Even with my feet planted firmly on the ground, the excitement rolled off in waves from the Punnamada Lake in Kerala. The 67th Nehru Trophy Boat Race may be the cause of the energy, but this year, it is a lot more palpable with the introduction of the Champions Boat League.
And while there is always much to do in Kerala; especially with the gorgeous scenery and Onam hovering (Try the delectable Onam Sadhya), I was glued to my spot next to the lake, soaking in every bit of energy that I could.
For this new league, the stage was the lake itself. Small boats ushered in with speed if only to test the waters. Then, as more people began to settle in, the skies tore open with rain. Though it hardly made a difference to the audience and the participants, a sharp focus on the anjili-wood boats was all people needed. CBL was inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.
The boat race itself is not a new concept, for every year teams come together to participate in these races at a local level. Now, taken up and organised by Kerala Tourism, they will get standardised and get the recognition they deserve. The CBL, which was originally supposed to start on 10 August, was shifted to 31 August due to heavy rains.
With nine teams and 12 races on schedule, the heats began. Long snake boats came in rows, each holding about 100 oarsmen and around four helmsmen. The drums beat in earnest (every boat had a separate contingent with drums on them). The oars, made of wood and coconut, cut through the waters with swift expertise. A Battle for the Backwaters, indeed.
Tropical Titans of Pallathuruthi Boat Club, Alappuzha won the first round of CBL and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, with Coast Dominators (United Boat Club) and Raging Rowers (Police Boat Club) securing second and third positions, respectively. The winners finished the race in 4.25.83 minutes covering a distance of 1,050 metres.
And the celebration? Well, the excitement was enough to make the winners dive into the waters! Chanting aarpo ro ro ro they swam their way to victory.
After the first leg of the league, the teams are set to meet again on September 7 in Kottayam and the races will go on till November 23. The tickets for the race can be booked on Book My Show and are also available at the venue.
Within minutes of the final race of the day, everything dispersed. The majestic boats retreated, and the crowds pulled from the lakeside, trudging along the water-logged streets with infinite ease. There is a simplicity about the Champions Boat League--not just the boat and teams, everything about the race is fast and elegant.