First Day of La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge
Fifty-three teams paddled away at the start of the annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Canoe River Challenge in the Macal River in San Ignacio this morning. Over the next four days, the fittest teams will cover about one hundred and forty miles ending in Belize City on Monday. The first leg concluded at Banana Bank around midday. News Five’s Duane Moody and Darrel Moguel have the highlights along the route.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The Belikin La Ruta Maya Canoe River Challenge got off today from the foot of the Hawkesworth Bridge in San Ignacio. It’s the second longest stretch in the four-day competition that culminates on Monday at the Civic Center in Belize City. The first leg of the competition came to a close finish in Banana Bank, just outside of Roaring Creek. With only a three-second lead, the defending champions, NICH, won after paddling vigorously for forty-nine miles.
Hener Cruz, Team Captain, NICH
“We feel good…me and my team we feel good because even three seconds is a lot and you gotta work hard to get it back.”
“Talk to us about the strategy going into the race today.”
“Well we had a plan; we know that nobody would want to work for each other. So we decided that we’re not gonna work either. We’re going to bring it to the tape and see what we can do and it worked.”
Once again, rival team Koop Sheet Metal was neck and neck with NICH throughout the first leg. But team captain Jerry Cante says that a slip-up just before reaching the finishing line cost him and his team the win today.
Jerry Cante, Team Captain, Koop Sheet Metal
“Today was a pretty day. We were coming up all the way good, came up to the final stretch and we actually did a mistake right around the curve and that little mistake cost us the day race. Everybody come to win so that’s our goal to take out that time and try to put as much as possible throughout the day of tomorrow.”
“What is your strategy going into tomorrow’s race?”
“Well there is no strategy; we will go and race and see what’s happening on the river and that’s when we take our decision with what we will do.”
Coming in third overall for the first leg and first in the mixed team category was UES Westrac and Bismillah consisting of Milanie and Clayton Cab and Eric Cano.
Clayton Cab, UES Westrac & Bismillah
“It’s a lot of hard work that paid off and thanks to those people that helped us throughout this training and get us ready for this race. I want to give thanks to God for giving us the strength and the courage to do this first leg. And also I would like to thank our sponsors: Westrac, Bismillah Stores, UES, Impact Designs and of course Koop Sheet Metal. That’s Koop Sheet Metal boat that we have there. It was kinda expected, we are just trying to do whatever we did in the training. Hopefully we can stick with those guys tomorrow and do a next race and finish good the next day.”
“You think unu could win overall?”
“Overall is a bit hard; those guys are tough, they are strong, they have the experience. We are experienced, but being a mixed does not limit us, everything is open yet and anything is possible.”
“Now Miss Cal in terms of being the only female on this team does that put pressure on you having to be up to par with the rest of the guys?”
Milanie Cab, UES Westrac & Bismillah
“Well it’s a lot of pressure in there, but the guys told me I am a strong girl so that is why I am there, trying my best.”
In four days, the teams will be paddling approximately one hundred and forty miles. It’s a feat that takes a lot of discipline and endurance as well as months of preparation for the paddlers, who were happy about completing the first leg without incident.
“Usually we do around three or four months, but we were very low on finance this time, so we just managed to put in less than three months but that is paying off right now.”
“I wanna give thanks to Koop Sheet Metal…because of their sponsor, we are in good shape. We started to work out from November so I wanna give them thanks for having us here on this race.”
“We started from October and this is the leg that we mostly practice.”
“So you expected to win this leg?”
“Yeah, I mean we came to defend the championship; that’s our mind. We still have three days more and anything can happening in those days.”
TEAM NICH Crosses the Finish Line in 1st Place!