LEONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - "We race rain or shine," said Ray Pellerin of the April 1 paddle race in Acadiana. "We do not start a race if lightning in the area."
However, the rain usually doesn't hold anyone back.
The 2017 Tour du Teche series of paddle races starts Saturday, April 1, with a fun eight-mile sprint down a beautiful stretch of Bayou Teche. Competition is for trophies and certificates. Entry is $20 per paddler.
Pellerin, who lives in Breaux Bridge, said the races are very popular and draw paddlers from racers all around the USA, Canada, Belize and Mexico. Some go home with stories.
"Alligators, beautiful birds following the boats, fish jumping in a boat, alligator gar fish swiping side of boats at night. Since some of the boats are on the water at night, we hear all type stories!" Pellerin added.
Because it's south Louisiana, all along the course, people offer food and drink to the racers. Pellerin said the usual question from spectators is, "Where are ya'll from?"
Proceeds from the race benefit the Arnaudville Chamber of Commerce and the Leonville Volunteer Fire Department. For racers, here are the specifics of Tour de Teche:
"Top of the Teche" is run in two waves, with the "Voyageur Race" division (recreational paddlers) starting at 9 a.m.
"Pro Race" division starts at 11 a.m.
Organizers say a detailed schedule can be found at www.tourduteche.com.
"Top of the Teche" starts from the public boat ramp just below the LA 31 bridge in Leonville. The finish is at Myran's just past the LA 31 bridge in Arnaudville.
Shuttle rides are available before the race.
The "Tour du Teche" series includes two new races this year. One is a sprint around buoys on the Lower Atchafalaya River - the historic name for that section of the Teche - and the other is a 24-mile marathon from Bossier City to the first of five dams on the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway stretch of the Red River.
The whole TDT schedule looks like this:
Top of the Teche: Leonville to Arnaudville, 7.7 miles - April 1
Chitimacha: New Iberia to Charenton, 20 miles - May 20
Petit Tour du Teche: Parc des Ponts de Pont Breaux, 250 yards to 1 mile
(For kids 5 to 17) - Aug. 5
The Lower Atchafalaya River Sprint: Patterson, 8 miles (twice around the buoys) - Sept. 9
Race to the Dam: Bossier City to Lock and Dam No. 5, 24 miles - Sept. 30
Tour de la Riviere Rouge: Shreveport to Port Barre, 275 miles - Sept. 30 et seq.
410 de Louisiane: Shreveport to Berwick, 410 miles - Sept. 30 et seq.
Tour du Teche 135: Port Barre to Berwick, 135 miles - Oct. 6 - 8 (Pellerin said Tour du Teche 135 is most popular race. Always starts first Friday in October.)
Crawfish: Port Barre to Breaux Bridge, 30 miles - Oct. 6
Acadian: Port Barre to St. Martinville, 49 miles - Oct. 6 ("Usually there's a party in St. Martinville and it ends Sunday at Lighthouse Festival in Berwick," Pellerin said.)
Hot Sauce: St. Martinville to New Iberia, 24 miles - Oct. 7
Sugar: St. Martinville to Franklin, 59 miles - Oct. 7
Black Bear: New Iberia to Franklin, 35 miles - Oct. 7
Oil &Gas: Franklin to Berwick, 27 miles - Oct. 8
For more information or to register online, go to www.tourduteche.com.
Tour du Teche series of Canoe and Kayak Races has 14 races planned for 2017. Short race 7.7 miles Leonville to 410-mile race Bossier City to Berwick. Look at www.tourduteche.com for a description of the 14 races.
Number of racers varies from 20 to more than 150. There are usually more than 50 youth ages 5 to 17 for the Petit TDT Race in August.
Races are held rain or shine, but do not start if there is lightning in the area. Racers come from all around the USA, Canada, Belize and Mexico.
Each race has two divisions: Race (racing boats) and Voyageur (recreational boats) Voyageur boats start two hours before racing division except Petit TDT, Race To The Dam and Lower Atchafalaya Sprint Race.
"This year, we will name our first Louisiana Triple Crown winners. The racer must complete TDT 135, Tour de la Riviere Rouge 135 and 410 de Louisiane within a three-year period. The fastest combined time in each class is named the winner," Pellerin said.