22nd Annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge
The twenty-second Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge began today at the foot of the Hawkesworth Bridge in Santa Elena. Sixty-one teams of paddlers registered to take on one hundred and eighty miles of river in four days. The longest leg was completed today; after forty-nine gruelling miles of paddling, defending champions, NICH, won by a margin of three minutes. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
It took just over five hours along the Belize River before the first trio of paddlers made it to the finish line at Banana Bank in the Cayo District. The first leg of the Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge was complete and defending champions, Team NICH, was first to cross the tape in five hours, two minutes and fifty-one seconds. Brothers Efrain, Felix and Hener Cruz are going for a repeat victory.
Hener Cruz, Team NICH
“The strategy…we had a plan this morning that if we get a lead, we are going to try to hold it and see what we can do and let those guys chase and our plan worked. We got like three minutes gap over them. Tomorrow we don’t have to work hard. We just gotta keep with those guys and take it to the line. So that’s all we gotta do: maintain our game, play our game and see what happens tomorrow.”
Three minutes and ten seconds later Crunch Time sponsored by Burn Box and National Aggregates would take second place in five hours, six minutes and one second. While the forty-nine-mile leg is arguably the most difficult of the four days, for the Crunch Time paddlers a mishap with their canoe also slowed them down.
Jerry Cante, Team Crunch Time
“This dah one of the hardest stretch so we knew this stretch would take much energy from all team, not only one team. We gotta go home and work on our canoe because this morning, we had an incident and our canoe break so we gotta go and fix that first before we take any other decision for tomorrow.”
“You think that was what hampered you guys today?”
“Well actually yes, because water was going in and it was too much water for us to be bailing out and so it keep us back a little bit. But you know everything in the race.”
“You guys came right behind NICH; I think it is a three-minute gap. How do you intend to close that in, in the next couple legs?”
“We know a three-minute gap is a lot of time to put on those guys, but nothing is impossible. But we will go and give our all and see what we can do in the last three days.”
There are a total of sixty-one canoes registered in the twenty-second annual canoe race that will travel approximately one hundred and eight miles of river. The race has become very competitive and the engineering behind the canoes has improved. But while the number of paddlers competing has decreased, Vice President Roberto Harrison says that the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is more than meets the eye.
Roberto Harrison, Vice President, La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge
“We are also cognizant of the fact that the river needs a lot of attention from an environmental standpoint. There is a lot of history behind this river so we are trying to promote that as well. So we have all packaged it and even now so with the entrepreneurial part of it coming out more and more….people look forward to this race to sell products, to sell food. So I think we have done very well with all the aspects of the race.”