Wednesday Night Racing on Lake Ponchartrain, LA
Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
52Trip End Sep 05, 2010
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A Sailing Anarchy Connection
We drove out to the New Orleans Yacht Club, about 20 minutes North of the city on Lake Ponchartrain. Matt had posted a note on Sailing Anarchy, an online sailing community, asking if anyone was looking for crew for evening races. He indicated some dates when we would be passing through major waterfront cities, and soon heard back from Elle, of NOYC. We arranged to meet her and she promised to set us up with a friend's J 130 for the NOYC Wednesday Night Race.
We arrived at the yacht club at about 5:00, and ambled towards the bar. We felt like we were waiting for a blind date – we knew only her name and hair colour. At the bartender’s recommendation, we sat back with an Abita Amber – made with fresh Louisiana spring water from the Abita Springs – and waited. We chatted with Juliet, a cheerful local who invited us to join her crew if our original plans fell through. But soon enough, Elle – short for Michelle – arrived and whisked us off to meet John, who would be sailing with us that night. Elle would actually be on a different boat, but she came along and helped bring gear to the boat and get us acquainted with John.
USA 51316`s Story
The boat was beautiful – a touch larger than what we usually see on Lac St Louis and impeccably kept. Incredible considering that it had been severely damaged by Katrina, and was only restored in the middle of last season. This boat was a lucky one – we spoke to other members whose boats had been thrown so far by Katrina’s force that they never even found them again. Our crew that night would be John, Greg (who helmed) Mike, Jeff, David, Paul plus Matt and Me – and that’s on a White Sail night, no spinnaker.
The crew was a fun and funny bunch. John – clearly always on the crest of the computer revolution since day one in the seventies - designs online educational programs to teach math to primary and middle schoolers. This jump towards the virtual classroom has been implemented across large portions of the state with great success. Greg and I had a bit in common – he teaches grade 8 and 9 History at a private boys’ school. Mike is originally from Chicago but goes to school in New Orleans – he’s a rabid Blackhawks fan and we had spirited hockey talk with him – we got in a few laughs about the Habs’ endless goalie roller coaster. David and Jeff were friendly, bright guys who are both in university studying Naval Architecture (hope I got that program name right). I don’t know what Paul did to be honest, but we had a good chat about Montreal, since he recalled going to Expo 67 as a young boy. He was impressed when we told him how the Expo islands were built from the dug out Metro earth.
Round the Buoys - Sort Of
The Wednesday night race course runs from a start line just off the club to a permanent 3 miles due East, and back. It should technically be a windward- leeward, with the wind usually swinging South as the sun sets, but the right hand shift came early so it was a quick fetch to the mark. The J accelerated effortlessly through puffs and clipped along I’d guess at about 6 knots. The breeze, about 8-10 knots, was warm and felt good after a long, sticky day. As we raced, the sun slowly sank and the downwind leg was straight into the sunset, the sun glowing hazy and orange behind the sails.
We were only a couple of lengths behind our main rival, a Melges 32 named RouGarou, who owe the J abut 15 second a mile, so Greg was confident we had them beat, and the closest boat behind didn’t look like they would get us on corrected time either. Afterwards, John provided more hospitality with snacks and drinks aboard. We hung out with the crew and chatted a while, enjoying the warm night and the spirited conversation.
Thanks, USA 51316! Come visit us at Pointe Claire yacht Club in Montreal any time.