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Feb 28, 2001

Ruta Maya race begins next week

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In just a few short years its creators and participants have turned it into one of the nation’s premier sporting events. And this year the big canoe race is going to be better than ever.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The serious paddlers have been practicing for months… and next week they’ll put it on the line for pride and prizes in the fourth annual Ruta Maya River Challenge.

Luis Garcia, Committee Member, La Ruta Maya River Challenge

“La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge started as a main promotion for Vida purified water three years ago. Actually this is going to be the fourth canoe race and It’s becoming every year more challenging. This year we are aiming for sixty thousand dollars in cash prizes total in our amateur and professional leagues. It should be very exciting with approximately seventy-five canoes in the race.”

“The first leg of the race comes from San Ignacio under the Hawkesworth Bridge leaving at 7:00 a.m. and finishing at Banana Bank. The first night we camp there then the second day which is the longest stretch some people has paddled for twelve hours and twenty minutes on that second stretch from Banana Bank to Bermudian Landing. From Bermudian Landing to Burrell Boom and then the last day from Burrell Boom to Belize City at Belcan Bridge to the finishing line.”

Cayo based Radio Ritmo and the Belize Community Service Alliance, formed the Save Our Rivers Programme in 1995 to clean debris in the river and on the riverbanks. The clean up teams started a fun race to encourage others to participate in the environmental programme, but the race took a life of its own and according to Garcia, overshadowed its original intention.

Luis Garcia

“A lot of the other things started to die out such as people getting involved in the canoe racing for the clean up campaigns. Because La Ruta Maya was offering a lot of money, but the environmental part was not taken into consideration. This year everything has changed. La Ruta Maya has joined with the Save Our Rivers Programme. Now we’ve joined together and now were doing clean up campaigns, such as the Mopan Maya River three weeks ago and we also did a clean up campaign of the Macal River last weekend and we launched the River Keepers Programme, which Mr. Derek Chan is the River Keeper in charge of monitoring the river.”

But come March eighth, the only monitoring being done will be the timing of the racing canoes. Some sponsors are building their own high tech models while others are depending solely on muscle and endurance. In 1998 the Hobb Borthers won for Snooty Fox, the ’99 crown went to the Manatee Men sponsored by Cheers, while the year 2000 belonged to the boys from Black Rock.

And though no one can predict the year’s outcome, one thing is certain. Come the finish at Belize City Centre the paddlers will be exhausted and spectators ready to celebrate. Reporting for News 5, Jose Sanchez.

La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge begins the morning of March eighth at the Hawkesworth Bridge and ends around midday on the eleventh at the Belcan in Belize City

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