A Friday afternoon in New Orleans
Published on September 20th, 2022
by Kevin Gunn
It’s 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon in New Orleans and thirteen 420s with high school sailors aboard have lined up for a start on Lake Pontchartrain. Parents decked out in their kid’s school colors set up their beach chairs along the seawall and cheer on their kids as they sail by.
Friday afternoon high school racing in New Orleans has been going on for years, but attendance this past year has been on the rise. New Orleans is not exactly a hub for high school sailing, but the simplicity of the series has drawn sailors to the lake rather than the more common Southern pastime of Friday Night High School Football games.
There are three venues that host high school teams in New Orleans: Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans Yacht Club, and Community Sailing New Orleans. All three locations work together to make the Friday Series a success. The sailors go directly from school to their respective site, rig, and then meet out on the lake for racing.
There is no skippers meeting. Instead, each boat comes by the race committee boat and checks in with the coach and extra high school sailors running the races for the day. Sailor’s names, schools, and sail numbers are recorded there before the first race begins. The course is always the same, a windward-leeward with the start/finish line in the middle.
Three races are sailed and then the sailors can return to their home venues, de-rig, and then go about their evening by 6:30pm. Results for the day are posted on the High School Sailing Scoring website later that evening. There are no entry fees, no trophies, and no pressure. There has never been a protest filed, so far, everything has been settled on the water.
The Friday racing draws more high school age sailors than most of the Club 420 events on the Northern Gulf Coast. The sailors like representing their schools, they don’t need to own their own boats, and the racing does not consume an entire weekend.
It only takes two sailors from the same school to make a team, but most schools have multiple boats on the line each day. As more New Orleans schools are beginning to form teams, it looks promising that there’ll be 20 boats on the start line real soon!