BROOKLIN — Throughout the classic sailboat world, especially in New England, the first Saturday in August is synonymous with the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta.
Founders Steve White and his Brooklin Boatyard partner Frank Hunt saw the race, first sailed in 1985 with a fleet of just 13 boats, as a chance for wooden boat owners to get to together for some fun and competition.
Now jointly sponsored by Brooklin Boat Yard and Rockport Marine, fun and the competition are still the principal elements of the ERR equation, but the event has grown both in size and stature.
The event now regularly draws of a fleet of more than 100 almost every year — 102 boats sailed in 2018 and a few years ago race organizers at Rockland Marine and Brooklin Boat Yard had to set a 125-boat cap — and sailors have come from all over the world to take part in the race down that starts in Eggemoggin Reach, sails through isolated Jericho Bay and finishes between Babson Island and Naskeag Point off the shore of the WoodenBoat School.
This year, for the first time, the ERR will have a purpose beyond good sailing and a great post-race party at WoodenBoat. The 35th annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta will incorporate the first annual ERR fundraising race with proceeds to benefit the Department of Neurology of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Mass General has one of the nation’s largest hospital-based neuroscience research programs, according to a letter included in the race entry package recently sent to last year’s sailors, dedicated to “finding new treatments and cures that will reduce and ultimately eliminate” devastating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
The idea for the fundraiser came from a racer who is on the hospital board of trustees, White said, but primarily from Patrick Wilmerding, a Blue Hill summer resident and regular competitor in the ERR aboard his handsome sloop Lark, launched at Brooklin Boat Yard in 2012.
“He approached us,” BBY owner Steve White said last week. “It’s a cause close to his heart, ours too,” he added, speaking of Rockport Marine owner Taylor Allen. “Both our fathers, and Taylor’s mother as well,” died from neurologically related conditions.
The fundraising component of this year’s ERR is an experiment, according to White. It has yet to be decided whether charitable giving would become a regular part of the ERR and, if it did, whether it would benefit a different cause each year.
“How do you choose?” he asked. “Obviously, there are thousands of good ones. We’ll play it by ear.”
White said it was important for sailors to know that the fundraising element of the ERR was entirely voluntary and “completely independent of competing and participating” in the August event for which a good turnout is expected.
“It seemed like a good idea,” White said. “It won’t generate a tremendous amount of money, but it can’t hurt.”