bi-weekly news magazine for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

feature story / editorial / local news / business

photos by Thomas Tomczyk
written by Thomas Tomczyk & Joshua King

Olympic Spirit
Olympic Heart

Second Annual Bay Islands Triathlon attracts 170 athletes from around the world

Jockeying for position in knee-deep water on West Bay Beach under sunny skies with a slight breeze on the morning of March 6, a group of male professional athletes waited for the signal that would kick off the second annual Bay Islands Triathlon. One of the last qualifying opportunities for the Athens Olympics, the triathlon attracted 173 competitors from 22 countries.
The Elite men contestants, the majority lean with almost zero percent body fat, were eager to begin the first leg of the triathlon. Donning swim goggles and flashy spandex they pushed forward in the water while North Carolina-based Set-Up Inc. organizer Bill Scott simultaneously counted down and warned the athletes not to crowd the line. Two minutes behind but close on the heels of the Elite men would follow the Elite women; four minutes later the first of the amateur groups was scheduled to begin the 1.5 kilometer swim.
The race was divided into sprint (1.5K, 25K, 5K) and Olympic (1.5K, 40K, 10K) events. The elite, professional racers competed on the Olympic distance. The novice and age group racers had a choice of competing on the Olympic or the short course and the teams competed only on the sprint distance.
Leslie Brown was the event's race director second time running and has seen the number of athletes almost double. In 2003, 103 contestants from 12 countries entered to compete in the International Triathlon Union rated race. Competitors from as far away as Hong Kong made the trip, according to Brown.
The geography and climate of Roatan, with its steep hills and hot weather, makes the island a tough place to compete. The course was modified this year to make it easier and reduce the number of inclines.
"The hills killed me," on the cycle route between the Mayan Princess Beach Resort on West Bay and West End, said German-born Alexandra Wendt-Consten, who took the highest honor in the female amateur category.
At least two athletes had accidents while cycling the difficult route West Bay to Sandy Bay cemetery route. Amanda Stevens, of Enid, Oklahoma, suffered two abrasions one on her thigh.
The race kicked off at 7:30 am. With a breeze shattering the smoothness of the bay waters and kicking up small waves, some athletes struggled to finish the swim. "We have twice as many kayaks (nine) this year" to prevent any problems, said Brown, who was particularly concerned with the safety of the swimming competition. Three powerboats were also on hand.
"The water was worse than choppy," said 58-year-old West End resident Donna Dunn of the Dream Team relay. "It was so bad I got a little seasick out there. I couldn't see the buoys," provided to aid the athletes find their way around the triangular-shaped course. "I swallowed about a gallon of water."
Dunn, who was an alternate backstroke swimmer for the 1968 United States Olympic team in Mexico City, held her hand to her chest as she struggled out of the water. She trained hard, but refused to quit smoking. "I smoke five cigarettes a day when I train" and "as many packs as I can" when no race is on the horizon. Basking in the sun while soaking in the Mayan Princess pool after the race she said: "I'll keep doing this until I get Alzheimer's, but right now it's time for rum and cokes and cheeseburgers."
Winner of the Elite female division was Susan Williams of Littleton, Colo. Williams beat last year's champion and this year's second place finisher Sheila Taormina, a 1996 Olympic gold medal winner from the United States, to the finish line located on the beach in front of West Bay's Henry Morgan beach resort.
Competing in dozens of competitions worldwide each year, Williams has become a connoisseur of water courses. "This was definitely the prettiest swim I've ever done," she said. The waters of West Bay are home to pristine coral reefs and abundant sea life.
Williams, mother of a three-year-old, said Roatan's tropical climate didn't slow her down. "Luckily there was a nice breeze, although the tail end of the (40km cycle) ride did start to get hot," she said. Williams credits the win to her strength at overcoming hills. "For a second though, during the first part of the run, I thought that maybe I worked to hard on the hills," she said.
Debby Jr. Miralda, a local islander, participated as a runner on the relay team sponsored by Roatan Realty. "I was about to give up but I really wanted to finish," said Miralda, a second-time competitor in the race. He stuck with the race and improved his last year's time from an hour to 50 minutes. The team lost its original sponsor and Mike Brown from Roatan Realty picked the sponsorship at last notice. "It's great to see the locals achieve what they set out to do," said Brown.
The race didn't go-off without glitches and last minute saves. The West Bay road potholes got their annual makeover the day before the event, likely reducing the number of biking accidents to three.
For three days before the race South-Easterly winds blew into the island. The West Bay beach and swimming course was protected from the wind by land but the gusty wind made the biking portion of the race even more difficult.

