La Ruta Maya Set for March 4-7, 2011 - 02/07/11 11:51 PM
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Caye Caulker Chronicles Presents a glimpse of LA RUTA MAYA 2009
It’s the countdown for the annual Ruta Maya Canoe Race that starts at the Macal and ends at the Belize River. This year, more teams, including seven international teams, are expected to sign up for the four day race during the upcoming extended weekend. Momentum is picking up as the day draws closer and competing teams are sharpening their paddling skills. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a preview of the race.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The fourteenth annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is a little over a week away and preparations for the grueling four-day race from the foot of the Hawkesworth Bridge in San Ignacio to the Belcan Bridge in the Old Capital are well underway.
Javier Gutierrez, Public Relations Officer, La Ruta Maya
“Presently I know that we have approximately seven international teams that have signed [up] along with another few. But let that not be the problem, usually on the night before the race there is a big, big meeting that’s going to be held at Meluchi’s in San Ignacio and usually Isani this is where all the teams, especially the Belizean teams come in and the signing begins to take place. A lot of logistics take place during that night as well and I assure you that we are going to have a minimum of eighty [to] eighty-five teams and I guarantee it’s going to be more but I’m putting it at a minimal number.”
What has come to be expected from Ruta Maya is a high dropout rate. Of the many that will start the approximate hundred and seventy mile competition only a handful will complete the challenge. Nonetheless it is an event that has grown exponentially since its inception in 1998.
Roberto Harrison, Chairman, La Ruta Maya
“When we started the race in 1998 it was basically friends gathering around and saying “well hear what there is nothing to do for Ninth of March. Let’s try to put something together.” And we attracted thirty paddlers to come to the river and technology has changed, the perspective of the race has changed and we have definitely had challenging times with developing the race and making it sustainable.”
Despite the initial hurdles the prizes for the challenge are an attraction to its many participants. Last year’s race was won by Zip Riders, a team of three led by Jerry Rhaburn.
Jerry Rhaburn, Team Captain, Zip Riders (File: March 9th, 2010)
“Well today we were just conserving, trying to conserve our energy for the sprint. We wanted to give the fans something to cheer for and at the end of the day it’s a tough race and we had a good game plan for this race; win the first stage by minutes and try to ride in with the guys because we know these guys from Belize Bank, they are a tough team and they’ve been winning the game for a really long time and if you’re not serious you can’t beat those guys.”
Prior to that victory Rhaburn was unable to bring home the title for his team. This year however, the Zip Riders will face stiffer competition as the total distance paddled will be reduced by several miles.
“Today it’s going to be different, we have cut the race by a few miles as well on the second leg. First it was a total of sixty miles. This year, we use to go to Bermudian Landing from Banana Bank, now it’s going to be to Double Head Cabbage. So it’s going to be cut significantly by almost one hour and this was done because teams use to be rowing up to twelve o’clock at night and it was very difficult for the committee to be pulling in teams at that hour as well. But yes, today the technology has changed not only in the canoes but as well even the preparation for the paddlers has gone almost berserk.”
Paddlers, Gutierrez says, have upped the ante considerably by incorporating modern technology into the age-old mode of transportation.
“Today I was talking to Chris, one of the paddlers, he’s the present champ and he told me that even the sunglasses are going to be different so that when the water touches it won’t smear and it won’t remain. And he has been promoting this type of equipment as well thru some of the businesses in Belize City so that the paddlers can partake in this type of purchasing of this type of equipment as well. So the race has really blown into a super, super technological standard at this point.”
The Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge commences on March 4th and will culminate on the seventh. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
News Five will be having extensive coverage of the race from start to finish.
The much anticipated La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge begins tomorrow in San Ignacio. Roberto Harrison is the Chairman of the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge Committee.
