The landscape blossoms before your eyes like a swamp iris in spring. The ospreys and pelicans glide above Lake Pontchartrain on wind heavy with the humidity of a Louisiana summer. Palm trees line the shore, and the leaves rustling 20 feet above harmonize with waves crashing against the seawall. An elegant blue heron stalks a Vietnamese fisherman casting his nets in search of crabs, fish, and shrimp. This panorama is special to the sailors of New Orleans, for it serves as the backdrop of the New Orleans Yacht Club’s (NOYC) Wednesday Night Race Series. This series runs from March to November and just concluded last week. Read along as we take a look at the last midweek race of 2022 and celebrate the community we created here over the year.
A Look Back at the Season
Louisiana boaters counted their lucky stars this year as we found ourselves spared by an unpredictable hurricane season. NOYC made it all the way to November without canceling a Wednesday Night Race due to a tropical depression or hurricane. This helped our community stay united and come back strong after the 2021 season, which was interrupted at the end by Hurricane Ida.
This season, I crewed on seven different sailboats, from a J/27 to a Gulfstar 41 to a trimaran. One week I was flying a spinnaker with Class A and then the next I was using a boat hook to hold out the jib in light air on a J/27. Each week came with its own challenges and lessons, and I always returned home in the evening with more knowledge, understanding, and patience in my repertoire.
I also did my part serving with the race committee, where I learned to keep time, check in racers, and communicate with other vessels using different flags. Our race committee boat is a converted crab boat, the home base for tracking all racers from check-in to the finish line. The number one priority of the race committee is to ensure everyone is accounted for and returns to the harbor safely. Needless to say, we often ended the evenings with a tow line astern.
“Last race of the season. Let’s meet at the dock for 5:15”
“Cast off the lines and let’s move!” Elliott, our skipper, called from the cockpit of Discovery, a Gulfstar 41 and our racing vessel for the evening. Heidy stood ready to fend off with a boat hook as we left the slip and made our way out of Orleans Marina. Down below, Mamie was already mixing margaritas for passengers as we passed the fuel docks and oyster bars that line the harbor. Then, the familiar symphony of a trumpet, trombone, and sousaphone called out to us from the shore as a brass band led a second line near Lakeshore Marine and Fuel. We whistled and congratulated the revelers as we passed, dancing on the stern until we couldn’t hear the music anymore. The last Wednesday Night Race of the year was already off to a great start.
The lake was calm and smooth like glass as we exited the harbor, with light winds coming out of the northeast. The familiar silhouette of sailboats against a tangerine and cotton candy sky and the chatter of crew and passengers onboard Discovery set the scene for a great night. The wind lazily pushed us along at one knot toward the race committee boat for check-in, where we saw the course: GBA. Claire, our helmswoman, continued maneuvering around other boats as we observed the wind, anticipated our course, and watched the sun descend towards the horizon.
The race itself was pleasant and without any hiccups. There were twelve people aboard Discovery that night, eight of whom were experienced sailors. Our team was adroit and flowed well, alternating responsibilities and trimming and easing the sails with repose. The wind was extremely light, and we noticed the committee boat motor past us during the first leg of the race, thereby adjusting the finish line to “B” instead of “A”. We enjoyed our time out on the water working together, and a bittersweet nostalgia accompanied the horn that sounded when we crossed the finish line--but the fun wasn’t over yet.
“Are you going up to the club?”
The New Orleans Yacht Club (NOYC) throws great parties, and the Wednesday night post-regatta cook-out is a perfect cure for the mid-week slump that plagues many of us. The club slowly fills with patrons as more and more sailors finish the race and make their way to the bar. And what’s a good Louisiana party without live music and delicious food? Side B Duo joined us to close out the season, setting the mood with classic rock and vibrant soul music. Yvonne and Joe were slinging cocktails behind the bar while Jack grilled hamburgers and veggie burgers outside. On the table by Jack was another weekly favorite--assorted bags of Zapp’s, a kettle-cooked delight to accompany your chargrilled dinner. Patrons could choose among Spicy Cajun Crawtators, Voodoo, or Hotter 'N Hot Jalapeño. The club was filled with sailors, families, and friends all celebrating the end of a great season.
Community Growing Stronger
The Wednesday Night Race Series may be over for the year, but the community of the New Orleans Yacht Club remains strong and in high spirits. The calendar is already filled with more community events, from liqueur tastings to LSU Game Day Potlucks to Saints Game Day Brunches. The Lake Pontchartrain Women’s Sailing Association also has some events in the works designed to get people out on the water in the coming months. Luckily for us down here in the Mississippi River Delta, our mild winters empower us to continue sailing well into January and even February--tiding us over until March rolls around and ushers in the new season of Wednesday Night Races.