Kochi: The third edition of the Champions Boat League (CBL) made a rousing start on Saturday as thousands of boat race enthusiasts, including foreign tourists, lined up on the banks of Marine Drive in Kochi to watch the spectacular snake boats (chundan vallams) sliding over the emerald backwaters.
Veeyapuram Chundan, paddled by Pallathuruthy Boat Club (PBC), leads the CBL points table by winning the first round, defeating Nadubhagam Chundan (UBC-Kainakary) and Niranam Chundan (NCDC Boat Club). Karichal Chundan, rowed by Punnamada Boat Club, won the Loser’s Final.
The club garnering maximum points at the end of the season will lift the coveted trophy. PBC, which won the prestigious Nehru Trophy Boat Race on August 12, is in top form and took a firm grip on achieving a hat-trick of wins in the Champions Boat League after winning the trophies in the inaugural edition in 2019 and the second edition in 2022.
The next three months will witness boat races to be held at 11 different venues across the state before concluding in Kollam on December 9.
Nine chundan vallams (majestic snake boats) and 16 Iruttukuthy vallams (small boats) participated in the first round of ‘Season Three’ today. The colourful mass drill was held at 3.15 pm amid loud cheering from spectators and the reverberation of ‘Vanchipattu’ (traditional boat songs). The race kicked off at 3.30 pm with the heat rounds of Iruttukuthy Vallams (‘A’ Grade).
Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas inaugurated the annual regatta, modelled after the Indian Premier League (IPL), online from Kozhikode.
Riyas noted that the main objective of the IPL-modelled event was to attract tourists from across the world. The state’s tourism graph is continuously rising post-COVID as the state witnessed record tourist arrivals in the first half of the year.
“An all-time record 1.06 crore domestic tourists arrived in the first two quarters of the year as against 88.95 lakh last year. There is a 20% hike in domestic tourist arrivals alone. The international tourist footfalls too have gone up, with 2.87 lakh tourists arriving in the first quarter this time,” the minister said, adding the CBL will be held at more places, including the northern parts of the state, in the coming years.
Industries Minister P Rajeev presided over the function.
The decision to hold the first round at Ernakulam was taken only a couple of weeks ago. The organizing committee, however, managed to complete all arrangements, including the dredging of the racing area. Last time, a boat got stuck in sand along the one-km-long racing track.
The first edition was held in 2019, however, the CBL missed its 2020 and 2021 editions due to the pandemic outbreak. Tropical Titans (Nadubhagom Chundan rowed by Pallathuruthy Boat Club) won the inaugural edition in 2019 and they retained the trophy three years later when they rowed Mahadevikad Kattil Thekkethil.
The remaining events scheduled in the race calendar are: Kottappuram in Thrissur on September 23, Piravom in Ernakulam on September 30, Tazhathangadi in Kottayam on October 7, Pulinkunnu in Alappuzha on October 14, Kainakary in Alappuzha on October 21, Karuvatta in Alappuzha on October 28, Pandanadu, Chengannur, in Alappuzha on November 11, Kayamkulam in Alappuzha on November 18, Kallada in Kollam on November 25 and the President’s Trophy in Kollam on December 9.
As in the previous editions, the 69th edition of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race (NTBR) held on August 12 on the Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha marked the opening leg of the event. The top nine teams and boats during the last edition of the NTBR have automatically qualified for the opening round this time.