It’s been in a “holding pattern” since the middle of the year, but organisers are now moving at a rate of knots after announcing the popular Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta will go ahead as planned.
The annual regatta, which raises funds for the Hunter Branch of Cancer Council NSW, will once again be a major event in Lakefest – a festival of all things aquatic in Lake Macquarie – between 13 February and 6 March 2021.
“We have been in a holding pattern since the middle of the year wondering which way the COVID-19 pandemic was going to drive us but, with the recent relaxation of regulations, the organising committee now believe it is safe to plan on going ahead with the event,” Royal Motor Yacht Club Vice Commodore and Regatta Director, Mel Steiner, says.
The regatta, which will celebrate its 15th edition next year, has raised more than $300,000 since it began.
The 2021 version will feature some added race divisions, with both dinghies and sailboards expected to compete in a ‘Dinghy/ Sailboard Dash’ on a shortened course at the northern end of the lake.
However, Steiner says well-known events are also set to make a return.
“[This includes] the Short One Lap Dash of about 16 nautical miles, the Classic One Lap Dash – a 30 nautical mile race around the length and breadth of the lake – and two somewhat gruelling races, the Challenging 12-Hour and Endurance 24-Hour race,” Steiner says.
The regatta will launch with a traditional charity fundraising dinner on Friday 19 February at the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Toronto.
The theme for this year’s dinner will be Youth Sailors, with a panel of five up-and-coming sailors to be interviewed by Newcastle ABC sports commentator, Helene O’Neill.
The regatta will then go across the weekend of Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February.
“Prior to the regatta starting on the Saturday morning, local Toronto residents will be treated to a spectacular aerobatic display as a part of the pre-regatta entertainment,” Steiner says.
“Paul Bennet – local pilot extraordinaire – will be at the helm of his Pitt Special and will dazzle everybody with his piloting skills.”
The Heaven Can Wait Charity Regatta was conceived and inaugurated by Lake Macquarie resident, keen sailor and cancer survivor, Shaun Lewicki, as a major annual sailing event on the lake.
It aims to promote sailing, as well as the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, and Hunter Region, and raise funds for cancer research.
Most of the funds go towards the Cancer Council’s Home Help program, which supports terminal and recovering patients with domestic duties that they struggle to complete due to their condition.
The program has assisted some 40 patients over the past 12 months and, as recovery rates improve even further, so will the need for this type of support.
A small amount of funds raised also aids Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue, which provides on water support during the regatta.