There are so many stories to tell but I think the most important thing is to say what an incredibly positive experience the entire Regatta was for all involved. We had over 1,000 people on property, 267 boats on 5 courses.
When people say sailing participation is falling – I have to look at those numbers and smile – ‘Nope, sailing is just fine and with the number of youth coming up through the ranks, we’ve got depth for years to come’. How neat is it to have a winning America’s Cup skipper on property competing against other sailors, watching his kids gain the same experiences he gained on Sarasota Bay when he was younger?
We are incredibly lucky. One of the many reasons I love Labor Day is how much it represents the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and all the aspects of sailing to me. Our youngest sailor was 7 yrs old and our oldest (from our newest fleet) was 76 yrs old. We had the youth sailors, some of whom will go onto to compete on the world stage, some who already do, we had the sailors who are parents of those youth competing sometimes with their children, sometimes against their children or on their own course entirely, we had those big boat sailors – some slow – some fast, we had land support volunteers that don’t understand why you would race around the bay, and we had sailors that gave up their race day to support the sailors on race committee. There is a reason Labor Day has been around for 67 years and Dave and I were honored to be a part of it.
Last year, we started a food drive to support All Faiths Food Bank. When you think about it – the majority of people served by the food bank have at least one member of the family in the workforce. It is a way to honor the spirit of Labor Day and give back to the community. We had a lot of lessons to learn and with the help of Intercoastal Medical Group, our regional youth sailing programs and St. Armands Circle we collected over 1200 pounds of food and $500 in donations this year. When Commodore David Jennings and I met with All Faiths Food Bank in early 2013, we learned in the month of September, the food bank usually buys food in order to meet the need in the community. The 67th Annual Labor Day Regatta became the Kick Off to September Hunger Action month.
With Craig Bridges, our manager’s help we also recognized, we are part of a larger neighborhood in St. Armand’s Circle. We reached out to the community to not only support our food drive but also to provide our out of town guests with shopping and dining opportunities. And they were generous! Island Pursuits provided beautiful backpacks, umbrellas and koozies, while Café L’Europe, Florida Destinations, FantaSea and others provided coupons.
I want to thank my husband Dave Hillmyer, who not only organized race committee and race equipment; he made the trophies with his uncle. (all 79 trophies) Zoe Burnett, who was amazing organizing registration and on the water lunches (well over 500 lunches for Race Committee and the youth sailors). MaryLisa Milbourne and Mike Halliday, our scorers. Herb Larrabee and the protest committee volunteers. Our PRO’s Cindy Clifton, Barry Milbourne, Wes Tone, Andy Hodgson and Bob Revou and all of their volunteers. Rachel Harvey for taking pictures and formatting them for the Green Fleet participation awards. (56 green fleeters got a picture of themselves on the water on their boat – these are usually the first year sailors ages 8-11yrs)
I cannot thank our sponsors enough without them we would not be to provide a low cost regatta with lots of extras. A huge thank you to Intercoastal Medical Group, Gulf Auto Clinic, Action Quest, Duncan Seawall, Coffrin Jewelers, Z Blok, Island Pursuits of St Armands Circle and Publix.