of greatest need. Over the past 18 years, the event has raised more than $2 million.

Founded in 1908, VNA Health provides comprehensive home health and personal care services, serving about 12,000 people annually. It offers hospice services both in-home and at Serenity House and bereavement care. Its Loan Closet loans medical equipment free of charge, with 2,600 people using this service last year. VNA Health never turns away a patient for an inability to pay. It estimates the value of its charitable community care last year at $2.7 million. VNA Health uses many volunteers and always welcomes new ones for hospice, administrative, and event work.

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Event Co-Chairs Nick Sebastian and Francie Lufkin | Credit: Gail Arnold
Alixe Mattingly and VNA Health Board Chair Mark Mattingly | Credit: Gail Arnold
SBYC Commodore Eli Parker and Whitney Parker | Credit: Gail Arnold
Yacht Torqua Captain Graham Ashlock and Crewmember Taryn Ashlock | Credit: Gail Arnold
Polaris Crew Johnny DeSalvo, Polaris Crew Hannah Hinson, and Polaris Owner Roger Chrisman | Credit: Gail Arnold
Event Committee Member Teresa Koontz directs guests to Polaris yacht. | Credit: Gail Arnold
The Regatta | Credit: Gail Arnold


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