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Mar 6, 2015

18th Annual La Ruta Maya Challenge Kicks Off in San Ignacio

The annual Belikin La Ruta Maya River Challenge kicked off this morning at seven a.m. on the banks of the Macal River in Cayo. When the bugle was sounded, fifty-seven teams paddled away from the Hawkesworth Bridge and will make their way into Belize City on Monday. As he does every year, News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in San Ignacio and followed the first leg of the four-day race. 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since becoming a nationally recognized outdoor activity in 1998, La Ruta Maya has grown to see the influx of visitors from near and far.  Over the past eighteen years many have registered to participate in the grueling river challenge, paddling their way to Belize City over the course of four days.  Teams have traveled from as far north as Canada to compete in the annual canoe race.  This year is no different, except for the number of overall contenders, as well as the organization of the event.

 

Aline Harrison

Dr. Aline Harrison, Organizer, La Ruta Maya

“As the race grows, we realize that the small group that was organizing it that if we want to make it international and to really give it that professional, and these people come with skills, that, you know, they are business people.  So they, along with our knowledge of the race, that makes a very good combination, a good collaboration.”

 

A total of fifty-seven teams, in various categories, have signed up for the challenge.  Traditionally however, not all will complete the physically demanding competition.  At seven o’clock this morning, things got officially under way as the teams commenced their journey downstream.  By nine-thirty, B.T.L.’s Cobb’s Arm and NICH were the first and second teams, respectively, to arrive at Iguana Creek.

 

Araceli Cobb, Cobb’s Arm

“We have always been in the top five but this year, as you can see, we’re actually leading this race.  So it has been excellent, we have put in work, we have put in knowledge.  Everything has [gone] into this thing.  It’s been well-prepared, well thought of as well.  So this is not a second, this is a first for Cobb’s Arm.”

 

Clayton Cobb

By midday, shortly after passing the Agripino Cawich Bridge behind Roaring Creek, the first team to cross the finish line at Banana Bank would be NICH.  This, after being neck and neck for the most part of the first leg.  Somewhere along the snaking Belize River, NICH clenched a two second lead.

 

Clayton Cobb, Cobb’s Arm

“We just took a pace and those guys were just riding behind so they were still more fresh than us.  We tried to slow down the pace so that we could have a little bit more energy for the finish but yeah, like I said, we made a mistake and that was the cause of it.”

 

That slip-up would see NICH, led by team captain Efrain Cruz, taking full advantage.

 

Efrain Cruz

Efrain Cruz, Captain, NICH

“Everything work out good for us because then we just know how to ride the wave and those things like that helped us a lot.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of the height of the water and your ability to complete this leg a lot quicker or maybe a little later than last year and previous years, I know it’s dry season right now and they had to release some water for the race to actually move along fluidly.  What was that like?”

 

Efrain Cruz

“Well, we are used to that already because this the stretch we train on so we are use to that.  So it’s not different for us.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“What can be expected of the NICH team for the remaining leg of the race?”

 

Efrain Cruz

“Well we can’t tell right now until we reach Belize.”

 

Chris Gaides

And while NICH basks in the limelight of winning the first leg of the race, Oceana is not letting up so easily.  Of the top three teams, Chris Gaides and his teammates crossed the finish line a minute after NICH and Cobb’s Arm, much to his disappointment.

 

Chris Gaides, OCEANA Wavemakers

“It’s not what I, this is not what I expected but things happen, you know.  I never felt well for the first two hours so that’s where the guys got away in the shoal.  It’s no excuse but this is racing.”

 

Saturday’s leg of the race, the longest section of the challenge, resumes at Banana Bank and will end in Double Head Cabbage. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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