New Roads yacht club hosts Coffee Pot Regatta
With the wind picking up just enough to help glide their boats across the surface of the mildly choppy water of False River on Sunday, members of the Pelican Yacht Club hurried into their vessels crammed at aged, wooden docks.
The sailors patiently waited for a steady breeze for nearly an hour on the banks of the river near New Roads to start the Coffee Pot Regatta, a race held each Sunday in January. They wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to raise their sails while they could. Eight boats circled at the starting point and all shifted their rudders north in unison as a signal from an air horn notified them the race had begun.
The boats’ pace resembled a leisurely stroll rather than a race. But glancing closer to the captains’ constant ducking, shifting position and tugging on ropes revealed the extreme effort needed to gain as much speed as possible — if only a few knots.
The Pelican Yacht Club has been around since 1962, and members say the club has been holding the annual Coffee Pot Regatta racing series every Sunday in January since then. The winter months are the ideal time for sailing, because of usually persistent winds and less boat traffic on the lake.
“It’s called the Coffee Pot series because the club’s original members who started the regatta had an old coffee pot they made coffee with and that became the trophy,” said Bob Kennedy, Pelican Yacht Club vice commodore and Baton Rouge resident. “People come from all over the state and sail on the regattas.”
The Coffee Pot races are only for club members, many of whom hold impressive backgrounds in sailing, such as Hank Saurage and Todd Edwards, both of Baton Rouge.
Saurage and Edwards are national sailing champions in the Sunfish sailboat division, which features races between small sailboats often suited to one person.
“It’s amazing some of the talent that comes from here,” said Robert Parker, national and international sailing competitor from Baton Rouge and a club member. “For anyone who wants to come out and try sailing, this is the place to do it.”
Club Commodore Terry Teekell welcomes new members to venture to New Roads and tour the club grounds, ask questions and, if interested, take a ride in a member’s boat to see if sailing and the club is a right fit for them.
An increased membership is something Teekell admits is needed. The club has nearly 40 families on the roster, but it’s a number that could and should be higher, he said. A combination of things such as the economic downturn and a changing culture is believed by members like Teekell and Kennedy to have caused a slight decline in membership.
More members means more families to spend time with on the water, but also more funds to keep the club around, Teekell said. The club is housed on leased property and membership dues help curb that expense.
Kennedy agreed sailing may have lost the allure it once had with families. Sailing, once a widely practiced pastime used to bring families together, has become something many in younger generations are unaware of, he said.
“Sailing use to be a family activity, but now sports and other things take up the time it once did,” Kennedy said. “Families just don’t dedicate a whole day to go relax, sailing on the water.”
Despite a smaller membership than may have been present in the past, club members still show up, have fun and are making efforts to get more people involved.
Among numerous social gatherings and other racing events throughout the year, the club has begun hosting sailing classes. The first was in October and the next is scheduled for March 29, according to Teekell.
Teekell said he hopes more people can begin to see sailing as the valuable pastime he has enjoyed since he began as a child, so many years ago.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said. “It’s just the interest in doing something that doesn’t require commercial power. It’s just you, the boat and the water: it’s very satisfying.”
The Pelican Yacht Club is online at pycl.org.