Belize Bank “Spartans” paddle to win 4th eco-challenge

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 18            May 1, 2008

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And they’re off!!

First place winners, Belize Bank’s Amin & Amando.

TIDES GALS – first place winners – Females!

Second place – Ambergris Divers’ Under Pressure team.

Humid conditions made for a tough second day of paddling. For some it was a close race!

Crowds gather at the shores to watch for the incoming paddlers.

Searious Adventures sent out three teams! Good job!

The anticipated 4th Annual Lagoon Eco-Challenge Kayak Race was a smashing hit over the weekend and saw the veteran adventure racers Armin Lopez and Amando Cruz paddle to a repeat victory for the second consecutive year, ultimately taking the eco-challenge kayak race title and grand prize.

    The canoe race which takes paddlers through a snaky trail of channels and mangrove patches is one of the major events organized by Seaduced and Hol Chan that culminates with the commemorating of the Reef Week festivities. On Saturday, April 26th, twenty seven kayaks and fifty one racers embraced the challenge and early on Saturday morning, teams were seen preparing for the 42 mile endurance race. A large crowd had gathered at the starting point area to watch the starting of the race, and at the sound of an air horn, they were off! A mad dash to gain a lead ensued, but the leader card from the get go was team Ambergris Divers who had pulled away from the rest. The veterans Lopez and Cruz who are no stranger to extreme endurance challenges such as the La Ruta Maya arrived at the starting line too late, therefore had to work extra to catch up to the rest. But, these are professionals we are dealing with and in no time the dynamic duo was neck to neck with the Ambergris Divers team hounding for the position. At the end of six grueling hours, the first canoes started to arrive at the camp base which was Robles Point. With a day one placement in the professional category of six hours, thirty three minutes and forty four seconds, Lopez and Cruz cruised pass the first leg of the race edging out the “Under Pressure” guys by two minutes and fourteen seconds. In the Amateur division after day one, Tranquility Bay’s “No Mercy” team was the first to reach the line in six hours, fifty five minutes and thirty nine seconds. The “Tides Gals”, one of two female teams that embraced the challenge finished the first leg in eight hours, ten minutes and fifty nine seconds. Camp itself was a welcomed interval from the sea, with some delicious, specially prepared El Fogon food. The general camaraderie around camp kept everyone’s spirits up.

    The next day, after a remarkably refreshing rest and despite some sore arms, and back aches, the weather was a scorching hot one that truly pushed every paddler’s endurance and stamina to the test. The last 13 miles of the race might have sounded like nothing compared to the previous day’s mile log, but once out on the water; the wear and tear came on full blast. Once again, the veteran “Spartans”, who carried the name “Whe deh pan line” last year, was in tight race with their adversary of Ambergris Divers, but after several strong strokes by the visiting duo, they managed to pull away and take a one minute lead. With a reassuring crowd waiting in the wings at the Central Park at the first eco-challenge block party, Armin Lopez and Amando Cruz finished the race in a total time of nine hours, twenty five minutes and forty seven seconds (9:25:47) to take the grand prize and coveted eco-challenge title. A close second went to the hard working boys of the “under Pressure” crew, Oscar Cardon and Aroldo Lopez who finished the race in nine hours, thirty one minutes and forty six seconds (9:31:46). Top three teams in the Double male Amateur category were Joe Garcia and Jose Villamil of team “No Mercy” who recorded a total time of ten hours and one second (10:00:01). Sueño del Mar’s “Dream Team” which includes Mariano Pech and Jorge Bautista saw them take second place with a total time of ten hours, four minutes and thirty seconds. In the female class, the two brave teams showed much determination to complete the race and they did just that. First place went to Ana Cruz and Francisca Cruz of the “Tides Gals” of Tides Beach Resort, who finished the race in a total time of eleven hours, forty nine minutes and thirty four seconds. Whilst, the Reef Radio Girls gave it all they had, they finished the race in ten twelve hours, fifty nine minutes and fifty one seconds. Way to go teams!

    Race winners did not leave empty handed instead received handsome prizes including $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 and a sunset cruise for fourth place winners in the amateur division respectively. In the ladies division, best team received $1,500 and an overnight stay at Victoria House, $750 for second and $500 for third place. For the Professional teams, the dynamic duo Armin Lopez and Amando Cruz who hail from Santa Elena, Cayo, took home a handsome cash prize of $3,000 plus a canoe worth $1,800 that comes courtesy of Captain Sharks. Ambergris Divers, “Under Pressure” took home $2,000 in cash plus $700 gift package from Portofino and two round trip tickets on Tropic Air. Whilst, Carlos Ramirez and Godfrey Alford of team “Rising Tide” in Toledo took $1,000 plus two nights stay at Corona del Mar and two round trip tickets on Tropic Air. Other consolation prizes including best sportsmanship, most grumpy award and most creative were handed out to other teams.

    During the first ever block party at the Park, enthusiasts and party goers were entertained with music from DJ Habo, scrumptious food from several businesses and $5 beer. And although the Reef Week 2008 festivities have culminated and the challenge only a lingering memory, plans to next years event is underway. The race provided a fun way to help promote the conservation of the island’s natural beauty. Huge thanks go out to the amazingly supportive community and the unfailing assistance from its sponsors. For those ahead of the game, thanks to all the sponsors, participants, organizers and everybody that contributed to the race’s continuous success!
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