Each year in September, hundreds of sailors compete in the Chicago Regatta, an event that includes a variety of boat races off Chicago's magnificent lakefront. Hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club, one of the oldest yacht clubs in the country, the regatta raises funds to support the health and wellbeing of children throughout Chicago. Held at the Chicago Yacht Club's Monroe Station, the event also includes dinner, live music, and a silent auction.

Over the course of the past two years, the Chicago Regatta has raised almost $60,000 for the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital to support research and patient care. The event also raises funds for the SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, a nonprofit focused on foster care services, and the Chicago Yacht Club Foundation, which promotes youth awareness and appreciation of the nautical arts and traditions. 

The Chicago Yacht Club is a recognized leader in sailing education, and advocates for sailing and boating across all ages, especially children. For more than 90 years, the organization has offered one of the top youth sailing schools in the country, which provides children with the natural health benefits of sailing, including exercise, confidence, and self-efficacy.

This emphasis on youth led the Chicago Yacht Club to develop the idea of creating a regatta with the purpose of raising money to benefit children’s programs. 

"In addition to providing an excellent experience for yacht club members, we want to be a great community partner and make a difference," said Greg Miarecki, the current chair of the Chicago Regatta and past commodore of the club. "The Chicago Regatta offers our friends and fellow members an opportunity to come together under a common cause and give back."

According to Nick Berberian, vice commodore of the club, there are no other regattas like this in the world that bring a yacht club's members together to support three different charities.

Personal connections between Comer Children’s and the Chicago Yacht Club helped solidify their decision to support the hospital.  

While often recognized as the founder of the clothing retailer Lands' End, Gary C. Comer, whose generous gift with his wife Frances established Comer Children’s, was also a world-class competitive sailor and active member of the Chicago Yacht Club. His generosity and support for children’s causes, along with his love for sailing, inspired the club’s leaders to contribute a portion of the proceeds from the regatta to Comer Children's.

In addition to the connection with Gary Comer, the club's members also have many ties to the University of Chicago.  For example, Miarecki graduated from the College and the Law School, while Berberian received his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Law School. Berberian’s son also attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the College. And one of the regatta's chief sponsors and champions, Gary Feracota, of Pinnacle Yachts, is also a graduate of Chicago Booth.

Proceeds from the regatta help Comer Children’s deliver the scientific expertise of UChicago Medicine to benefit young patients, while also providing a personal, family-centered approach to care. This year, a portion of the proceeds will also support the research of Eric Beyer, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics at Comer Children’s.

Dr. Beyer, who is also a member of the Chicago Yacht Club, is an expert in the care and treatment of children with all forms of cancer and blood diseases. His research focuses on investigating how information is transferred from one cell to another. Known as "intercellular communication," this research has the potential to lead to the development of new approaches to cancer therapy and also has major implications in areas beyond cancer, including cardiac arrhythmias and cataracts.

Beyer’s research is just one example of the many projects supported by the Chicago Regatta.

As Lou Sandoval, the club's current commodore, put it: "The Chicago Regatta is a way to share the maritime arts with the city of Chicago, while also supporting important causes near and dear to our hearts."

Join the Chicago Yacht Club at the 2019 Chicago Regatta on Saturday, September 14. Learn more about the upcoming event here and make a gift to support Comer Children’s here.

Published August 2019