09 November 2012

Race History

Written by BCAnoe!

In the old days, the tiny British colony of British Honduras, had very few vehicles and even fewer roads. The old lorries used for goods transport, traveled on bushwacked tracks carved into the jungle. During the dry season, February to May, these trucks slowly and painstakingly traveled the country delivering much needed supplies. On a good day, they might travel 30 miles; the trip from Belize City to El Cayo (now called San Ignacio) would take 2 long days. I hate to image how far they traveled on a bad day! The rest of the year, while torrential downpours turned the jungle tracks to soup, this tiny colony depended on the river boats to bring food, medicine, and news from the outside world.

Some of you may have seen the movie "African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The old steam boat, African Queen, is very similar to the ones once used throughout Belize.

Beside these river boats, which would make the trip to San Ignacio in a week if the river was high and longer if it was very low, dorys (canoe dug from a single log) plied the rivers trading goods and stories! In fact, dories became so plentiful that races were organized. From one-man dory races to eight-man and more! They are old photos of long dories with 15 to 20 men racing against others similarly manned.

Rivalries between San Ignacio and Gales Point Manatee were the strongest as they were the most powerful paddlers. Vieing for the title each year, amazing feats were accomplished by muscle-bound athletes. Once in a while, another village might capture the title, but this was few and far between.

As vehicles became more plentiful and roads became better, fewer riverboats and dories were made. In 1975, when we came to Belize, a handful of dories still existed and the river boats were gone. Races had long since ceased. Rivers were no longer cleared of flood-debris and life in Belize changed.

But over the years, one even struggled to stay alive. On March 9th, a few races would be held. Nothing too serious. Nothing practiced for. No special attention given.

Then in 1997 that all changed... A young Belizean of Spanish heritage, Luis Garcia, who was interested in ecology and involved anti-litter campaigns in the Cayo District held a small canoe race called the "Down and Up". It would start on the Mopan River and participants would paddle down the river to "Branch Mouth" where it joined with the Macal River. At that point, the canoers would paddle upstream to San Ignacio. The first to arrive at the Hawksworth Bridge was declared the winner!

In 1998, Luis wanted to develop another race. One that would go from San Ignacio to Belmopan or perhaps even Belize City. While making plans for a race from San Ignacio to Belmopan, a local entrepreneur phoned Luis about launching a new product and using Luis's radio station to advertize this product. He mentioned that he would like to make an event of the occasion, possibly a horse race from San Ignacio to Orange Walk through the jungles of the Yalbac Mountain Range. Luis came up with the idea of combining the launch of this product with his canoe race. What an idea!

A few other friends were invited and after discussion, it was decided to make it a cross country canoe race: from San Ignacio to Belize City. A committee was formed and the race was put together in short order. Date: 4 days long ending on the March 9th Holiday!

Thus, the first ever "La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge".

News Flash

Canoe Registration

The Coast Guard will be assisting BCAnoe with canoe registration and life jackets / PFD inspection. This is to ensure that your life jackets and / or PFDs are serviceable. This will be done at the time of registration of your canoe. Only inspected life jackets and/or PFD that have been tagged will be able to be worn during our events.


Articles and Race Rules

At the Members Meeting held on November 24, 2012. Those present decided to accepted the Articles of Association and the 2013 Race Rules as was presented!.  Both are available on the site.