Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta cheque handover at Toronto | photos | video

SHAUN Lewicki admits the international contingent just don’t get how 50-foot yachts and 11-foot Moth-class dinghies can compete in the same sailing race.

But that’s a major part of the appeal of the annual Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta on Lake Macquarie.

“It is unique. It is one of a kind,” Mr Lewicki, the event founder, told the audience at the annual cheque handover at Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto, on Friday.

“It’s the only event where we can have boats up to 50 or 60 feet, down to skiffs and moths competing in the same race,” he said.

Mr Lewicki devised the idea for the charity event – now in its 11th year - while being treated for cancer at John Hunter Hospital.

“While I was in hospital there was some flaking paint on the wall. It fell off while I was lying there, and it looked like Lake Macquarie – and right in the middle, of course, was Pulbah Island – so I thought that’s what I’ll do: I’ll have a race around Lake Macquarie.”

The event was originally based at Rafferty’s Resort, and then Mannering Park Yacht Club, but since shifting to Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto, has taken off.

Club vice-commodore Mel Steiner said money was raised by entry fees, through the Everyday Hero program, a charity auction, and raffles.

“It’s a regatta that caters for all boat sizes, and we’ve got courses that meet the needs of all of those types of boats,” Mr Steiner said.

Race organisers presented cheques to the Hunter branch of the NSW Cancer Council ($33,000) and Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue ($5000).

“Overall, we’ve now raised about $300,000 for the Cancer Council of NSW,” Mr Steiner said.

Shane Connell of the Hunter branch of the Cancer Council said the money had helped 219 local cancer patients enjoy help at home through the Domestic Support Services Program.

The program provides services such as domestic cleaning and garden maintenance for local cancer patients.

MP Greg Piper made another personal donation of $500 to the Cancer Council and $250 to Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue.