Ruta Maya Kicks Off from San Ignacio
The annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge kicked off bright and early this morning in the west. The waters of the Macal River provided the perfect setting for the start of the race. But this year, less than fifty canoes manned by three paddlers each will be competing over the extended holiday weekend as they make their way up the Belize River. The competition is tough and the paddlers found that a matter of seconds makes the difference to secure a win. News Five’s Duane Moody was out west when the competitors paddled away.
The twentieth running of the annual Belikin La Ruta Maya River Challenge commenced this morning in the twin towns of San Ignacio/Santa Elena in the west where paddlers will traverse a whopping one hundred and forty miles over a four-day period. The first leg is the second to the longest stretch. The various company-sponsored teams of three will make their way from the Hawkesworth Bridge through the various villages along the George Price Highway and ending at Banana Bank, just outside of Belmopan.
Orlando Harrison, Vice-Chairman, La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge Committee
“After running this race for twenty years, we have had ups and downs; I think this might be the lowest in terms of participation team wise. Several factors, perhaps the recession taking a little bit on it because it is a very costly sport to maintain because it has its own fan base; it has its own mechanisms on how these paddlers do their thing in the next four days. But we are quite satisfied that we have tried to maintain the sanity of the race, taking into account the culture, history and the environment. We are conscious that we need to do more to bring awareness of the Belize River and the things that are happening along the Belize River.”
“As of five-thirty this morning preparations began as paddlers gathered along the banks of the Macal River for the 2017 La Ruta Maya Challenge. Forty-nine teams have registered, forty-eight of which have already checked in. But when the gun goes off at seven o’clock, they will make their way from the Hawkesworth Bridge to Banana Bank, a whopping forty-nine miles as the first leg of the challenge.”
Almost five hours later, Team NICH won the first leg, with Koop Sheet Metal and Smart Warriors seconds away. Throughout the race, however, Team NICH had maintained a favorable distance for the chasing duo only to be overtaken after passing the Agripina Cawich Bridge.
Henry Cruz, Team NICH
“We worked hard; we wanted to win this leg…we were coming about probably a minute and change ahead, but we couldn’t maintain it all the way. Those guys worked together and they catch us down a little bit, but thank God we still won the first leg by probably three seconds, four seconds.”
Based on the results from day-one, the defending champions Jerry Rhaburn, Jerry Cante and Daniel Cruz of Koop Sheet Metal are not going down without a fight.
Jerry Rhaburn, Captain, Koop Sheet Metal
“We train hard, we put a lot of work into this race and all these guys wanna win, everybody wanna win. And it is a very tough race. We had a little bad start and we had to work to close the gap and everybody saw what happened…so.”
The second leg of the competition, which takes the paddlers from Banana Bank to Double Head Cabbage Village in Rural Belize District, is the longest of the canoe race – sixty miles – but less challenging. So what are the anticipations for the top teams going into the second leg?
“Tomorrow we just want to sit and see what happens, try to sprint on the finishing. We already have three seconds ahead so we will try to maintain that.”
“Now it is the longest leg, sixty miles. What kinda preparation did you guys do to ensure that you can finish that leg?”
“Well we work out hard; this is the hardest leg right here. Tomorrow is more deep; it is easier.”
“We just got to race smart; tomorrow is a long stage. We just gotta see what happens. It’s gonna come down to a sprint tomorrow and it is still anybody race…so.”
“You do know that everybody di go after unu cause unu dah the one to beat right?”
“Well that’s the way it is.”
Duane Moody for News Five.