A record number of racing teams took on the CRAB Cup. Photo: Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating

Record Boats Race in CRAB Cup for Accessible Boating

Sailors are quick to support other sailors. And that’s exactly what happened at the August 20th CRAB Cup for Accessible Boating, when a record number of boats showed up to help raise operational expenses for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB). 

The CRAB Cup is part of the Chesapeake Bay’s Triple Crown of fundraising: the Leukemia Cup, the Hospice Cup, and the CRAB Cup. Boats who participate in all three races are scored on their finishes as well as their fundraising amounts. 

In 2021, race organizers introduced a poker run for powerboaters as part of the CRAB Cup. This year, over 10 powerboats traveled to various destinations on the Bay and snapped selfies for race organizers, who then sent on an electronic playing card to create a complete poker hand. 

One registrant that surprised organizers participated on his jetski. “I thought it was kind of funny,” says CRAB Executive Director Paul Bollinger. “He came back in and said, ‘This was great. I love it, and I got to see places I’d never seen before.’”

The skippers’ challenge portion of the event raised roughly $74,000 for CRAB’s operational expenses, with the full total of sponsorships, registrations, and corporate donations coming in above $80,000. This money will go to support the operations of CRAB’s new Adaptive Boating Center, which plans on opening doors this February. 

“Our sailing programs are free of charge,” says Bollinger. “We work with over 25 nonprofits and take out over 1,000 guests each year, and we don’t charge any of them.” 

The Cup’s top fundraiser was Paul Van Cleve, whose efforts raised over $10,000 this year alone. Van Cleve raced on one of CRAB’s six specially-equipped Beneteau First 22as along with skipper Tim McGee, who was an All American sailor at the Naval Academy before suffering a stroke later in life. 

“We focus on peoples’ abilities,” says Bollinger. “Our guests love boating as much as anybody else, but they often can’t get on the boats. So our boats are adapted to make it a level playing field.”

McGee led his co-ed crew of fellow All Americans to top honors in his division. 

As any racing sailor knows, the party is often just as important as the race itself. Bollinger took it upon himself to redesign the format of the Eastport Yacht Club afterparty, allowing for greater accessibility. 

“There’s a lot more than people think or realize,” he says. The layout of the event positioned the party on the lawn, which was frequently wet. Bollinger moved the tent to the parking lot area, and the lawn became a beer garden. Everything was covered in AstroTurf. 500 people partook in the Shore Party festivities.

“Everything is accessible here,” Bollinger says. “Nothing is just for ‘able-bodied’ people.” 

The result of the race and party is not just funding for CRAB’s overhead, but a shift in the consciousness of sailors and boaters. A big part of Bollinger’s vision is creating an inclusive environment where everyone can enjoy being on the water without limitation. Bollinger is focused on making possibilities into realities. 

Fleet Director George Pappas echoes this sentiment. “During the race, one boat was unable to finish in the required time, but they didn’t give up. They kept going until they crossed the finish line, and the committee boat gave them a special horn blast. CRAB is for people who don’t give up.” 

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-Duffy Perkins