Race bicycles shipped on Isleña from San Pedro to Roatan were delayed one day at the airport. Sheer volume of visitors to the island filled every hotel from West Bay to French Harbour.
This year only 31 volunteers helped with the event. The high school students that volunteered at the 2003 Triathlon stayed home. According to community activist and Triathlon participant Rosa Danelia-Hendrix, at the 2003 event student volunteers were not provided with lunches and left to themselves to find their way back home. The lack of transportation and concerns for security made the parents and school administration apprehensive about volunteering again.
Eneko Llanos was the top male athlete in the triathlon. He was the first to pass through the chute on the way to the finish line where he was met by cheering fans. Llanos traveled from Madrid, Spain to compete. "This is my first time in Honduras," he said. Llanos trained between four and six hours daily to prepare for the race.
For Seaside, Calif. native Alexis Waddel, 29, the Bay Islands Triathlon was worth the trip. Posting a time of 2:23:17, Waddel placed sixth, earning ITU points, which determine world ranking status. At present, she is ranked 137 in the world. To have a chance to compete at the U.S. Olympic tryouts scheduled April 18 in Hawaii, she must be ranked at least 125.
"It's possible now that I could be in the top 125," Waddel said. "Over the last few months I dropped rank." Female athletes must place in the top 10 spot and post a time within 8 percent of the fastest time to earn points at competitions. "Rankings change every weekend. The trick is to stay at the top once you get there," she said.
Cerverceria Hondureña, a subsidiary of South Africa's SABMiller since 2001, was the sponsor of the event second time running. To liven up the event, the company brought a 10 person technical staff and 20 support staff for the one-day event. Seven girls clad in green bikinis and holding a Port Royal banner welcomed triathletes as they exited the water after swimming competition.
As a racer cruises past El Diablo curve in West Bay, ambulance paramedics and red cross volunteer Saida Reyes (right) place a neck brace on No. 30 racer, Benjamin Gogg, 22, from Florida. "I was coming just too fast. My front brake locked-up. I tried making it for the culvert, blew my front tire [and] went right over the handlebars," said Gogg. Traveling at over 80 Km/hour the triathlete landed on the back of his head and rolled several times ending up on the side of the road. Gogg was taken to Roatan Hospital and later to Jackie Woods medical clinic for examination. He suffered a bruised kidney and contusion of lower back. Gogg spent two years competing on the amateur circuit and was starting in his first race as elite- professional racer. He works as an Ocean Rescue paramedic in Boca Raton.
The Bay Islands Triathlon is the biggest athletic event sponsored by the company. "I'm happy with the event," said Robert Priday- company president. Other than football, Cerveceria sponsors softball, basketball and motocross competitions throughout the country.
Many athletes competed not to win, but for the pure experience of the race. Xavier Tobym, a shaggy-haired Australian journalist, competed in the male amateur division. Unlike most of the other athletes, Toby is stocky and sports a small pot belly. "It's true I'm a beer-drinker," he admitted. "I love everything in life, from exercising to drinking a few." Less than an hour after crossing underneath the finish banner, Toby popped the lid to a Port Royal.
2004 Bay Islands Triathlon RESULTS

International Category
1. Eneko Llanos (Spain) 2:03:42
2. Javier Rosas (Mexico) 2:03:53
3. Franz Hofer (Germany) 2:04:20
4. Clemente Alfonso (Spain) 2:04:52

Novice Category
1. Jorge Campos (El Salvador) 1:41:51
2. Juan Hernandes (El Salvador) 1:59:12
3. Henry Corado (El Salvador) 1:59:13
4. Alexandra Wendt-Consten (USA) 2:12:16
Relay Teams
1. Aseguradora Hondureña 2:46:41
2. Academia Naval 2:54:18
3. Ruff Riders 3:06:13
4. Roatan Realty 3:11:02

feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
A TRIATHLON DILEMA by Thomas Tomczyk

