Sailing has long tradition

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2001


PHOTO: Boats line the slips at the New Orleans Yacht Club.(Staff photo by J. Edmund Barnes) NEW ORLEANS – Homer described the Mediterranean Sea as the wine dark sea. The whale roads upon which the Acheans first journeyed to Troy and then Ulysses stumbled about on his way back home to Ithaca made a powerful impression upon the poet – which is unusual because the seventh century greek poet is widely regarded as having been blind. But even the sounds and the smell of the ocean are enough to create a mental picture. Maybe of an idyllic beach in the Caribbean, or maybe even a longing to be out on the water itself. Fishing and boating are a way of life in South Louisiana. Every weekend thousands of boaters cast off and explore the local waterways – some for fishing, others for the recreation of motoring about in a small craft. They are one step removed from the oldest form of propulsion other than ambulation. “The biggest misimpression about yachting is that you have to be rich,” said Debbie David, manager of the New Orleans Yacht Club. “We have members who are policemen, plumbers, lab technicians.” David said there are two main ways people get into sailing – they are either introduced to it at an early age, or they get into it later in life. David falls into the latter category. She was not introduced to sailing until after she was married. Her husband’s father bought a boat, and she found herself spending more and more of her time sailing on it. Now she and her husband own their own boat and sail it regularly. “You’re going to make mistakes,” said David of learning how to sail. She said that was part of the fun of learning how to sail. For David, the other fun part of sailing is racing. “I was looking for a fun, healthy sport we could do with our kids.” David said that father – son and father – daughter racing teams are not uncommon. Many yacht clubs have summer youth sailing courses and also offer youth sailing clinics. Wednesday night is the local race night, with anywhere from 40 -70 boats involved. These midweek races are open to anyone, and David said boats from all over the coast participate. Owning a boat is not a necessary prerequisite to sail. For many people, their only involvement in sailing is their participation as a member of the crew of the boat. Experience isn’t necessary. Sometimes all that is needed is someone who can pull on a rope, or at other times line the rail of the boat. Rail meat,’ as David called them, are there to add their weight to boat to keep it from capsizing when a stiff wind is heeling the boat over. David said that the hardest part of racing is getting a good crew together. “Good skippers try to keep good crews together,” said David. As for whether a woman can race sailboats, David proudly said: “Women can do it just as easy as men.” David takes an active role in racing with her husband. “I can pull on halyards and jibs,” said David. The New Orleans Yacht Club counts among its members Junior Olympian gold medalist Anthony Hudson. David said that Anthony, who now races Lasers, as traveled the world racing sailboats.