In covering the local boating scene for the last five years it has been engaging to see the many events and happenings that have taken place just outside and/or within the confines of the small harbor of Marina del Rey.

Last year, world-class sailors cast off every day for a week from the docks of the California Yacht Club vying for passage to the Beijing Summer Games through the Olympic Trials, and later this month a 16-year-old kid will untie his dock lines from a slip in C Basin in an attempt to circle the globe alone.

Tall ships representing centuries past frequently and conspicuously roll in to conjure up maritime awareness — more than once docked across from visiting mega-yachts owned by billionaires.

While these high-profile events and occurrences keep the community abuzz, there is another side to the local boating populace that is perpetually churning in a different gear — one that tackles more humanitarian issues concerning life-threatening diseases, the mentally and/or physically challenged and a host of other causes.

Local yacht clubs and other nonprofit organizations are continually working to address these serious issues by raising money, forming programs and raising awareness. This month there are two worthy examples.

For the next couple of weeks, members from the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club will once again devote all their energies toward raising funds for the City of Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to prevention and cures for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Saturday, May 10th, they will host the Eighth Annual Crab Feast and Auction and the following week (Saturday, May 17th), the club will run the City of Hope Regatta.

“It’s known as a ‘fun day on the water for a good cause’, which features a serpentine course that challenges your navigating as well as sailing skills,” says race chairman Lee Rhoads. “Last year over $20,000 was raised with several thousand coming from the regatta, so if you know anything about [City of Hope], this is an opportunity to lend support to their important work.”

Rhoads is particularly excited about this year’s race because the local Catalina 42 fleet will be participating, which might possibly make this year a record-breaker for entries and money raised. While the crab feast raises the lion’s share of the money, the regatta is always a healthy supplement.

Rhoads explains the challenges of raising money in this way:

“The question was, ‘How do you run a race (a losing proposition in most cases) and generate money for cancer research?’ The formula was to get local businesses involved by either entering a sponsored boat or, if they have a contribution but no boat, find a member to allow the business’s banner and crew to go out on the water and try their hand at racing (mentors are included with the boat).”

With the Catalina Fleet’s involvement, the regatta could be the most crowded start-line to date.

Another benevolent organization in full swing this month is the Junior Shipmate Program, which just kicked off its eighth season. This innovative program founded by Sherry Barone pairsÝSpecial Olympics Athletes and able-bodied children, teaching all of them life lessons through the sport of sailing.

Barone, now with the full support of the Del Rey Yacht Club, has been honing the program through the years and seeing the positive results of the recipe. Each year the activities vary a bit, but they always involve a well thought-out program that aims to benefit and inspire participants.

“This year the children began sailing with the cooperation of UCLA onÝCapri 14.2 boats and will end up onÝCatalina 38s,” says Barone. “Most of the time is spent on the water stressing safety, teamwork, good seamanship and positive attitude. Participation, activity and fun are the key ingredients in our program.”

Information on City of Hope, Trish Devine at (213) 241-7134 or www.cityofhope.org. City of Hope sponsorship information, Karon Larsen, Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, (310) 827-8324.

Information about Jr. Shipmates, seasidecon@aol.com/.

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