Tour du Teche II, set for Oct. 7-9, is 135 miles this year, with at least four portages, not counting any detours around impenetrable rafts of water hyacinth or recalcitrant alligators.
It’s a staged race this year, going from the boat ramp on Bayou Courtableau in Port Barre to the Lighthouse Park on the Atchafalaya River in Berwick in three legs. The first finish line is in St. Martinville on Friday, second in Franklin on Saturday, and finally in the seaport town of Berwick on Sunday.
There will be food, live music and dancing at every overnight stop, plus a big send-off in Port Barre.
Last year paddlers went around the clock to a finish at Cajun Jack’s dock in Patterson, a distance of about 128 miles.
Each paddler in a boat winning its class gets a cash prize amounting to 3 percent of the pot. Teche Federal Bank has guaranteed a $10,000 pot, so every paddler to finish first in class gets at least $300 (maximum of six paddlers per boat – any more than that and you have to start sharing.)
Other sponsorships are available so the prize money could grow significantly.
All paddlers second in class get 2 percent, and third in class 1 percent. Additionally, the first all-female crew in each class will share in 1 percent.
Above all that, the first-over-all boat shares 2 percent, second 1 percent, third .75 percent and fourth .25 percent.
Any boat that breaks the TDT record shares the 6 percent “bourré pot.” We call it that because if nobody breaks the record, the money carries over year after year, multiplying, until someone does.
We’ve set the threshold this year at 19 hours and 30 minutes although the actual record is 18 hours, 29 minutes – an extrapolation to account for the extra seven miles.
The entry fee is $150 and includes catered breakfasts and suppers, T-shirt and cap. There’s no entry fee for the coureurs de bois but there will be meal tickets, T-shirt and cap for one coureur, or bank runner, per boat. Extras may be ordered when you register or purchased at the start and finish lines.
The deadline to register is close of business on Friday, Sept. 16 – no exceptions. If you have to pull out you can get most of your money back plus a T-shirt. Check the Tour du Teche drop menu at www.techeproject.com for details.
Beer will be available at the kickoff party in Port Barre on Thursday, Oct. 16, and at each finish line after the day’s paddling, but no alcohol is allowed in boats per United State Canoe Association rules.
The required portages are at Keystone Lock and Dam, the west and east Calumet flood gates at the Wax Lake Outlet, and the Berwick Lock where Bayou Teche meets the Atchafalaya River.
From the Berwick Lock, racers will sprint downstream past the big red lighthouse, under the railroad bridge, and then duck into the Oregon Street boat launch about a quarter mile past the lighthouse.
Even though it’s a staged race this year, it is nonetheless a very tough race. Unlike most canoe and kayak marathons, this is mostly “flat water” – little or no current except for tidal movement, which could very well be against you.
Some recreational paddlers might well find themselves paddling almost as though it was still an around-the-clock ultramarathon.
However, anyone who doesn’t make it to St. Martinville by 6 a.m. on Saturday or Franklin by 6 a.m. on Sunday is out of the race. Starting time for all legs is 7 a.m.
For recreational paddlers who want to be part of the fun and to paddle alongside some of the best canoe and kayak racers in the world but aren’t up to going 135 miles in three days, there are several shorter, one-day races with local communities putting up prizes. Check www.techeproject.com for details.