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The annual Ocean-to-Ocean Cayuco Race starts Friday, March 27, on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal and ends Sunday, March 29, on the Pacific side finish line at the Diablo Public Ramp. It is sponsored this year by Mas Movil.
A great vantage point from which to watch the race would be the Miraflores Locks on Sunday, as the paddlers exit the canal and paddle to the finish line at Diablo Public Ramp.
Cayuco Racing in Panama is as popular a sport nationally as some Olympic events are worldwide. Winners forever wear the mantle of athletes committed to personal achievement and historic pride. Paddling crews and their trainers take this annual event as seriously as do professional athletes in any sport. Unlike most other professional sports, even amateurs can compete in this race assuming they can make it through the qualifying races. And that assumes a lot.
Four qualifying races leading up to the Ocean-to-Ocean race determine who makes the cut, and each of those races command grandstand spectator attendance.
At the Electoral Tribunal Cup race in Veracruz on February 18, in a surprise turn of events, the incumbent winner for the last four years, “Nossa Victoria,” lost to a new boat, “Eco,” according to Chris Huerbsch, President of the Club de Remos de Balboa (CREBA).
At the Cable Onda Sports Cup qualifying race on March 14 in front of the Gamboa Beach, the crew of “Fas2Rass” surprised everyone by winning “best time of the day” competing against 69 other boats in a 400-meter sprint.
“Fas2Rass” is in the Juvenile Male Category,” explained Huerbsch, “ I don’t think they even placed in all the other races.” You could say “Fas2Rass” is a dark horse coming up from behind to make their name in Cayuco racing.
Captain Alejandro Pinzón Méndez credited coach Jay Gibson for driving the Fas2Rass crew to victory. “We trained every day to sprint long distances without burning out,” said Pinzón. The other three crew are Eduardo Cajar, Saul Licona, and Carlos Ortega.
“Our practice in the Banana Channel leg of the Panama Canal route was so rough and windy we were taking on water,” said Pinzón. They were taken aboard the escort boat and towed to where they could safely continue practice.
“I hope it’s not that bad this weekend,” said Pinzón, “But we are ready for whatever we encounter.”
The Banana Channel is about a five-mile stretch across a 20-mile lake. “It has always been considered the worst section of the race,” said Huerbsch “and since the Canal construction has carved out more of the mountain and islands, the channel is more wind-prone.
We wish all the paddlers a good event and the well-deserved memories that come from training and commitment.