Morgan Invasion History

In 1985, an avid sailor and member of the Treasure Island Tennis & Yacht Club had an idea for a unique race in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Richard LaGrua brought his proposal to the club's yachting committee headed by Mary (Sully) Lowe and after getting the club’s green light for his idea, he started making plans for it with Sully’s vigorous support as co-founder of the event.

LaGrua began by calling the regatta the Morgan Invasion that would feature only vessels designed or built by Charley Morgan. He sought out a sponsor, Seagrams Morgan Spiced Rum, an appropriate partner in the endeavor. In later years many yacht club members and local businesses and the City of Treasure Island pitched in to help fund the highly successful regatta.

Charley and Sally Morgan had been among the most enthusiastic and gracious sponsors of this annual event. Unfortunately our good friend Sally passed away some years ago, but is remembered fondly by Morganeers everywhere. The Morgan owners have always looked forward to visiting with Charley, who continues to be actively involved. They enjoy reminiscing about the memorable sailing events that they were involved in with their Morgan Yachts.

Dr. LaGrua insisted that the race be a fun event, and that it include Morgan owners who have never raced before, as well as encouraging the experienced Morgan skippers to participate. He banned the use of spinnakers, and allowed no protests at the end of the race. He urged the boaters to bring their children and their dogs and their cats along for the weekend. Over the years, the race has attracted Morgan owners from all over the country, including many who couldn't bring their vessels, but wanted to visit and be a part of the festive event.

In addition to trophies being awarded to the winners in the various classes, prizes are given out to the crews dressed in the best pirate costumes. Another award is given to the Morgan vessel which is considered the most shipshape by a specialist that inspects each boat that is entered in the race. There are also memorial trophies awarded each year.

Traditionally the race was held annually on the first weekend in October. However, in 2004 it was decided to change the date for the Morgan scheduling it for April 16th in 2005. The change made it possible to avoid the hurricane season every summer and fall. 2004 had been particularly devastating with four storms hitting the state, destroying or damaging marinas, yacht clubs and vessels. Although Tampa Bay was spared the devastation, many Morgan sailors were rendered unable to attend because of damage in their areas or to their boats.

The festivities begin with Dockmaster Les Lathrop rafting the vessels in the club marina all day and evening on Friday. Registration takes place in the afternoon and well into the evening. A pool side casual meal is available as well as entertainment throughout the evening.

The Dockmaster breaks up the raft shortly after daybreak and the racers head out to the Gulf for the late morning start. Following the race, the boaters return for more poolside recreation and another casual buffet. Later in the evening, the awards ceremony takes place.

Weather had always been a factor for previous Invasions because we were still in the midst of hurricane season. We've had some great weekends, but we've had some that scared off all but the hardiest of sailors. The April date has provided us more often with fair winds and sunshine.

In 2006, for the first time in its long and successful history, the Morgan Invasion was hosted by the Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa. When it was learned construction on the planned new club house for the Treasure Island Tennis & Yacht Club would be underway during spring of 2006, our fine friends at Davis Island led by Pete Moller and DIYC sailing enthusiasts offered to provide the setting for the 2006 event. Many of the T. I. volunteers who have worked on the regatta over the years pitched in to assist at Davis Island, including T.I. Dockmaster Les Lathrop. And of course, Charley Morgan was there to connect with all the Morgan skippers … altogether an outstanding event.

For 2007 the club construction problem was compounded in that the Treasure Island draw bridge was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt at the same time. Again the Morgan owners at Davis Island always supportive of the Morgan Invasion over past years filled this void for us and everyone was grateful for their help. 2007 registered 47 yachts and the tradition was upheld with Charley Morgan holding court with Morganeers on Friday evening. There were gentle winds and sunny skies the day of the race with spectators watching the start and finish from DIYC’S club balcony.

In 2008, the Invasion came back to Pinellas County to be sailed in the Gulf out of St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s new Pass-a-Grille Station with 32 boats. Morgan owner Gloria Davis presided as regatta chairperson with Race Committee duties conducted by George and Beth Pennington as they had in so many years past.

In 2010, the Morgan Invasion/Rendezvous again was conducted in the Gulf out of "THE CLUB" TREASURE ISLAND under the ownership or William (Bill) Edwards a major sponsor of the event. The organizing committee teamed up with Suncoast Hospice to celebrate the Invasions 25th year with the irrepressible Less Lathrop leading many new and perennial Invasion volunteers as chairman. Good weather prevailed, food and entertainment were outstanding and the alliance with Suncoast Hospice was a success setting the stage for a repeat relationship for 2011.

For 2011 & 2012, the Morgan Invasion continued to be held at "THE CLUB" TREASURE ISLAND, and continued to be teamed up with SUNCOAST HOSPICE. "THE CLUB" owner Bill Edwards and many former and new supporting sponsors including the city of Treasure Island and Morgan owners continued the tradition of the Morgan Invasion/rendezvous as co-founded 26 years earlier by the late Dr. Richard LaGrua and Mary (Sully) Lowe.

In 2013, the Morgan Invasion was transformed into the Tampa Bay Hospice Cup, which was the result of a vision established by the Morgan Invasion planning committee to expand the scope of the event and grow the event into a large scale benefit regatta.  The event was hosted by Davis Island Yacht Club and generated more than $30,000 in support of hospice care.  On August 14th, 2013, the regatta organizers presented a $15,000 check to Suncoast Hospice and a $15,000 check to LifePath Hospice.

Please remember and favor our sponsors with business if you can and come and sail with us or visit with us for our next event! 

Sully Lowe, Historian and "Keeper of the Flame"
Updated by Charley Morgan, Founder and
Paul Payne, Communications and "Keeper of the Web"