Single-blade class out of annual Tour du Teche race for youths

Members of the St. Bernard School Paddle Club embark upon Bayou Teche at Parc des Ponts in Breaux Bridge. The kids race as a team in Petite Tour du Teche and in other emerging youth races in Louisiana and Mississippi.

By KEN GRISSOM
According to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, there were 79,450 canoes sold in the United States during 2011, the most recent period for which complete sales figures are available.
During the same time frame, 234,800 kayaks were sold.
Even in Canada, where the traditional open canoe is a national icon, La Classique Internationale de Canots (canoes!) de La Mauricie, for the first time in its 80-year history, has a K2 division. Kayaks.
The popularity of fishing from kayaks plus the availability of inexpensive molded sit-on kayaks has undoubtedly skewed the sales figures, but there’s no question that the Inuit open-sea boat is ascendant on waters once plied by dugout and birch-bark canoes.
Last year in the Tour du Teche, the big race from Port Barre to Berwick plus all its side races, we had 18 canoes, including pirogues and big boats with crews of three or four. There were 53 kayaks, solo and tandem, entered.
“Our thoughts are to eventually – not this year but maybe next – eliminate single-blade classes from the Racing Division,” said Ken Grissom, TDT co-organizer. “Reducing the number of boat classes will put more cash in the winning pots.”
There will always be a place for canoes in TDT’s Voyageur Division, the races for recreational boats.
Tour du Teche is not only embracing change but encouraging it by including in Voyageur this year a class for stand-up paddleboards, or SUPs.
Both concepts will be introduced at this year’s Petite Tour du Teche, a series of short races for paddlers ages 5 to 17, to be held at Breaux Bridge’s Parc des Ponts Saturday, Aug. 2. Boat classes will be K1 Racing (rudders OK), K1 Recreational (no rudders), K2 and SUP. K1 designates solo boats and K2 tandem.
The age groups remain the same as in previous years:
—Fledgling I – 5 to 7, course 250 yards.
—Fledgling II – 8 to 10, course 250 yards.
—Bantam – 11 and 12, course 500 yards.
—Juvenile – 13 and 14, course one mile.
—Junior – 15 to 17, course one mile.
The entry fee is $20 per paddler. The races are held around buoys, within view of spectators on the bank at all times.
Petite Tour du Teche is conducted under the rules of the United States Canoe Association (USCA).
Tour du Teche V will be Oct. 3-5. For more information on either set of races, go to www.tourduteche.com, e-mail info@tourduteche.com, or call Ken Grissom at (337) 394-6232.
Ken Grissom is one of the founders and a director of Tour du Teche Inc.

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