La Ruta Maya River Challenge March 7th - 10th

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 5            February 13, 2003

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"More than just a Race!" the sixth annual running of the second longest canoe race in the world and the largest spectator event in Belize, La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, has been set for March 7th to 10th. Again, this magnum event will be held in conjunction with the Baron Bliss Day celebrations, and as always the race will start beneath the historic Hawkesworth Bridge in San Ignacio, Cayo District. La Ruta Maya River Challenge is best known as a grueling test of stamina and skill where courageous paddlers set forth to test themselves and their endurance for three and a half days racing over 170 miles down the beautiful and still "wild" Belize Old River.

    According to committee chairman Orlando Harrison, "the spirits are high and the adrenalin is pumping amongst the teams already in high gear practicing day after day in preparation for the race". A press release from the organizers of this event states that camps will be fired up with more cultural activities and story-telling as a way to involve more communities along the riverbanks. Race fans will have the opportunity to cheer on their teams and be part of the activity. Designated stops include Banana Bank, Bermudian Landing and Burrell Boom, before the sprint towards the finish line at the Belcan Bridge in Belize City.

    Each team must consist of three paddlers and utilize manually powered open canoes or traditionally built wooden dories, 15 to 20 feet in length. The race will consist of a Pro Class and Amateur Class, which are divided into male, female, mixed teams, masters, and a traditional dory class. New to the 2003 race is the intramural class for students wanting to participate. This year's event will showcase numerous locally sponsored Pro Class teams that will be sporting "Made in Belize" world-class racing canoes. Three-time champions Alex Lisbey, Armin Lopez and Leroy Romero, previously sponsored by Koop Sheet Metal, will be back on the river to defend their title; this time paddling for Builder's Hardware. Koop Sheet Metal is working out with a new team. With guidance and coaching from canoe designer Elvin Penner himself, they hope to capture the Kinich Ahau trophy for the fourth year in a row.

    The entire race will be fully supported by race officials, safety boats and medical teams. The entry fee remains $250 per team. This year the organizing committee expects to raise over $40,000 in cash and prizes that will be awarded in all categories. Organizing sponsor Cayo Tropical Fruits and Vida Purified Water will again award the $1,000 first place prize along with the Maya Sun God Kinich Ahau trophy to the team with the best overall time at the finish line. Interested parties may register at any Nova Scotia Bank branch countrywide. For further information e-mail: or call 824-2444.
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