The 180-mile Ruta Maya Belize Canoe Competition is currently ranked number 40 of the “Peak 100” Toughest Races in the world!
Every year on the Friday morning of the Sovereigns day weekend (March 7th in lieu of the 9th this year) both amateur and professional teams of rowers from Belize and elsewhere gather to participate in the “La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge”. This four day endurance canoe race is the only of its sort in this region and pits the teams of three against the rigours and surprises of navigating the Macal and Belize rivers.
Historically, La Ruta Maya (spanish for “The Mayan Trail”) gets its name because it retraces the steps of the ancient Maya travellers from Caracol, Cahal Pech and Xunantunich, among others, used to paddle to reach the sea with the aim of trading with the cities up the coast in Belize and even modern day Quintana Roo.
About 18 years ago on a day like today the first historical tribute to these brave, long gone merchants was organised and sponsored by a local orange juice company. The race is open and welcomes paddlers in both competing and pleasure craft categories, and international participants as well.
Teams consist of three paddlers who must have boarded their craft and been in the water by the time the horn blows and in the true spirit of endurance sport, no substitutions allowed. The race is broken into 4 legs, the longest being the second, which the most competitive teams clear in sometimes no more than 3.5 hours. The Starting line is in San Ignacio town, under the historic Hawkesworth Bridge, which makes for very scenic views of the starting lineup and by the end of the weekend each canoe would have traversed 170 miles of Belizean river, rapid and bends.
Over the years the race grown to see up to and over 120 unique canoes in competitions with notable mentions like BATSUB and the Belize Bank, Pine Lumber and Coop Sheet Metal teams all vying for that coveted first place. Winning isn’t everything, however, as anyone who has paddled from start to finish will proudly say “I survived La Ruta Maya River Challenge!” and proud they should be!
On the less competitive side of it all, La Ruta Maya has grown to become an environmental awareness event, as well as a tourist attraction, and quite the party for support teams and on-lookers. Schools and NGOs assist the event by providing pollution awareness to both their members and general public by cleaning up the river banks as the race makes it scheduled stops.
And of course, safety is always a priority; the canoes are not out there alone, a full complement of support boats accompany them coordinated with support vehicles on the ground in the case of any mishap with a team.
Behind the scenes there’s an electric energy shared by all the spectators, followers and support staff as avid fans drive through Belize’s highways and snaking back roads to find the river banks to catch these astounding athletes gliding through the water. Fans follow it on the radio, a constant stream of media both social and published stream images to eager on-lookers who cannot attend in person all jointly compose the always awaited buzz of this weekend’s events.
So as has been done since 1998, on the 18th anniversary of La Ruta Maya, 60 teams lined up under the Hawkesworth in hopes to paddle their way ahead to the finish line in Belize City on Monday, carrying with them all the excitement and long awaited fun. So to all the teams, good luck, and have a safe, fun filled weekend!
This blog is live and will be updated over the course of the competition with the latest photos and statistics.
Day 1 Statistics:
- Koop Sheet Metal – 4 hrs 44 mins. 53 sec.
- BTL Cobbs Arm – 4 hrs 45 mins. 9 sec.
- Belize Bank Bulldogs – 4 hrs 47 mins. 16 sec.
- NICH – 4 hrs 47 mins. 19 sec.
- Westrac – 4 hrs 51 mins. 16 sec.
Day 2 Statistics:
- Koop Sheet Metal – 5 hrs 21 mins. 05 sec.
- BTL Cobbs Arm – 5 hrs 21 mins. 24 sec.
- Belize Bank Bulldogs – 5 hrs 22 mins. 53 sec.
- NICH – 5 hrs 24 mins. 8 sec.
- Westrac – 5hrs 21 mins. 4 sec.
Day 3 Statistics:
- Koop Sheet Metal – 4 hrs 22 mins. 22 sec.
- BTL Cobbs Arm – 4 hrs 22 mins. 44 sec.
- Belize Bank Bulldogs – 4 hrs 22 mins. 24 sec.
- NICH – 4 hrs 22 mins. 30 sec.
- Westrac – 4hrs 22 mins. 45 sec.
Day 4 Statistics:
- Koop Sheet Metal – 2 hrs 40 mins. 26 sec.
- BTL Cobbs Arm – 2 hrs 41 mins. 07 sec.
- Belize Bank Bulldogs – 2 hrs 40 mins. 40 sec.
- NICH – 2 hrs 40 mins. 59 sec.
- Westrac – 2hrs 40 mins. 58 sec.