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The Cayuco scene and culture

By Ilene Little

The first of the three qualifying Ocean to Ocean 2014 races took place on Saturday, January 25. The second is going to be this Saturday, February 22, in Veracruz, at the Vera Mar Restaurant at Vera Cruz beach.

Paddles churn the water in a burst of energy off the starting line.

Paddles churn the water in a burst of energy off the starting line.

On Saturday, March 22nd will be the third and final qualifying race; an exciting event at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort on the Chagres River where the final cuts are made to trim the number of contestants down to just 65 entrants. The finale will be on Friday 11, Saturday 12 and Sunday, April 13.

The January 25th Race Scene

“The January 25th race was the biggest turnout of this event since it started in 2002,” said Pablo Prieto, race coordinator for Club de Remos de Balboa “CREBA.” The race started and ended at the Balboa Yacht Club pier.

“There were twice as many participants at this race as we’ve ever had before,” he said. “88 boats registered, and 86 competed,” said Ralph Furlong, the Race Master.

Reporting on the team we followed during their training, Ted Henter said: “The Dengue Fever ladies recorded a finishing time of 1hr 20min, according to the official time sheet. They finished ahead of 18 other boats in the first qualifying race.”

The Excitement of the Race

The start was quite dramatic, much more physical exertion than you see when the gun signals the start of a sail or powerboat race. Everyone on every boat was instantly in action.

Up to a thousand spectators lined both sides of the 65ft pier at the Balboa Yacht Club to watch the race.

A total of five boats capsized that day. One boat flipped three times in the attempt to get the stern-end paddler onboard. The physical demands were impressive and daunting.

The Cayuco Culture

The pride of generations of watermen is shown in the year-to-year commitment to racing both the Trophy Class and special entry classes of boats with designs intended to “wow” spectators and add an extra dimension of fun to the races.

A cayuco is a type of dugout canoe, used mainly, but not exclusively, by the indigenous people of the Republic of Panama. Today’s Cayucos are often constructed of laminated wood in the same design as the original vessels which are carved from the trunk of a tree.

There are 38 boats in the Trophy Class. Participants between ages 14 and 20 compete in this most traditional category, described by Furlong as “only wood boats, only wood paddles, and only boats from Panama.”


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