|FASTEST MOLLUSK WINS BY A FOOT|
Posted by on May 02, 2006 at 01:13:03:|
In Reply to: Monterey hosts first International Abalone Derby posted by on April 30, 2006 at 14:39:35:
What speed! What power! What abalones!
Angels Camp in Calaveras County may be world famous for its springtime frog-jumping contest. But Monterey may soon become internationally known for its abalone races.
Yes, abalone races.
As cynics sneered and children giggled with delight, Monterey on Saturday held its first International Abalone Derby. One hundred and twenty mollusks competed with each other for the honor of being crowned ``World's Fastest Abalone.''
One 10-year-old spectator, David Engen of Oregon, couldn't contain his excitement. ``I've never seen an abalone race before,'' he said.
In fact, most of the more than 200 people who stopped by to watch the derby never even realized abalones could race. They quickly learned a little-known fact about abalone anatomy: The sea creatures have a foot.
It's the same muscular appendage whose strong suction power allows the mollusks to clamp down on rocky surfaces. The foot also permits the mollusks to cruise the ocean for food.
The race's mistress of ceremonies, Paula Suzuki of Aptos, told the crowd before the first heat that abalone travel at the speed of about two feet a minute. In a tiny pool, that can look pretty darn fast.
The contestants -- red abalone with names like Seabiscuit, Ab O'Steel and Uncle Bob -- were farm-raised by the Monterey Abalone Co. The mollusks -- most four inches long and 4 years old -- were placed in the center of the pool and covered by a plastic bucket. When the bucket was lifted, the heat was on.
The contestants carried tiny flags with numbers so the crowd could tell them apart. Their goal: Make it to the perimeter of the pool first.
``I've got my mortgage on this abalone,'' joked Tony Hill of Santa Cruz, one of the volunteers at the abalone event.
More typical were Tom Martinez, 30, and his fiancee, Tammy Vasquez, 32, of San Jose. The two were checking out wedding sites in Monterey when they heard some taiko drums and wandered over to the event -- perplexed and enchanted by the notion of mollusks making a run for it.
``I guess you can say that the wedding has been delayed by an abalone race,'' Martinez said with a laugh.
Some spectators cheered on the mollusks from bleachers set up outside the Maritime and History Museum in downtown Monterey. Others crowded around the makeshift track -- a kiddie pool with a few inches of water in it.
The abalone race was the most offbeat event in Convergence 2006: The Abalone Connection. The event -- part festival, part symposium about all things abalone -- was the brainchild of Monterey Bay historian Sandy Lydon, who hopes to make it an annual event.
The Aptos resident has spent the past several years tracing the connection between Japan and the Japanese abalone divers who harvested the mollusks in Monterey Bay waters a century ago. About 30 Japanese crossed the Pacific for the event, which also included a poetry contest that challenged people to think of words that rhyme with abalone.
The race lasted about two hours and contained 15 heats, two semi-final rounds and a grand finale.
Any what will happen to the winner, Lambo, and all the other contestants?
Said Monterey Abalone Co. co-owner Trevor Fay: ``They will be eaten.''
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