story / editorial
the Course words
by Kate Coats & photos by Thomas Tomczyk & Matt Coats
Fifth Bay Islands Triathlon changes course and opens
lanes to long Distance Athletes
the morning at 6am of the Race day, March 18, the
West Bay Beach was deserted. Soon a bustling group
of volunteers was moving about, Asetting up signs,
preparing kayaks and attempting to place the giant
buoys that would serve as the swimmers markers. Ryan
Klauson, volunteer and dive instructor at Native Sons,
West End, eyed his kayak cautiously, "I've only
kayaked twice before, he muttered as he trudged into
Athletes milled about, carrying their bikes cautiously
across the sand, checking their gear, stretching and
warming up. Everything was in place. Even the sun
was attempting to break though the clouds and a decent
crowd had gathered. The transition area of the 2007
Bay Islands Triathlon was again centered around the
Mayan Princess Resort.
The race for the first time in its history featured
a double Olympic distance and the eight athletes that
signed up for it were in the water first. It was 6:45am.
They were about to attempt a 3000m swim, a 80 kilometer
bike ride and a 20 kilometer run.
A few minutes later the Elite athletes in the Olympic
distance lined up. The Roatan event was key for many
of them as they cumulated qualifying points for this
year's Triathlon World Championship and the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. Their goal was a 1,500 meter swim, a 40
kilometer bike ride and a 10 kilometer run. Last from
the beach were the sprint and relay athletes. They
competed in a 750m swim, 25 kilometer bike ride and
5 kilometer run.
To distinguish groups and individual athletes, each
one of them wore a different colored swim cap and
wore a number painted onto their arms by volunteers.
A letter on the back of their calves indicated the
distance they competed in: L for long, O for Olympic
and S for sprint.
One of the long distance competitors was number 51,
Michael Chastain, from South Carolina. He competed
in about 75 triathlons including, three on Roatan.
While Chastain was getting prepared for the island
race the RECO electricity black outs affected his
morning diet and possibly performance. His breakfast
was limited to some fruit and cereal before the race.
His normal, large, cooked breakfast was off the menu.
The giant, 30 foot Barena blow-up beer bottle stood
next to the finish line and was given as a directional
marker for the swimmers. Next to the banner, holding
a Barena flag, stood two 'Barena girls' in their shorts
and skimpy turquoise tops with matching eye shadow.
With the "pop" of the starters' pistol,
the race began and Athletes launched themselves into
the undulating waters of the Eastern Caribbean. The
volunteers in their kayaks watched nervously. From
their viewpoint they could see the tidal drop that
left the reef just a few inches below the surface
in some areas of the course.
30 minutes later, surprisingly, first out of the water
was Great Britain's Jodie Swallow. She came out even
ahead of the Elite Men who had started with a two
minute lead. There was a silent moment of consideration
and then the crowd erupted in supportive cheers.
Swallow was a great swimmer and she has been competing
in swimming since the age of 12, but it was likely
that she had missed out part of the course. A reason
for disqualification. The judges and volunteers responsible
for keeping an eye on the swimmers were still in their
kayaks and Swallow just ran through the resort, into
the transition area where she quickly pulled on her
biking gear and bike.
the Olympic distance men began to pour up the beach,
signs of close calls with the reef were everywhere.
Several of the athletes had bleeding cuts on their
legs and chest from the sharp reef they hit into.
the roads were still slippery from the night rain some athletes
fell. Number 20, USA's Dan MacKenzie, returned in the back of
a truck, clinging on to his bike and wincing at his cuts. Red
Cross volunteers were stationed in tents next to most dangerous
curves and ambulances stood by to take accident victims to the
Roatan hospital, if need be.
After making the hills of West Bay, going into West End and
Sandy Bay the cyclist did an about turn and made their way back
to The Mayan Princess' transition area. This year's running
course was changed to include more paved areas around Keyhole
Bay and Lighthouse estates.
Back at the finish line, first spotted was Chris Lieto from
USA. He took his time crossing, took a dip in the ocean and
strolled leisurely past the spectators before crossing the finishing
line. Lieto was beaming at the crowd as he drank water and turned
to watch second place arrive. "I love to smile", he
said, pouring some cold water over his head, "I always
try to enjoy it, if I win or not."
Next in was Nicolas Becker from France. He was all smiles too,
"I should have won. I won last year and should have won
this year, but Chris was too strong on the bike. The rest of
the race I felt great." Becker had been out of the water
first, lost time on the bike, but made up quite a distance in
the run. He stopped to thank race organizer Leslie Poujol Brown.
Taking bronze medal for the Elite men was Leonardo Sauced from
To no surprise, Swallow was the first of the Olympic women to
cross the finish line. Her bike and run times appeared to be
almost as fast as her swim and she managed to increase her lead
over the rest of the field. The TV crew rushed to her for an
interview, but she stepped back. "I don't know if I've
won yet, we have to wait and see," said Swallow.