Roberto Harrison – Chairman, La Ruta Maya Committee
“It promises to be another successful event. We are expecting at least 90 teams, each team comprises of three paddlers to register by the end of today. The race changed one leg; we used to finish at Bermudian Landing but because of safety reasons, the slower paddlers reaching in a little above the cut off time we have decided to land now at Double head Cabbage. The objective basically is to have fun and also to bring awareness of the Belize River from a cultural, a historical stand point. We are also very much interested in the environmental side of it. This year we have partnered with Pristine River Project, Rotaract, Sacred heart Junior College that will be doing clean up and creating awareness of the need to conserve and protect the Belize River. Friday morning it starts at the Hawksworth Bridge at seven o’clock, Saturday it starts at six thirty at Banana Bank, eight o’clock at Double Head Cabbage, nine o’clock at Burrell Boom and ends in Belize on that same day. The defending champions are Zip Riders sponsored by Mr. Gegg, Jerry Rhaburn, Efrain Cruz. There are seven categories; there is the category for male, females, mixed team that is male and female, pleasure craft, master, dory and a family category. Family category only does day one and day three of the race.”
IT was a dramatic finish as the repeat winners, the Zip Rider team, faced a last second flurry from perennial contenders Belize Bank - here's how the finish looked:…
Jerry Rhaburn, Discovery Exp./Zip Rider/Caves Branch
"Well it was a pretty exciting finish, we tried our best, we didn't finish first place but we finish first overall and we were the defending champion and we are still the champ so, but it was a nice finish, it was a nice sprint and we had a little accident out there and I think most of the spectators saw that but we didn't make that keep us from being friends. We are friends with the Belize Bank team and that's not going to change."
Shane Williams, Guardian
"Some of your team members were upset by the Belize Bank move. Tell us what Belize Bank did at the end of the race."
Jerry Rhaburn, Discovery Exp./Zip Rider/Caves Branch
"Actually they cut across in front of us and we had more space on the right hand side of the river. We were on the left and they just cut us across and we wanted to sprint for the finish, we wanted to give the fans a nice finish. We wanted to finish first place today but like I said we didn't finish first but we finished first overall so that's all that matters. We trained for 4 months and starting next week - I saw the sport like it's getting a little bit slow, so start next week I am going to start doing some training for younger teams like the schools and stuff like that because I want this race to go into the schools because that's the only way we are going to have faster paddlers. I took a lot of things from this guy right here. He teach me a lot of stuff, so I want to extend my education to more younger paddlers that's why I am going to start next week. I am going to start doing some seminar in Burrell Boom Village. If anybody want to get in contact with me they can call my number 624-1279."
Bob Vinson, Trainer
"That's why we came - to teach these people how to paddle and we are very old but we come back and keep teaching them and they are doing a great job now."
The 14th edition of La Ruta Maya brought with it the finest competition this 170 mile river challenge has ever seen and indeed fans loved every moment of it.
Here is the start on Friday morning below the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio where 81 canoes with a mandatory crew of 3 each in 8 different categories set out in search of fame on fortune. The Macal River explodes as this human effort begins in earnest bringing with it the excitement of the hint for supremacy.
49 miles later we join host of fans gathered at Banana Bank to witness the completion of the 1st stage and it comes as no surprise that the duel between the defending champion Zip Rider and Belize Bank is dominating the pace. Zip Rider looks to grab stage win but is also looking for a bigger time margin of win and while they take the stage, they show only a 5 second lead over Belize Bank after day 1.
Day II brings the longest stage in La Ruta Maya as the paddlers face a 60 mile journey to Double Head. It used to be 66 miles when the stage finish was at Bermudian Landing but 6 miles was shaved off this year for the Double Head finish in an effort to alleviate the punishment to the athletes.
Today like the worthy contender they are the Belize Bank strikes back to take the stage win with a 3 second win over Zip Rider while NICH made its presence felt with a 3rd place effort that was clocked only 23 seconds behind the Bank.
This brings Day 3 inside Double Head and we find the village preparing breakfast for the competition.
While outside the athletes begin to rouse themselves from inside their temporary sleeping quarters.
With the British in charge of the statistical arena, Belize team had no place in the event which means the 8a.m start to stage III is adhered to.
Today at least 3 vessels will fall victim to the fury of the start as they turn over but all would continue in this 36 mile stage.
In the meantime NICH, Cobb’s Arms and Agro Tech Hardware have decided to set chase on the lead canoes.