Leslie Brown
Bay Islands Triathlon Race Director

Dear Leslie,

Over the last two years the Bay Islands Triathlon has been an amazing and extremely positive event for the Bay Islands. It has motivated local people to train and compete, has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy and raised the profile of Roatan internationally. You, as the race director, deserve much of the credit but are also responsible for some things that went wrong.
I sincerely believe you need to find more help and delegate more responsibility to people who can help you make this event run smoothly. You should involve more qualified people in the event to share their talents and your responsibilities.
I am disappointed in your unsettled and poor handling of Bay Islands Voice sponsorship of the race. We might not be a Cerveceria Hondureña or a Mayan Princess, but we would still like to get something in return for our sponsorship effort.
We exchanged emails months before the 2004 Triathlon. We had a meeting at my office and we agreed to the details of exchanging advertising/coverage for sponsorship. You did tell me at that point that the Voice would be a "golden sponsor." Whether you should have promised that - well, that is another matter.
Bay Islands Voice has still not been reimbursed for the one local participant entry fee. I know I've reminded you several times about this but am losing hope. I introduced you to the writer doing the feature article about the race for our magazine and I got one ticket stub for a meal with the comment that "this is where you lose your money." I paid for his meal.
Our logo on the official t-shirts, next to colorful logos of Celtel and Port Royal, was printed in one color - blue. If I had known we didn't deserve two colors, I would not have our logo presented like that at all. The big banner with our logo at the finish line was missing completely.
As much as I "enjoy" going beyond my journalistic duties, helping out a seriously injured triathlete at the accident scene and calling his emergency contact in the States, it would be nice to be thanked. Maybe even thanked as a sponsor at the award ceremony.And there were plenty of other sponsors like us who received zero thanks after the event. There were: Honduras Tips, Konica FotoColor, Jackson Shipping Inc., Roatan Realty, Sun 107FM, Postel, Power FM, Tiempos del Mundo, Roatan Properties, Margot & Matt Real Estate, Anthony's Key Resort, Sun Tropic, Blue Seas Fisheries, Ma-k-nudo T-shirt, Half Moon Bay Cabins, Sun Water, RECO Electric, H.B. Warren, Fedex.
I am extremely disappointed in your handling of us as media and sponsors. We didn't receive media passes, or even media packages. But, this year, you practically had no media. Unlike the year before: AP, AFP, and ESPN2, etc. - didn't even show up. An AP Tegucigalpa correspondent told me that wire service representatives' e-mails were left unanswered and since they felt ignored and left in the dark, they stayed home. An opportunity missed and a relationship mishandled.
In the end, our complaints pale in comparison to some of the complaints that other people involved in the 2004 Bay Islands Triathlon might have. Unlike last year, athletes received no promised massage after their race. Volunteer masseuses had no tent, or proper tables to give massages to the athletes who completed the race.
Volunteers that worked in the scorching sun didn't even get their promised lunch, or t-shirts. I guess this is one step up from last year, when, after the race, the volunteering high-school kids were just left at the side of the road to fend for themselves.
Running a business that hopes to come back time after time to the same location is based on developing relationships with local people and businesses. I'm sorry to see you couldn't accomplish that this year.
My comments are meant to voice and point out things that many people have noticed, but not always spoken up about. Please don't take them as words of discouragement: you are a vital part of something extremely positive here and I hope to see you here March after March.

