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Mar 9, 2012

Annual Canoe River Challenge begins

Hundreds of spectators turned out early this morning at the banks of the Macal River to witness the launch of the annual Ruta Maya River Challenge that has become a staple of the March ninth activities. At seven this morning, the bugle sounded; more than seventy teams paddled away to Banana Bank, the first stop of the four day race which will end on Monday at the Belcan Bridge. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in the west for the first leg of the race.

Isani Cayetano

“And there they go, seventy-two teams, they are going to be making their way unto the wooden bridge which is the first station prize and that’s going to be hundred and seventy-five dollars sponsored by Bowen & Bowen.  Away they go!  There goes Caves Branch Outpost, the Zip Riders.  There goes Team NICH.”

At seven o’clock this morning seventy-two teams, paddlers who have been training exuberantly along the Belize River since November of last year, took off from the foot of the Hawkesworth Bridge en route to Banana Bank.  It would be the end of the first leg of competition in the annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge.

Roberto Harrison, Organizer, La Ruta Maya

Roberto Harrison

“Well this year’s race we have been planning it for the past three months.  [It has been] quite a bit of organization that makes this race successful.  As of last night we had seventy-two teams registered and we are expecting a great race for the next four days.”

The sprint to the first station, the bridge connecting the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena had its share of excitement including several turnovers.

Roberto Harrison

“There goes your first spill of the day.  They’re off to a very late start and of course they’re already spilling.  That’s just part of the fun and the excitement of the river challenge.”

David Gegg

Despite the slight decrease in the number of teams participating in this year’s race it is expected that the perennial powerhouses will place well at the culmination of the weekend competition.  The usual suspects include David Gegg’s Zip Riders.

David Gegg

“Well as you know we’re in third place which is a little disappointing but this is just the first leg of the race.  The conditions on the river are quite different it’s a lot higher today, as you know, because of all of the rain.  We’ll just have to see what happens at the finish line, not the finish line today but the finish line on Monday that’s what counts.”

That condition is, for the most part, the swelling of the Belize River in the wake of heavy rains at the start of the week.

Roberto Harrison

“The level of the river is higher than other times because of the rains in the last three days.  We expect a faster race.  We expect it to be done in four hours forty-five minutes thereabout.”

Of course, braving the rapids of the Belize River is one of the variables that many of the teams did not prepare for.  The Commonwealth team whose canoe was commissioned by Prince Harry last weekend during his first official visit to Belize had its share of obstacles along the way.

David Vasquez

According to David Vasquez, Bowen & Bowen as a corporate sponsor, gladly hopped onboard when it was asked to support the initiative.

David Vasquez, Commonwealth Jubilee

“Well we were approached by the British High Commission to cosponsor the Jubilee Team which is in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for this year.  We gladly participated, we’ve come in for uniforms and also refreshments for the team and everything else but it was an opportunity to work with the British High Commission.  We’ve worked with several humanitarian projects with them and this I think was a great opportunity for us to do something that was recognized.  You know Ruta Maya is one of the biggest, if not the biggest weekend four-day event in Belize comparing it to Cross Country which is a one-day event but this thing has become so big and international now so we’ve jumped on the opportunity to get some advertising and some brand recognition out of it for the company.”

And advertise they certainly did.  Many of the canoes participating in the activity are decorated with elaborate trimmings but in the end only one team would cross the finish line at Banana Bank first.  That honor went to Team Belize Bank which easily outshined its archenemy the Zip Riders.

Francisco Cruz

Francisco Cruz, Team Belize Bank

“From Frank’s Eddy we just gone hard and start dig and then dehn bwai staat, I noh know weh gaan on with them cause dehn deh da wah good team.  I noh know how dehn get drop.”

Isani Cayetano

“Talk to us about the competition between Belize Bank this time around and Oceana.  Oceana came in a mere twenty-two seconds behind you guys.  What was that like on the water battling, going back and forth?”

Francisco Cruz

“Well we gone hard and dehn white boy dehn good and we gone all out but dehn bwai still mih dih ketch wih down back so tomorrow we could go harder though.”

Tomorrow’s stage resumes at Banana Bank and proceeds to Double Head Cabbage. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

On Tuesday, we will have full coverage of Ruta Maya as it makes its way to Burrell Boom ending in the City.

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1 Response for “Annual Canoe River Challenge begins”

  1. Josephino Estroberto Pesomedio says:

    I can sure win that race, but I cannot swim, so better I watch them boys on tv.

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