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Mar 8, 2013

La Ruta Maya canoe race paddles river to coast

Sixty-four teams paddled away at this morning’s start of the Belikin La Ruta Maya River Challenge. The traditional sounding of the horn gave way to the race at the foot of the Hawkesworth Bridge which divides the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. The sixteen-year old canoe race has become one of the biggest sporting events and it will take four days to complete as the teams make their way up the Belize River making stops at strategic communities. The first leg concluded by midday and News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in the thick of things.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The culmination of the first leg of the annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, in favor of defending champion Belize Bank, ended what many fans and racing enthusiasts alike considered a nail-biter.  From the get-go it was a heated duel between the top two teams in the tournament, as the Zip Riders and Belize Bank paddled neck and neck downstream to Banana Bank.

 

Armin Lopez, Belize Bank

“Dehn guys very competitive and, like weh ah seh again, Jerry Rhaburn da one ah di best paddlers.  He really tough, you know.  He train hard.  I think he train hard enough fi win because I noh seh wih done win dis race but wi done win wah leg.  But only God knows, you know, and if dehn win well I happy fi dehn because I know dehn work out hard but ih really tough.”

 

While Lopez acknowledged his competition, another less talked about team emerged as the spoiler.  Beating the Zip Riders to the finish line for second place was Cobb’s Arm.

 

Isani Cayetano

“I know you guys were able to, at the final minute, surpass one of the expected teams to have prevailed in this particular leg of the challenge.  Talk to me about being able to make good on the time advantage that you had.”

 

Roberto Cobb, Cobb’s Arm

“Well that’s just something [where] we had to work as a team with mind and that’s what we did, just kept paddling strong and that’s what we wanted, to come in at least first in the top five.  Well today we came in second and that’s good for our team.”

 

Despite placing third today Caves Branch Outpost’s Zip Riders were outstanding considering the fact that champion paddler Jerry Rhaburn had to recruit a pair of teammates at the eleventh hour.

 

Jerry Rhaburn, Zip Riders

“It was a rough year this year for me because I got two new guys and I had to get them up to standard for me, to my paddling expectations and the guys came out pretty good.  The guys did the best they could and as I said earlier if the foot brace didn’t break that was going to [be it].  As soon as it broke I knew the guys were going to come back because I had them well over two minutes on these guys and then that happened.”

 

At precisely seven o’clock this morning the air horn sounded and a flotilla of sixty-four canoes took off from the base of the Hawkesworth Bridge in Cayo.  The four-day river challenge is the sixteenth running of La Ruta Maya.  Along with its evolution are three important staples which aim to highlight the culture of the ancient Maya, the history of the Belize River and environmental awareness.

 

Shantelle Gillett, UB Environmental Club

“Here we try to promote awareness about the riparian around the river banks.  We clean the river banks at the end of every race so we could promote and keep the river banks clean and not cut down the trees around the river banks.”

 

At Central Farm this morning Captain John Borland, along with his men, were present to cheer on their coastguard team.

 

Captain John Borland, Commander, Belize National Coast Guard

“The coastguard has participated in the La Ruta Maya since its inception so many years ago.  This year we fielded two teams, a mixed team and a team in the pleasure category.  Our professional male team is out on military training and could not be here to represent us today, bearing in mind [that] they placed in the top five last year.  We’re looking forward to bringing them back next year to see if they can place in the top five again or in a top three perhaps.”

 

Entering the competition for the first time this year is a team from Chukka Tours.  After years of mastering the caves at Nohoch Chen the trio of safety personnel decided to take on the grueling challenge.

 

Valerie Woods, Country Representative, Chukka Tours

“We entered a team called Chukka Thrillers and the guys paddling for us are our safety officers on the river.  They work for us particularly at the Jaguar Paw Adventure outpost on our cave-tubing and Crystal Cave tours doing what they do best which is medic work and safety work.  So last year when we had a team session they said why aren’t we entering this race.  I said, “Guys it’s grueling you know.  It’s tough.”  And they were like let’s do it, we should do it and so we’re here and we’re having a lot of fun.”

 

The second stage of the hundred and seventy-nine mile race will resume at Banana Bank on Saturday and will end in Double Head Cabbage. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “La Ruta Maya canoe race paddles river to coast”

  1. Storm says:

    It’s one of our best annual events — good luck to all!

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