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Mar 4, 2016

Ruta Maya 2016, Koop Sheet Metal Dominates First Leg of Annual Race

This morning at the foot of the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio, sixty teams of paddlers gathered on the Macal River to commence. The annual La Ruta Maya Challenge.  It was quite a spectacle, as canoes of all colors and paddlers of all ages raced towards the low-lying bridge in a bid to capture the first station prize.  From there it was downstream as they made their along the Belize River to Banana Bank.  At the end of the first leg Koop Sheet Metal, led by Jerry Rhaburn, had comfortably taken the lead, followed a few seconds later by defending champions B.T.L.’s Cobb’s Arm.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The blare of an air horn at the stroke of seven this morning, officially kicked off the annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge.  It is an exhausting, four-day canoe race, the first leg having been completed earlier today.  With a total of sixty teams participating in several categories, the competition is fierce; even for veteran athlete Jerry Rhaburn.


Jerry Rhaburn

Jerry Rhaburn, Captain, Koop Sheet Metal

“Today was a very, very, very stressful day, a nice day.  We had a little bit of obstacles, the water is dirty and we can’t, you know, it’s the race and we gotta do with what happens.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now you’re paddling for a new team, so to speak, a different team.  What has the chemistry been like between you and your other teammates, in terms of preparing for today’s race?”


Jerry Rhaburn

“Well, with these guys, you know, we’re experienced paddlers.  We couldn’t be better, we can’t ask for better.  These guys are young, they’re talented, they’ve been in the race a long time, you know, like myself.  We train hard, we spend a lot of time together.”


Chris Guydis

At various intervals along the winding course, families and friends of the participants lined the banks of the Belize River, cheering on the respective teams as they made their way downstream.  Chris Guydis, himself a seasoned paddler, crossed the finish line at Banana Bank in sixth place.


Chris Guydis, Captain, Programme for Belize

“This is the toughest leg of La Ruta [Maya].  The reason why I say it’s the toughest leg because the water is shallow and when the water is shallow it sucks the boat down so you have to use extra fuel fi get it go.  And then if yoh noh train pan di waters enough ih da wah real factor, the wata dash yo bout, twist yo bout.  Yo gotta know weh paat fi goh.  So it’s a real factor for me because I train, to be honest I come and paddle four different days up here.  So, and dat no enuff.”


While Guydis may not have had sufficient time to prepare himself and his team for the annual race, Rhaburn, on the other hand, relocated to San Ignacio prior to the challenge for the express purpose of training on the water.


Jerry Rhaburn

“I spent two weeks out of a whole month in Cayo.  Every week I come up and train.  I stayed there, so we prepared a lot for this race.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now you have a momentum going into the second leg of the race which is the Banana Bank to Double Head, arguably the longest length of this particular race.  How prepared are you guys going into tomorrow?”


Jerry Rhaburn

“Well we’re prepared, we’re prepared.  Like I said, we work, we train hard, we’re in shape, you know.  We can’t ask for anything better, we just hope that nothing wrong happens.”


And that means avoiding any spillage.  Along the meandering waterway many canoes will overturn.  A spill simply means losing precious time.


Isani Cayetano

“Do you believe that you can close the time between where you are presently and the first place team which is that led by Jerry Rhaburn?”


Chris Guydis

“Impossible.  Impossible.  I undastand that dehn reach down ya probably bout nine minutes head of me so that very impossible to do because tomorrow di wata wahn be much deeper.  So tomorrow you will see that all the six boats more or less wahn deh right together tomorrow because di wata is different now so it won’t be a factor for the, the water will be a factor for the fast boat them tomorrow, you know.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now you mentioned earlier that the water is dirty.  What other obstacles are you facing as you’re paddling along the Belize River?”


Jerry Rhaburn

“Well there’s a lot of stumps underneath the water and you can’t see them with this murky water, you can’t.  So you really have to be paying attention to what’s going on because if you hit a log out there you can break the canoe and you can also flip.  So that’s the thing, you have to always be on your game.”


The race resumes on Saturday with the second leg commencing at Banana Bank to culminate in Double Head Cabbage. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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