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top
TASTE THE TASTE -island food festival raises money
On Sunday, March 7, the third annual Taste of Roatan kicked off at Las Palmas. The rain kept the number of visitors lower than at the previous events, still around 450 people showed up. Puro Sol, Sherwin Greenwood & the Boys, Garifuna Dancers and Shocking Tribe - a Hip-Hop band from Oak Ridge - kept the visitors entertained.
Averyl Muller and Dian Lynn organized the event that returned to its fund-raising profile from two years ago. With around 30 sponsors contributing $100 each, the event raised about $3,300. Half of the money will go to support the children's pediatric unit at the Coxen Hole hospital; the other half will help the French Harbour medical clinic.
The first event in 2002 raised $4,300 to buy a water pump for the Roatan Fire Department. "They saved two houses from burning with it already," says Lynn.
Lynn is considering moving the event to Sunday, a week after the Bay Islands Triathlon: "A lot of people are just too tired from the Triathlon to come."
With limited space available, the venue could only accommodate 13 restaurants. Still, five new restaurants paid the Lps. 500 fee and joined the group. Among them were the three recently opened: Casa Marta, Les Boucaniers and Dian's Garden of Eat'n.
It seemed like every inhabitant of Saint Helene sailed into the Los Fuertes Harbour to support their team in the championship final on February 29.
Superstars ended the season in first place and had to face runner-up Stars in a double-header match-up to decide the league champion. Los Fuertes' Superstars scored a 3:2 victory over Saint Helene on February 21, 2004 in the first play-off game, and Saint Helene Stars was faced with catching up. "They can be a little too confident. When they fall behind, they play better," said Jamera Thompson, team's doctor.
The first half ended in a 0:0 tie with both teams entertaining sporadic attacks against the other. 20 minutes into the second half a penalty shot was called against Superstars and Regan Bodden placed a low kick past the Los Fuertes goalie. The overall game play-off score stood now at 3:3.
With no winner decided, the game went into a 30 minute overtime. No golden-goal rule applied and if the overtime ended in a tie, the game would go into penalty kicks.
Five minutes before the end of the overtime's second half, No. 9 Luis Adrian Norales, dribbled the ball past two Superstar midfielders and got to the penalty mark. Norales passed the ball from left to right foot and lobbed a lethal shot past the Los Fuertes goalie Tulio Sanchez. The Superstars tried several last minute attacks, but failed.
Trainer Junior Garden headed the Saint Helene team who will face winners of five department football leagues: Santa Barbara, Cortes, Atlantida, Colon and Yoro for a place in the second division. The Stars, sponsored by Wolly Bodden, captured the island championship title four years ago.
With a winner of the island league decided, the dilemma remains about the play-off field. The Jerry Hynds stadium is too small to accommodate games outside island league and the temporary stadium in Coxen Hole will be turned back into a baseball field.


Island businesses in the past had a choice whether or not to belong to the Roatan Chamber of Commerce (COC). Now, the choice is no longer an option. Business owners are required to pay monthly dues as well as an initial Lps. 500 membership fee. The extra funding generated from the fees will boost the resources and capabilities of the COC.
Many businesses question the value of the membership at the COC. "I am not 100 percent sure the Chamber (of Commerce) can help my business in any way," said Allen Bruce, owner of Video Picks and Music in Los Fuertes and Coxen Hole.
Bruce, who is at present not a member of the COC in Roatan, paid monthly fees to the local Chamber of Commerce when he was a business owner in Canada. "But that was a whole different story. It was a way to promote business." The COC in Canada was a valuable resource to its members because it served as a tool during litigation disputes, Bruce explained.
Marcile Connor, owner of the small Coxen Hole-based Comedor Olguita, has heard the rumors about the mandatory membership. With her business earning roughly Lps. 4,000 a month, she is struggling. "It's been a slow year and every lempira counts," she said. Every year there is something new," said Connor.
Rita Morris, president of the Roatan COC, said that the obligatory membership is not going to be a popular move. "A lot of people are mad," she said. At least one pulperia owner has flatly refused to the pay the dues and become a member. Morris insists the COC is worthwhile, and the benefits although geared more toward smaller-scale businesses could also help upper-end enterprises. COC in Roatan is a non-profit organization, and it pays Lps. 6,750 a month to help the local police department. Morris and two COC employees work out of an office at the Cay View Hotel building in Coxen Hole. According to Morris, COC periodically offers free technical training courses to business owners and employees. Morris said the COC would like to expand its services and become an information outlet for businesses and a source of small loans for businesses to finance micro-enterprise startups.

