Over 45 Crews Participated In This Year's Cayuco Race
The Panama Canal Spillway
April 9, 1998

More than 45 cayucos raced through the Panama Canal last weekend during the 45th Annual Ocean to Ocean race for Explorer Scouts.  Thirty-two of the dugout canoes, which traditionally hold four, were paddled by youths ages 15 to 20, competing for trophies in three categories:  male, female, and co-ed.  Seventeen other boats participated in the three-day race just for the "fun" of paddling in the hot sun for hours on end to receive only a cloth patch as a reward.

This year, the Rapid Transit was in the spotlight as it attempted to defend its three-year record of winning the race, but seven other boats beat its overall time.  Due Process, paddled by Tom Herring, Bob Huerbsch, Ruben Prieto and Mike Commeau came out on top with a time of 5 hours 26 minutes 27 seconds.

Only one boat can win in each category, but somehow the starting line is packed year after year with kids and adults answering the call of the addiction called "doing cayuco."  John Williford, six-year veteran and currently a cayuco coach said about the addiction, "At school, you’re left out if you’re not doing it.  After the race, you always say you’ll never do it again, but next year you’re back."

This year, some of the patch boats’ participants were also answering the call of past races, with the crew of the Bejuco returning after a 32 year absence.  An all-women’s team also returned after about 30 years to race for their very first time.  (Females were not included in the competition until some time in the 1970s.)  Connie Zemer Bumgarner, Judy Walton Davis, Laurel Walton Thrasher and Malena Bremer Merriam flew in from the United States to paddle in the Tsunami.  Davis said, "We were always jealous that the boys got to race, so we came back to fulfill the dream."

Another participant, Ted Henter, also returned after a long absence from Panama to paddle in the Slave Galley.  Henter holds the world title in water-skiing championships for the blind.  His blindness resulted from a traffic accident that occurred after he had completed in the cayuco race for two years as a youngster.  By returning to the event this year, Henter became the first blind person to participate in the race, and the fourth-place position of the Slave Galley in the "patch boat" category attests to the success of his entire crew.  Not one to be held by the lack of sight, Henter adapts computer software for use by the blind.

Whatever the attraction, interest in the race remains high.  Participants in this year’s race were about 50 percent Panama Canal Commission employees or dependents, 25 percent military and 25 percent Panama residents or others this year, according to race coordinator Hugh Thomas, who works in the Department of Maritime Operations.  Thomas further added that the Canal Agency and U.S. military provided invaluable logistical and safety support, publicity and escort boat services, with local businesses sponsoring individual crews.  Officials from the race committee and the Boy Scouts of America expressed their appreciation  to the Commission and the other groups that contributed to the success of the event.

bug05.gif (327 bytes)   Click Butterfly for Story on Reunion of the Bejuco team!!!

Presented by CZBrats
From: The Canal Record, June 1998

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