The officials was still at a loss, citing the power outage as
causing the problem in deciding if there had been a foul or
not. I took the moment to chat with Jodie. She was in good spirits.
She joked about the toughness of the run - "My peddle came
off half way around, I had to do most of it with one leg."
Soon the mood tensed up a little bit as Elite competitor Joanna
Zeiger finished. She grasped her chest and was in distress.
She had suffered an asthma attack during the run, but had pressed
on through. Zeiger had been behind Swallow in the swimming heat
and was adamant that Swallow had cut in two buoys early.
"They had told me that it was hilly, but this was insane,"
said Zeiger. "I thought it was meant to be hot here. No
one told me that it was muddy." Zeiger was officially awarded
first place and Swallow disqualified. Second place was given
to Eva Ledisma from Spain and bronze to Mexico's Adriana Corona.
was perhaps the local athletes that exemplified some of the
finest elements of competition and good spirit of the competition.
During lunch the crowd ran out from the restaurant to greet
the last finishing athlete. It was Dr. Paul Gale, 34, an Anthony's
Key Doctor who was competing in his fourth Bay Islands Triathlon.
Racing in the Olympic distance, he raised his hands as he came
to the finish and into the arms of his wife.
"The last time I was in the water was a year ago. The last
time I was on a bike was nine months ago. And the last time
I run was three weeks ago," said Gale who's lack of training
put the whole "train at least for six weeks before the
race" theory to shame. Gale had major problems in the swim
portion of the event and he spent an hour in the Red Cross station
to recover some strength. He didn't give up, finished the bike
portion and jogged to the finish line in 7:45 minutes.
story / editorial
/ local news
Out Trash by Thomas Tomczyk
Local and national efforts come together in a campaign
to reduce the amount of bottling companies' plastics left on Roatan
Santa will become an opportunity to begin a national recycling campaign
where transparent plastics will be taken off Roatan and an educational
campaign will raise awareness of the trash problem on the Bay Islands.
The effort is spearheaded by West End Marine Park, AKR, Barefoot Cay,
PMAIB, Roatan Municipal and BICA. In a series of meetings with local
bottled water sellers: Sun Water, Warren's Water, Agua Insular, Natural
Spring, Cerveceria Hondurña and Pepsi, an agreement was reached
of how to implement Paragraph 35 of the 2005 Bay Islands environmental
law. The law that requires companies importing plastic products to
the archipelago to provide recycling centers and means of removing
the plastics from the islands.
As a result of these meetings a recycling center with the compacting
machine will be based in Spring Garden Two and operated by INVEMA,
a recycling company based in San Pedro Sula. The plastic, at his time
only transparent and semi-transparent, will be compacted into large
cubes and transported to San Pedro Sula where the used bottles will
According to Lidia Medina, Roatan Municipal Environmental official,
there are around 200,000 pounds of plastic battles brought to the
island every month. Cerveceria Hondureña's offered to transport
free of charge to the mainland, 420,000 pounds of trash every month.
The price for the collected transparent plastic on Roatan should be
around Lps. 3 a pound, and for semi-transparent plastic, Lps. 1.5.
According to Medina these prices should create enough of an incentive
for some individuals to dedicate themselves to collecting transparent
plastic battles from around the island.
program is meant for the entire Roatan island and start off a national
recycling program. While Guanaja is already removing many of its
plastic bottles, Utila has no immediate plans for recycling or plastic
removal program. According to Medina, the next step will be figuring
out how to reduce, or eliminate the plastic bags used in the grocery
stores around the island. "We are starting slow, but we want
to expand the program through education and awareness," said
Islands Environmental Law
No. 35: The introduction and commercialization in insular territory
of plastic bags and containers, including those used for selling purified
water, refreshments and liquids for human consumption amongst others
is prohibited. By exception, the company that distributes these products
may request an authorization before CETS for the import and commercialization
only if it commits to placing centers for collection of containers
that have been introduced and to the posterior withdrawal from insular
territory. If that authorization is granted, it will be revoked in
the case of non-compliance, causing the corresponding sanctions.
man walks thru uncollected knee deep deposits of plastic containers
in the Brick Bay.
group of 22 Cubans begin the 2007 Cuba to Honduras refugee season.
It could be a record setting one
Bay Islands, due to strong northern winds and high waves, were cut
off from the Honduras mainland for three days, a 29 foot home made
wood vessel landed on the shores of Punta Gorda on March 6. Even the
fringing Roatan reef didn't stop the 22 Cuban balseros who in the
middle of the night, at 3am, landed their craft at Punta Gorda.
Seven days earlier, on February 27, the wooden boat left Camaguey,
Cuba aiming for Puerto Cortez. Their Daewoo 36 horsepower car engine
pushed the craft, Gabriel, south. When their home made brass propeller
broke in the middle of the crossing, the crew made a makeshift propeller
out of a pine plank of wood, twice.
