story / editorial
/ local news
by Thomas Tomczyk
by Thomas Tomczyk & Joshua King
Annual Bay Islands Triathlon attracts 170 athletes from around the
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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,"
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bay Islands Triathlon
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
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
1. Aseguradora Hondureña 2:46:41
2. Academia Naval 2:54:18
3. Ruff Riders 3:06:13
4. Roatan Realty 3:11:02
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A TRIATHLON DILEMA by Thomas Tomczyk
Bay Islands Triathlon Race Director
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
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
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.
story / editorial
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THE TASTE -island food festival raises money
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
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.
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
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.
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."
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THE DOCK by
Roatan commercial docks deal with looming deadline
to stay in business
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,"
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
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.