So now we’re inside the scenic village of Burrell Boom and lo and behold we have a 3 boat sprint for the stage win. Even more interesting it’s NICH in the driver’s seat going to the tape. The Belize Bank makes a mad dash ar the chase from behind while Zip Rider attacks on the outside. However, today NICH would make a stand and write itself into the history books by grabbing its 1st stage win in La Ruta Maya event with a time of 4 hours, 41 minutes and 41 seconds. Zip Rider edges the Bank by 1 second to grab 2ned place in a time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 45 seconds while Belize Bank settles for 3rd. And folks, this 1 second will loom large but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Cobb’s Arms takes 4th place and they’ve certainly worked their way up to elite status in this event.
So we’re at the start of the final stage a distance of 25 miles from Burrell Boom to the Belcan Bridge in Belize City and no we’re down to some 70 boats still in the water.
At Grace Bank the Belize Bank seems intent on pulling away from Zip rider who seems to be hanging on but when then they find the energy to catch up. Still there are 4 boats setting chase including CPBL, Agro Tech and NICH, while the 4 mixed crew of KOOP Sheet Metal find themselves among the big boys.
At mile 8, a dolphin cuts across the race still being led by the Belize Bank which says how blessed Belize really is.
At Haulover the Belize Bank crosses the creek 1st with Zip rider on its stern, Agro Tech is 3rd while NICH and CPBL bring up the rear of the top 5.
We’re now at the finish line at Belcan Bridge and watch this duel between the lead duo – the Bank seems to cut across the path of Zip Rider and for a moment there’s a lull – they both recover and head to the tape but the Bank hold’s o not take the win despite the desperate push by Zip Rider.
The British time keepers are there to clock the finish.
NICH recovers to take 3rd place, Agro Tech pulls up 4th and finishing the final stage 5th overall is the mixed team of Koop Sheet Metal.
While Cobb’s Arms rounds out the top 6
Jerry Rhaburn, Team Captain, Zip Riders
“Today we had a very interesting race. We wanted to give the fans a nice sprint and as you guys can see we had a little conflict on the finish there, but I think you know racing is all about keeping your cool and I think the spectators saw what went on and I think we did good. This race came down to—yesterday we started off in Double Head Cabbage with two seconds, we gained back one second and that one second is what it takes. And today we won by one second and that’s the same one second we took back from Belize Bank in Burrell Boom. But you know this racing it went to a different level. It went to professional level and it’s all about experience and teammates because I have a very good team and Belize Bank is a very good team and I am going to take off my hats for these guys, these guys are very good paddlers.”
Folks, we could not get the official stats at press time but we do know that Zip Rider emerged the overall winner with a total time of 18 hours 4 seconds while Belize Bank totaled 18 hours 5 seconds. The difference is 1 second – that same second Zip Rider gained in the Burrell Boom sprint.
Here what else we know this the finals title was taken by the Peacemakers consisting of Jane Usher, Christine Jacobs and Delia Hyde.
Jim Scott, Johnny Watt Searle and Mike Searle combined their efforts to win the Masters class.
Folks, we are hoping to get the full information and statistics from all 8 categories before our full length feature which is scheduled to be aired on Friday.
Jah Overall, I’m James Adderley.Channel 5
Their arch rivals, Ervin, Amado and Daniel Cruz of the Belize Bank team actually crossed the finish line two seconds before Ziprider, but their cumulative time was one second more! It was the closest of finishes to an intense competition that saw the Zip Rider canoe leading at the wooden bridge to Santa Elena.
The Belize Bank took the lead to win the next two station prizes at Branch Mouth and the Baking Pot ferry. Ziprider however re-took the lead, sweeping the next two $100 station prizes at Iguana Creek and Young Bank Ferry winning the first leg of the race at Banana Bank five seconds ahead of the Belize Bank team.
On the second day the Ziprider canoe passed the Banana Bank Lodge first to win a $100 prize, but Ziprider was stuck in the Belize Bank’s wake after that as the Cruz cousins took the $200 prize at More Tomorrow, another $200 prize at Big Falls, a $100 prize at Willows Bank and the $150 prize; as they won the second stage at Double Head Cabbage three seconds ahead of Ziprider.
The Belize Bank canoe won a $150 prize at the ferry landing on the third day, then Jerry Rhaburn and the Cruz brothers took the $100 prize at Isabella Bank. The Belize Bank canoe surged ahead to win the next two $100 prizes at Flowers Bank and the Belize Water Services treatment plant, but it was the N.I.C.H canoe which won the $150 prize at Burrell Boom, finishing one second ahead of Belize Bank to win the third stage.
