Ruta Maya River Challenge 2001: bigger than ever
03/08/01 12:04 PM
03/08/01 12:04 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Seventy-five teams have registered to compete in this year's La Ruta Maya River Challenge up to midday Wednesday.
The race committee is optimistically hoping for as many as a hundred teams to enter this year's race.
Almost a quarter of the registered teams are foreigners, hailing from as faraway as Europe, the United States, and Canada.
Up to Wednesday many of the teams could be seen practicing at various points along the river, flexing their muscles to ready themselves for the challenge.
The winners' Kinich Ahau trophy is held by the sponsor of the winning team each year to be proudly displayed for a year, or until it is won by another team. No team has ever won the Challenge for two consecutive years.
In the professional category, attention will be focused on those who are considered the five strongest teams: Koop Sheet Metal, Black Rock Lodge, Chaa Creek, Builders Hardware, and Pine Lumber. Both the Builders Hardware and the Pine lumber teams have imported professional canoes made of Kevlar, the lightweight plastic material used in bullet proof vests.
Chaa Creek team built their canoe in Belize, under the guidance of a professional race canoe designer who custom designed the craft for this year's competition.
Mr. Elvin Penner of Koop Sheet Metal has followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Meno Penner, Penner has also designed and built his team's canoe. Elvin told Reporter, "I have taken time to design the canoe because I like the race, and I will do everything to have a winning advantage.
"I do not think that an imported canoe is better than the ones I have built. The design was taken from a canoe my uncle Meno used in the first La Ruta Maya with his BICO team. I have studied the race and the canoes used since, and now I made this canoe entirely of cedar, increasing the size and flexing the design just enough for me to say we might really have the winning canoe in our camp this year."
Penner has also made three other canoes of the same size and design from fiberglass, which will be used by the Belize Bank team, the One Barrel Team and the defending amateur champions from Sacred Heart College.
The canoe's design by Penner can be purchased after the race by anyone interested.
The British Army Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) will be keeping the time for the race ensuring a fair chance for all participants.
The La Ruta Maya River Challenge is the brainchild of Luis Garcia of the Belize Community Service Alliance. Garcia, in a combined effort with Big H Enterprise, which was promoting Vida Purified water, and Gary Ayuso of the Reporter, organized the first race in 1998 to promote the conservation of the river.
Luis Garcia said, "We have certainly come a long way, we have certainly experienced the good and bad sides of being involved, but we have overcome obstacles and are pleased to present another even grander event this year. This year as a part of keeping with the race's commitment to the environment, the River Keepers will be monitoring and taking samples of the water quality, the erosion problems along the entire river bank from San Ignacio to Belize ăity, and a Bird Count will also be taking place. This however does not take any precedence over the 300 or so participants of the race. Both aspects of the race compliment each other."
This year, with all the professional canoes and the locally-designed canoes, teams are expected to beat the current record of 22 hrs. 1 min. 15 secs. achieved by the Cheers team in 1998.
All villages and communities along the river are asked to support the racers as they pass by, and all other boats are asked to give way to the paddlers on their quest for glory.
Re: Ruta Maya River Challenge 2001: bigger than ever
03/09/01 06:22 PM
03/09/01 06:22 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Got this today....
Ruta Maya begins 4 days of river racing
Thursday, March 8, 2001
You can measure the ordeal using a number of different yardsticks: time
spent on the water, distance travelled, or the number of strokes of the
paddle... But however you chose to quantify it, just completing La Ruta
Maya is a feat of which even the last place finisher can be proud.
Stewart Krohn, Reporting
Sometimes you have to wonder who's crazier--the thousand or so people
who lined the riverbank at dawn--or the over two hundred brave souls who
will paddle their hearts out for the next four days.
It's year four of La Ruta Maya River Challenge and the race continues to
grow with a fascinating combination of hard core canoeists anxious to
win sixty thousand dollars in prizes... and a mixed bag of adventurers
looking for what they think will be fun.
At one end of the spectrum is Leonard Myers and his team from Manatee.