The Cubans left the shores of Camaguey at 11am and didn't report any
presence of the Cuban Coast Guard. It is not clear if the Cuban government,
led in the past six months by Raul Castro, has relaxed the control
of its maritime waters for refugees.
The 22, including three women and four men with university degrees,
entrusted their lives to the quickly nailed together vessel. "We
were packed like sardines in oil," said William Lopez Nicot,
37, from Camaguey. The blue painted Gabriel was nailed together out
of 1" by 4" planks and had almost no lateral bracing. A
thin coat of fiberglass on the outside of the shell kept out the seawater.
A five meter pole served as a mast rigging for a dozen sewn together
shrimp feed sacks. A box placed in front of the rudder and held together
by a copper wire, laid the most important instrument- a sea compass.
The crew went thru two storms and listened to Radio America for weather
updates, but the key to the successful crossing of the Caribbean was
the northern wind that pushed the rickety vessel South for 600 miles.
After landing in Punta Gorda, the migrants asked a local to be taken
to the fire station. "We asked to be taken to the fire station
because we knew they would help us," said Nicot. At 4:30 am,
the Cuban migrants were sitting, wet but safe, in the Dixon Cove fire
As immigration officials took the Cuban's documents, Roatan Municipal
provided the balseros with food and a cell phone. The Catholic Church
16 of the 22 had family members or friends that already made the crossing
to Honduras before. Only one, Alfrade Rodriguez, 36, has lost a family
member in the sea journey. The fate of two other balseros, Roberto
Loreno and Gustavo Merejon, who left Camaguey for Honduras in another
boat about the same time as crew of Gabriel, is not known.
On March 12 one of the Cuban balseros, unauthorized, left the frontera
police guarded premises of the Dixon Cove fire station and is presumed
to made his way to the mainland. On March 22, the remaining Cubans
received permission for temporary movement in Honduras, got their
documents back and left Roatan for the coast.
While the affair for the Cubans on Roatan was winding down, the case
of accusation between Honduran Immigration Chief, German Espinal,
and local authorities was only beginning. Espinal accused the Mayors
of the Bay Islands, and Mayor Dale Jackson in particular of colluding
with trafficking of Cubans for monetary compensation.
According to La Prensa, Mario Acosta, Roatan Municipal's legal assessor,
declared the comments as irresponsible. The fiscal against corruption
and organized crime has begun investigation to determine the involvement
of the Roatan and Gracias a Dios authorities in the trafficking of
Camaguey Cubans and their 29 foot 'Gabriel' that brought the balseros
600 miles to a Beach in Punta Gorda. The wooden vessel is kept at
Henry's Cove Resort.
at the Yacht Club
German Hotel Owner is gunned down at his Business
Winter, the German owner of the French Harbour Yacht Club was gunned
down at his hotel by a man in this thirties, presumed to be from the
On March 6, 2007 around 9:30pm, the murderer checked into a room at
the hotel and came back to ask for Winter's assistance in opening
the room door. While Winter with three other Yacht Club staff walked
towards the room, the assailant pulled out a 9mm gun and shot Winter
several times. The assailant then fled the property on foot.
According to Yacht club staff Winter was alive for some time after
the shooting. Bay Islands Voice was notified of the shooting and called
Preventiva Police, DGIC and Ambulance in Dixon Cove. No one picked-up
the phone. After a visit to the Dixon Cove ambulance station the attendant
said "none of the vehicles are working."
The frontier police and DGIC police arrived at the crime scene 30
and 60 minutes after the shooting, but no immediate search of surrounding
area was done and no road blocks were set up. The murderer, presumed
by the police to be a contracted killer, was not apprehended.
bought the Yacht Club in 2004 for in excess of one million dollars.
The legal future of the Yacht Club is far from certain. According
to Honduran law, in absence of a testament, Winter's closest relatives:
his mother, or his sister will inherit the property.
According to Felipe Danzilo, a lawyer involved in the sale of the
Yacht Club, Winter did not yet make all the payments on the property.
The previous owners of the Yacht Club: Marcel Hauser and Peter Beuth,
still hold a mortgage on the Yacht Club.
Within a week of Winter's death the old owners of the hotel brought
the "Pluribus" company owned by Daniel O'Connor, a American
business owner from Tegucigalpa, to serve as a "safe keeper"
of the Yacht Club business interests. O'Connor made efforts to assure
the continuous functioning of the business: that the employees received
their salaries, hotel stayed open and he plans on having the Yacht
Club's restaurant open by Semana Santa. "Every business has a
value as long as it is running," said O'Connor.
O'Connor, who has lived in Honduras for 12 years, was shocked by the
lack of concern about the murder displayed by local business community
and local business leaders. "This is disappointing in a community
that prides itself on being tourism oriented," says O'Connor.
"This will bring a negative impact on tourism here."