Heaven Can Wait raises a record $46,000 for Hunter Branch of Cancer Council NSW at February 2020 sailing regatta

FUN FLEET: This year's Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta on Lake Macquarie featured 55 boats. Picture: Greg Dickens of Photo Sydney.
FUN FLEET: This year's Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta on Lake Macquarie featured 55 boats. Picture: Greg Dickens of Photo Sydney.

THE Heaven Can Wait Charity Sailing Regatta on Lake Macquarie has defied the odds and raised a record $46,000 despite the impacts of bushfires and drought on the charity dollar.

The event is organised and run by Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto, and is in its 14th year.

Proceeds from the annual event go to the Hunter Branch of Cancer Council NSW and its Home Help Program, and Lake Macquarie Marine Rescue.

The regatta was held over the weekend of February 22 and 23 and featured 55 boats.

Heaven Can Wait race director and vice-commodore of RMYCT, Mel Steiner, said the $46,000 eclipsed the previous record of $44,000 raised in 2018.

"This year was expected to be a tough year for fundraising," Mr Steiner said.

"Bushfires and drought had sucked up a lot of the available charity dollars and combined with the view that people were doing it tough, we fully expected the fundraising effort to be down on previous years."

The generosity of the event's participants, sponsors and supporters overcame that.

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Money is raised through entry fees, donations, and pre-regatta fundraising initiatives such as the Heaven Can Wait charity dinner.

The sailing features a couple of events to cater for a variety of craft.

It includes the classic one-lap dash - a "quick jaunt around the cans covering the length and breadth of the lake" Mr Steiner said.

And then there's the 24-hour endurance race - over the same course "but overnight and with whatever the weather chooses to throw at you".

Heaven Can Wait is the centre piece of Lakefest, a celebration of aquatic and land-based activities on and around Lake Macquarie.

Lakefest 2020 also featured the Etchell Australian Championships and the Australian Sport Boat Championships - which both attracted boats and crews from interstate - interclub yacht racing, a classic boat festival at Rathmines, a combined Friday twilight race, and a Pretty In Pink Charity Ball.

The all-women panel of sailors, from left, Rebecca Connor, Peta Norris, Courtney Smith, Jacqueline Ellis and Jan Howard flanked by interviewer Helene ONeil. Picture: Greg Dickens of Photo Sydney

The all-women panel of sailors, from left, Rebecca Connor, Peta Norris, Courtney Smith, Jacqueline Ellis and Jan Howard flanked by interviewer Helene ONeil. Picture: Greg Dickens of Photo Sydney

The Heaven Can Wait charity dinner is a highlight of the regatta.

It is held at RMYCT on the Friday night before the regatta.

"Traditionally, it features as guests local yachting personalities who have performed well on the world stage being interviewed by well known ABC Newcastle sports commentator Helene O'Neil," Mr Steiner said.

"This year, we wanted to put the focus on women sailors because sailing is a sport that both women and men can participate equally in - either separately or in mixed formats and we want to see more women sailing," he said.

This year's special guests at the dinner were sailors Jan Howard, Peta Norris, Courtney Smith, Jacqueline Ellis and Rebecca Connor.

The talented women boast a stack of Sydney-to-Hobart races and other elite competitions and achievements between them.

Coincidentally, this year's Heaven Can Wait regatta featured the event's fist all-women crew, which Mr Steiner applauded.

"I want to see an all-women crew racing with us in our midweek and weekend race series, too," he said.

Dates for the 2021 Heaven Can Wait regatta would be announced soon, and the event would likely be held in February again, Mr Steiner said.

More information about the Heaven Can Wait regatta, including results and photos, and Lakefest, can be found at heavencanwait.com.au or rmyctoronto.com.au/heaven-can-wait and lakefest.com.au.

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