Fast peach competition

| February 01, 2007

Sailboat racing with his buddies washes away a tanker hauler’s stress.

When he’s not in the cab of his tractor, Louis Antoine likes to get his thrills at a bumpy 10 miles an hour.

His passion is to be a crewmember aboard the racing yacht, “Eat A Peach,” crewed by friends on Mobile Bay, Ala.

“I’ll go every chance my schedule lets me go,” he says. “They race Thursday evenings in the summer and on weekends, and if I can make it, there’s no bigger thrill and no better relaxation. I was real nervous the first time, but not any more. I love it.”

The friends, two of whom co-own the boat, race a sleek built-for-speed 1981 Pearson Flyer, 30 feet long from stem to stern and 26 feet long at her waterline, 13 feet across at the widest part of the deck, an 8-foot cabin and drawing 6 feet of water.

“We’ve won some but nowhere near as many as we’ve raced,” Antoine says, laughing. “We give it everything we’ve got, but we also make sure we have a good time. No point in winning if you don’t have a good time.”

Antoine, 53, drives team in a 9400 series International for Amarillo, Texas-based Jack B. Kelley, a tanker company that hauls commodities in bulk nationwide with a fleet of compressed gas, liquid carbon dioxide and cryogenic trailers. Antoine usually hauls argon gas, almost entirely in the South and Southeast, averaging about 5,000 miles on a six on, two off schedule. “We’re kind of like milkmen; we drop some there and some there, some small deliveries, some single large deliveries depending on what the client needs. It’s never the same run twice in a row.”

A Mobile native, Antoine started driving, illegally, when he was 12, hauling logs up to local roads, then left school to work as a mechanic.

“Mechanics didn’t get paid much in those days, and my daddy said he’d break my fingers if that’s what I did,” Antoine says. “I said ‘OK Pop, I’ll find something else.’ So I started driving in an old cabover Ford when I was about 19.”

His career has been driving. He doesn’t mind what he’s driving “as long as it has a steering wheel, a gear shift and a seat and gets me there and back with no trouble; I don’t mind who makes it.”

Today he rolls interstates, but he’s driven long enough to remember when they were unfinished and a driver had to get off, roll along side roads or around cities, then get back onto the next stretch.

And it was those years of driving that brought him to a philosophy today of enjoying his family – he’s been married 29 years with two daughters and three granddaughters (including twins) – and finding ways to take the stress out of life.

Sailing is one of those ways.

“I think one of the main reasons I enjoy sailing in races is that it gets me away from the telephone,” he says. “It’s exciting, but it is also one of the great ways to relax when you get off the road.”

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