The COC on Roatan was initially established in 1989, but the organization kept a low profile. If the island is able to successfully enforce the mandatory membership law, the COC will be likely to build a substantial financial backing. Ernesto Wesley, an official at the Roatan Municipality, estimated that between 1,200 to 1,400 businesses are registered on the island. Conservative estimates indicate the COC could possibly generate as much as Lps. 240,000 per month from membership dues; that, added to revenue from the Lps. 500 one-time joining fee, should add up to Lps. 600,000.
A scale is used to determine the monthly fee for each business. A business earning less than Lps. 25,000 each month has to pay Lps. 150. Businesses earning between Lps. 25,000 to Lps. 50,000 pay a fee of Lps. 250. The biggest businesses, those earning more than Lps. 50,000 will pay Lps. 500. The monthly dues and the initial membership fee have to be paid at the COC office.
"The required (COM) membership is not something new for the country, but it is something new for Roatan," Morris said. "The people on the mainland have been doing this since the 1950's. The problem is the mayors in Roatan have not been forcing the people here to pay the fees and become members."

by Joshua King

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top


Roatan commercial docks deal with looming deadline to stay in business


Roatan's commercial seaport in Coxen Hole, where thousands of tourists disembark each year, has less than four months to strengthen its security measures or the island may be forced to say "adios" to all the cruise ships scheduled to dock there. The problem may not carry the weight of Armageddon, but with the deadline of July 1 and no work done to the cruise ship dock so far, the issue is definitely coming to a head.
Everything hinges on a certification that would designate the port as secure from terrorist attack. After the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, the US government issued a request for international commercial docks worldwide to beef up security. "Without the certification (mandated by the International Maritime Organization) no cruise ships can dock here," said Roatan Port Captain Alfredo Guzman Acosta. To prevent that scenario from playing out, measures need to be implemented soon.
According to Hernan Batres, superintendent of the Coxen Hole seaport, the island will not have to wait long. Batres said that a preliminary inspection was already conducted less than two months ago by a United States Protections Services official with the goal to assess the port's present security. The next step is to draw up a plan based on the "recommendations" offered by the official.
Batres said that an architect from the mainland hired by Empresa Nacional Portuaria is expected to arrive this week and work on the design plan that specifically calls for two X-ray machines, video cameras, additional fencing, a second entry point so the dock could accommodate both entering and exiting traffic and two new buildings: one administrative and the second designed as a security post with sanitary services built adjacent.
Other news that may help to alleviate cruise ship fears came from the mouth of Puerto Cortes Empresa Nacional Portuaria Superintendent Antonio Cruz. "It is probable that the July 1 deadline will be extended one or two months," he said emphasizing "probable."
Two private docks on Roatan are also being required to meet enhanced security demands. Jackson Shipping and Hybur Ltd. are scrambling to read mountains of paperwork detailing what steps they must take. Bonnie Jackson, owner of Jackson Shipping, indicated the whole process is time-consuming and somewhat hypocritical. "They want everything in documentation. That is the bottom line. The ships are no problem. As long as you are filling out paperwork, you are in compliance," Jackson said.
Roatan is not alone in its effort to meet the demands; four other commercial seaports operated by Empresa Nacional Portuaria must also submit to the procedure. The other ports that face the same dilemma are Puerto Cortes, Puerto Castilla near Trujillo, La Ceiba and the pacific port of San Lorenzo Valle. Roatan is second on the list following Puerto Cortes. According to Cruz, the Honduran Government has set aside Lps. 40 million to make the enhanced security measures a reality.
Because of its importance, Puerto Cortes was given a jumpstart. Actual groundwork began there last December. "We are 80 percent complete," said Cruz. "The security will be just like at an airport."
Despite the comforting words of Batres and Cruz, some islanders feel uneasy. "We don't know what is going to happen," said Lynette Flores, operating manager of the Coxen Hole-based Agencia Naviera del Caribe, "and we are all affected by this," referring the strong economical ties between the island and cruise lines. Flores said the security issue will be included as an agenda item during the upcoming Sea Trade conference scheduled to begin March 15 in Miami.

Read other issues of
Bay Islands VOICE_current issue

No. 1
March 27 2003
No. 2
April 10 20
No. 3
April 24

No. 4
May 8

No. 5
May 22
No. 6
June 5
No. 7
June 19
No. 8
July 3

No. 9
July 17
No. 10
July 31
No. 11
Aug. 14
N.o. 12
Sept. 11
No. 13
Sep. 25
No. 14
Oct. 09
No. 15
Oct. 23
No. 16
Nov. 06
No. 17
Nov. 20
No. 18
Dec. 03
No. 19
Dec. 18
No. 20
Jan. 1.
Vol2 No. 1
Jan. 15

Vol2 No. 2

Vol2 No. 3

Vol2 No. 4