by Troy Gilbert
In the early 1800s, sailing vessels were used primarily for commerce and transportation. With the New York Yacht Club’s formation in 1844, however, clubs in New Orleans and the Alabama and Mississippi coasts followed within a few years, which sparked the great-granddaddy of distance racing in the western hemisphere—Southern Yacht Club’s Race to the Coast. First officially run on July 4, 1850, the Race to the Coast is the oldest running point-to-point distance race in the United States. Coursing from New Orleans’ West End in Lake Pontchartrain through the Rigolets into the open waters of the Mississippi Sound, the Race to the Coast first gained structure as bankers and cotton brokers fled the heat and yellow fever epidemics in the city.