Leukemia Cup Regatta

It was only last year that Tiburon’s Ian Charles first became involved with fundraising for the Leukemia Cup Regatta, a benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, at the San Francisco Yacht Club. Committee chair Bill Nolan asked Charles to sponsor the event through Rex & Co., his home equity investment company. Charles agreed, not only writing a sponsorship check but jumping passionately into fundraising to bring in almost $30,000. Months later, Nolan was looking toward the 2008 regatta and invited Charles to chair this year’s event.

“I was honored to be asked but I had one hesitation,” recalls Charles, who lives in Tiburon. “I didn’t have a personal connection with cancer. I was concerned about chairing an event designed around a cause that I had no experience dealing with.” In the end he accepted the role, and unfortunately his dilemma resolved itself when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, in April. “Now it is personal and my goal is to raise $100,000 this year.” Charles is co-chairing the October 5 regatta at the San Francisco Yacht Club with 10-year-old Campbell Nolan, a leukemia survivor and Bill Nolan’s son.

What started as an event held by the Eastport Yacht Club in Annapolis, Maryland, to help fund the fight against leukemia and blood cancers has now gained national attention—with over 50 regattas held across the country—largely due to a 2003 presentation at an annual leadership conference by America’s Cup winner and ESPN commentator Gary Jobson, a lymphoma survivor. Ironically, Jobson was also diagnosed with the disease after almost 10 years of heading up the Leukemia Cup Regatta.

More than 11,000 people participated in last year’s regattas, which raised over $3.5 million and brought the total thus far to $23 million. Regatta participants not only pay the $1,000-per-person or $1,500-per-couple entry but also raise additional money through friends and family to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

On October 4, the 2008 regatta weekend kicks off with a reception and dinner featuring sailing enthusiast and News Corporation chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch. October 5 is Sunday on the Bay, when seafarers will compete in the thrilling race, including spinnaker and non-spinnaker divisions; one design class for fleets with six or more boats; and a separate youth regatta.

After the race comes a barbecue celebration and awards ceremony for the top finishers and fundraisers on the San Francisco Yacht Club deck in Belvedere. Those who raise at least $8,500 will win a weekend trip to the Pink Shell Resort and Spa in Florida and a sail with Gary Jobson.