They won the race two years ago for Cheers and are now paddling under
the sponsorship of Mellow Tiger.
Leonard Myers, 1999 Ruta Maya Winner
"My particular strategy for the race is to catch them in the runs and
stay with them down all the rapids, more frequent so that we could drop
them in the rapids."
"You've been practicing a lot to get in shape for the race?"
"Yeah. This year we did a lot of practice. We go to Belize, we'd go
Northern Lagoon, Mullins River, we did a lot of long runs for this race
At the opposite end of the learning curve is the race's youngest
competitor "Bobby Dee" Usher of the team called "River Babies."
"Bobby, how old are you?"
Roberta Usher, Youngest Paddler
"What possess a thirteen year old young lady to get into a four day
canoe race that's really gonna beat you up?"
"I don't know. I want to do it. I like it."
"Do you do a lot of canoeing?"
"How long have you been practicing for this?"
"One day, one hour."
Women seemed to be a growing minority in the year's race. The Belize
Defence Force, in addition to its two men's team, also entered a boat
full of females... who swore they were volunteers.
Sgt. Mary Palacio, Belize Defence Force
"It seems challenging and exciting an we worked out for three weeks. I
think we are willing and we work as a team and we have unity, so I think
we're going to pull through."
"How do you think you're gonna feel at the end of this thing?"
Sgt. Mary Palacio
"I think we're going to feel some muscle aches, but we'll push to the
The BDF paddlers were not the only military entries. BATSUB and the
British Army fielded a total of eight teams... led by their river
hardened commander in full war paint.
"Colonel, you paddled in this race last year, why on earth are you back
Col. David Leigh, Commander, BATSUB
"You know, I really don't know. I never thought I'd do it again, but we
got eight boats this year, a lot of interests and actually to just take
part in probably the biggest thing in Belize, so I'm happy that we're
doing it again. I won't be happy in four days time, but I at the moment
I'm quite happy about it."
"How does paddling in this race compare to some of the training you do
in the army?"
Col. David Leigh
"It compares very favorably, it's not just about endurance, it's
actually about team work and going on for a long time just to build up.
This is every bit as valuable to us as our conventional training up in
"Ten minutes to the start of the race. You want to be getting in the
With time running out, the close to seventy teams made their last minute
Amateurs were placed to the rear, professionals to the front and the
race blasted off at 7:00 sharp in a frenzy of action. (Gun sounds)
After a few minutes of fury, the competitors settled down to find their
rhythm and come to terms with the next one hundred and seventy-five
miles of the Belize River. Among the early front runners was the boat
sponsored by Pine Lumber Company.
Amin Bedran, Pine Lumber Company
"We've been in the race since the first time. Our team has come in
third for the past three years and our team was father and two sons. The
only thing we are doing different this year is that the old man stepped
down and a younger boy is in the canoe. We are hoping to come in the
first bunch. There's a lot of competitive canoes out here and whatever
happens happens, but we are happy just to be in the first bunch."
One team well out of the first bunch sported a great name and even
better mix of personalities. The "Swamp Witches" are led by Belizean
Henry Arnold and two friends from abroad.
Henry Arnold, Swamp Witches Team
"These ladies are so strong and encouraging and it really amazes me to
see two ladies like...I mean these ladies are all the way from America.
They have this vision to believe that they can do it, so I just said
well I'll give it a try and we'll do it together."
And together was the only way it could be done... whether on the
water--or in it. (canoes turn over)
And accidents on the water were not limited to canoes, as News 5's Brent
Toombs discovered when his camera boat suddenly struck a submerged
Fortunately, the British Army helicopter was a more stable camera
platform... And as the beauty of Belize's fertile midsection unfolded
below, the paddlers dug deep for strength and thought about the barbecue
that lay ahead at Banana Bank... not to mention the next three days of
The race continues down the Belize River over the next three days and
finishes on Sunday on the Haulover Creek near the Belize City centre.
The canoe with the shortest total elapsed time will be declared the
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