Meet our Honorary Skippers

Leukemia Cup Regatta participants raise funds in honor of local blood cancer survivors, known as our Honorary Skippers. Their courageous stories will inspire you!

Chris Kostanecki

Chris was diagnosed in 1995 with a very rare form of lymphoma – anaplastic T-Cell lymphoma. A survivor for 21 years, Chris and his children Nicholas and Sophie celebrate together by competing in the Leukemia Cup on their J/70. Chris says, “The LLS mission is a cause near and dear to me for obvious reasons. I support and fundraise for LLS every year. I enjoy the connection and being able to support other patients when they face challenges during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Watching the Leukemia Cup grow with the support of The San Francisco Yacht Club, committee members, VIP speakers and the Bay Area sailing community is exciting and I am honored to be part of this amazing regatta.”

Lynn Spiller

Lynn was diagnosed in 1993 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and treated successfully with radiation therapy.  She thrived for 15 years before the lymphoma resurfaced in 2008. This time she was treated – again successfully – with a relatively new drug that targets primarily only the cancerous tumors, yielding a much gentler therapy and quality of life.  She is an active volunteer and fundraiser for a number of LLS events because she believes her good health is the direct result of the support the LLS provides for blood cancer research.  In addition to being an honoree for LLS’s Team In Training a number of times,  she continues to volunteer and participate in the Leukemia Cup Regatta.  Lynn says, “I tell people, don’t be afraid of cancer.  There’s so much out there to keep you healthy.”

Bob Groenke

Drake was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September of 2010 when he was 17 years old, just as he was achieving status as a formidable competitor in the junior sailing world. Despite all of the challenges associated with chemo and radiation, Drake was determined to finish high school without taking a break. Drake remained active, coaching High School Baseball and coaching and instructing Junior Sailing all through his Contra Costa College years. Drake spent three years at Contra Costa College completing his GE courses to transfer to the California Maritime Academy, where he is studying Marine Transportation. Drake has hopes to someday pilot ships in and out of San Francisco Bay.

Zach Thoma

In May of 2006, at age 4 ½, Zachary Thoma went to his pediatrician because of a lack of energy and decreasing appetite.  She felt a mass in his abdomen and the next day Zach and his father Mark, a resident at UCSF, were at the hospital for a full day of diagnostic tests.  Two days later, the results came back and Zach was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, an uncommon, but highly curable form on Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.   Over the next three months he underwent treatment that included two open biopsies, multiple lumbar punctures under anesthesia, and five rounds of intense, inpatient chemotherapy at UCSF Children’s Hospital spending more than half of the summer in the hospital.

Rhett Krawitt

Rhett was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 2010.  He understands that research funded by LLS saved his life and following 3 ½ years of treatments, he’s “Gone with the Cancer.”  Now, 10-Years-old, Rhett is an avid sailor and he has inspired his family and friends to raise more than $75,000 for LLS.  He continues to rally sailors, blood cancer patients, and cancer survivors every time he proudly declares, “My name is Rhett, and I give a damn!”

Chris Laub

Christopher Laub was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2004, at the age of eight. With the love and support of friends and families in the Tiburon community, he stayed strong during his 3 years of chemotherapy at UCSF. Additionally, Chris is a past Boy of the Year for LLS’s Man & Woman of the Year campaign and was honored by the Dalai Lama in 2009 as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion” for his inspirational efforts. Chris continues working to inspire and support others battle cancer as a guest speaker at several gold events for the American Cancer Society.

Steve Johnson

Steve was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in February 1997 after what he thought was a bad case of the flu that was going around. Two days after his doctor’s visit he found himself at UCSF receiving his first round of chemo. His wife, Karen, was his “rock” throughout his treatment, spending almost every night in the hospital with him. After 7.5 months of high-dose chemo and 2.5 years of maintenance chemo, Steve was declared cancer free. Steve says his cancer journey taught him to always remember that life is a precious thing and that we need to make the most of it. It is crucial to “catch yourself” when things are not going well and remind yourself of that.

Gale Greisen

I contracted AML in April of 2013. I first realized I had a serious problem when I was unable to walk up the ramp at the Corinthian Yacht Club, so I immediately contacted our family physician who subsequently referred me to a local specialist. I was soon diagnosed with Leukemia and transferred to UCSF where I was given the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial with Dr. Andreadis.  I was admitted to the hospital to start chemotherapy on May 5th, my 67th birthday, and spent the next 2 months in the hospital, finally going into remission in June. 

I reentered the hospital in early August of 2013 to start the process for a stem cell and bone marrow transplant receiving the new cells in late August.  Two years after the transplant I was given the opportunity to contact my donor and it turned out to be a 26yr old male from Hamburg, Germany.  We have subsequently bonded and he has visited us here in the U.S. and we have visited him in Hamburg.  This May, I will visit Dr. Andreadis on May 24th to celebrate 5 years in remission.

Campell Nolan

Campbell Nolan was diagnosed with T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in September 2005. He completed a two-year treatment plan at USCF Children’s Hospital where he was enrolled in a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a new cancer drug developed specifically to address T-Cell ALL. Campbell is a student at UC Santa Barbara where he is majoring in financial mathematics. He is doing a semester abroad this fall in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College. He has been cancer-free for over a decade. 

Doug Owen

Doug was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (Mantle Cell) in July of 2017, and completed a six-month program of chemo therapy in January of 2018, at which time he was pronounced “in remission”.  His wife Andrea was at his side throughout, and after 20+ years of marriage, he credits her involvement, along with the care he received from Marin Cancer Care and Dr. Jennifer Lucas for his recovery and ongoing care.  “It’s important to remember how precious life is, and especially when things take a turn for the worse, to live every day that we are given, thanking our Creator for all of the blessings we receive along the way”.

Bernard O’Driscoll

In loving memory
In April of 2009, Bernard was diagnosed with stage 3 Aggressive Multiple Myeloma. Despite complications, Bernard continued to sail at every opportunity. He was a long time supporter of The Bay Area Leukemia Cup Regatta, serving as honorary skipper on Neil Gibbs J/105 Nimbus. Bernard passed on December 19, 2016 and will be dearly missed.