Well, The Tradition Continued.
By Art Mokray

The 47th Annual Ocean to Ocean Cayuco Race is now over and everybody can now sleep a week to recover and I'm not just talking about those that were out paddling in the sun. There were all those race officials, escort boats, support personnel to include the Canal Authority, the Shrine's that provided food and drink to the  spectators, and parents that helped out. Maybe it wasn't as physical, but just as demanding mentally and time consuming. After the meeting on Wednesday night at the Abou Saad Temple in Balboa, where the schedule of events, time frames, rules and regulations, safety issues, were explained, Friday was almost a full day in itself.  Everybody gathered out by the Cristobal Yacht Club to pass inspection, get decals placed on their boats, make sure  all safety related items were on board, then it was boats into the water in a orderly fashion. 35 cayucos were scheduled to participate this year, 34 started with one dropping out with not enough paddlers. As they went out in the basin, they lined up where the final words of good sportsmanship were given from the pilot launch "Pike".  Also on board was a priest, Monsignor Rosendo Torres, giving the benediction, then it was the countdown, three, two, one, Bang!, and the first group in the Junior category were off. About 5 minutes later, the  Open class cayucos were lined up, the countdown, and they were off to the races. This leg went from the Yacht Club to the south end of Gatun Locks and there were a few swamps, one of them too numerous. A southbound US naval vessel was locking down into the last chamber in the east lane, and over the radio comes this message  that the captain of the vessel is not happy about being delayed because of a cayuco race. One concerned mother overheard another radio message about her son that succumbed to fatigue and was pulled from the boat. A late message said he stayed in the boat and that he was all right, but just wouldn't be paddling. So, 33 finished the first leg in the lower 50's for some and the upper part of an hour for others. 

Second day started out at the south end of Gatun Locks with the lake stretch and finished at Gamboa. Don Chadwick was one of the escort boats through this portion and in his Panama News and Travel Bulletin, he observed a bow to bow race between the crews of the Deception and the Jungle Crews through the Banana Channel. Another head to head race was between the NIC and Carioca. As an added note Jungle Crews, which came in First in the Female Class of the Junior Category in this leg, beat their record last year by 30 seconds. They came in at  3:16.27. Katherine Ried was one proud mother, jumping up and down, when she found out her daughter, Samantha, and the three other girls beat their record. The Deception came in at 3:17.14. Becki Dalton was also thrilled the cayuco her daughter, Tara, was in, Del Fin placed first and Final Most placed second in which her son, Roy, was in, in the mixed category.  That's the will and the spirit that makes this event what itis, and all parents were proud. And from the comments I've heard from almost everybody out there that day, was that it was HOT. No breeze to  speak of and still a good race. By the way, times and photos are posted at the Canal Zone Image's web site in the Photo Room link. Scroll down to the  2000 Race day button. 

On the third day, the race started out at the Gamboa airstrip and ended at Buoy 93. This was to make up for the Miraflores Lake segment since there was no access from the south end of Pedro  Miguel. I'm not sure if anybody asked the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, either way, it worked out well. The next leg was the usual one from Gamboa to the Pedro Miguel Locks Launch Landing, through the Cut. The cayuco's were  pulled out of the north end of Pedro Miguel Locks and put back in on the south end of Miraflores Locks for the final haul. Lot of  yells and screams as the cayucos crossed the line at Diablo Point and a lot of celebration at the ramp, lot of happy faces as everybody was glad they completed the event, sunburned faces and bodies, the sheen of Sun Block, one last roll in the water and then it was pull the boats out. 

Channel 11, the Panama University TV Station, interviewed the members of the Expreso Comando, where even the Police team received a round of applause. In fact they covered the whole race. Some photos and articles even appeared in local newspapers.  

Then it was down to the Magnum Eventos, downtown, for the awards ceremony where about 650 people had a Steak and Chicken Dinner  donated by the Outback Steak House. Proceeds from the ticket sales, at $5.00 a person, went to the Shiners Burn and Crippled Children's Transportation Fund. 

It was really surprising as to the amount of cayuco's in this years event, the amount of participation, and the amount  of support from the community, the sponsors, the Abou Saad Shriners and from the Canal Authority. In fact the Administrator has already OK'ed the event for next year, and it will have other categories and may even go international.  Again, it hats off to Pablo Prieto, who as Race Coordinator was able to bring it all together and make it happen. Mark Ostrander who was  the Race Master and handled the complaints. He is also president of the Unión Panamaña de Remo Aficionado. That's the federation in Panama. Then there's the Official voice of the Race, Mr. John Bates, who roamed the waters of the Canal keeping everyone's spirit  up with words of encouragement and even played the theme song from "Rocky" all out of his megaphone. Marisa Prieto, president of the Balboa Paddle Club, assisted in the formation of the club along with Sue Stabler, Reyna Royo-Sucre, Diana Grimison, Xenia Morris, Thomas Morris, and Caroline Hinkle. The Balboa Paddle Club is the successor of the Panama Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, Post 21 and Post 10 of Gamboa. By the way, Cayuco 2000 T-Shirts will be  available at the Panama Canal Society Reunion in Tampa in July.