The N.I.C.H canoe paddled by the Oscar Cordon, Jimmy Valdez and Armin Lopez finished third on the final leg and were third overall with a cumulative time of 18 hours seven minutes and two seconds.
The 2009 winners Citrus Products of Belize Limited consisting of Chris Guydis, Leon Gillett and Sheldon Seguro, finished fourth overall although they crossed the finish line fifth, with a cumulative time of 18 hours seven minutes and two seconds.
Jane Usher, Christine Jacobs and Delia Hyde paddled their “Peacemakers” canoe, sponsored by the Police Department, to win a $200 first prize and a trophy in the women’s division, even though they finished 36th in 21 hours 25 minutes and 43 seconds.
Megan Aspinal, Bobby Dee and Kimberly Cain paddled their “No Watch Me” canoe to place second in the women’s division with a cumulative time of 24 hours 58 minutes and 34 seconds.
BATSUB’s Stacey Smithson, Rhiannon Creak and Helen Golea placed third in the women’s division, even though they crossed the finish line in 60th position, with a cumulative time of 25 hours 20 minutes and 40 seconds.
Batsub also had the distinction of being the first BATSUB team to ever win a prize in the Ruta Maya, even though BATSUB teams have competed in the Ruta Maya since it began.
Francisca Phaender has paddled every Ruta Maya since it began, dominating the female division with her sisters, so this year she teamed up with Andreas Cobb, and Eric Cano to form the Koop Sheet Metal team which won the mixed team division to capture a $200 prize. They crossed the finish line sixth but finished fifth overall with a cumulative time of 18 hours 26 minutes and 43 seconds.
Janice Leslie and Justin and Eldon Sanchez in their “Lost and Found” canoe, sponsored by Duke Marine, crossed the finish line in 10th position and placed second in the Mixed division, with a cumulative time of 19 hours 10 minutes and 25 seconds.
The third mixed team was the Coast Guard Cutter, which crossed the finish line in 13th position.
The St Ignatius High School team of Sergio Lopez, Byron Cruz and Alfred Lopez, won the intramural division, finishing 12th on the fourth day with a cumulative time of 19 hours 26 minutes and 23 seconds.
The University of Belize “Jaguars” team placed second in the intramural division, crossing the finish line 16th with a cumulative time of 19 hours 49 minutes and 58 seconds.
Darry, Jeffery and Juan Carillo of the Mopan/Border management team won third place in the intramural division finishing 21st.
Jerome Ingram and Neri Waight of the Crimefighters team sponsored by the Police Department, recruited Evelio Flores of the Print Belize team. Flores had helped to dominate the pleasure division in the past, and this time they won the division, finishing 20th.
Jesus Cruz, Rudolph Gentle and Javier Guardado of Print Belize team placed second in Pleasure canoe division, even though they crossed the finish line ahead of the Crimefighters, but Police had the better cumulative time.
Jerry Cante, Elmer and Homer Cruz in the Westrac Auto Parts canoe, paddled across the finish line in 15th position, but placed third in the pleasure division on overall time.
The Searle brothers, Mike and Johnny “Watt”, and Jim Scott paddled their “Watt a Ting” canoe to win the Masters division in 20 hours 57 minutes and 44 seconds even though they finished 27th overall. The Cottonmouth team was the second masters team to finish in 35th position, and the perennial paddlers, the Grumpy Old Men: Dennis Johnson, Joe Fuzy and Jerry Wilkins had to settle for third among the Masters, finishing 38th overall.
The Belize Postal Services team of Keron Cabb, Efrain Quemell and Braulio Zetina won the dory division, even though they finished 18th overall. The other dory team of Belize Press Office did not finish the race.
The Hell Raisers team was one of the last canoes to finish the race, but won the Family Division. An award for perseverance went to the Triple S team.
Ruta Maya organizer Orlando Harrison Jr thanked BATSUB for its outstanding contribution and professionalism as time keepers for the race from the day it began in 1999, with a tinge of regret. BATSUB is downsizing its presence in Belize, and most likely will not be here for the next Ruta Maya River Challenge.