It offers a source of income for cash-strapped boat clubs and hundreds of rowers
Snake-shaped boats (snakeboats or Chundan Vallams), powered by over 100 mighty oarsmen, cleaving through backwaters and rivers in tremendous speed to the harmonious strains of Vanchipattu and the cheering of people is a spectacle to behold.
Now, transforming the traditional snakeboat races to a global sporting event is the Champions Boat League (CBL), hosted by Kerala Tourism. With the completion of nine races and just three more to go in the inaugural edition of the CBL, the event is turning out to be a hit by drawing huge crowds and helping to reinvigorate the backwater tourism sector.
15 lakh spectators
According to the Tourism Department, the average attendance at the CBL races stood above one lakh. “Around 15 lakh spectators, including foreigners, have turned out to watch the first nine races in the CBL held in different parts of the State. It is helping to revive the flood-hit tourism sector in the State. Races are being broadcast live, which helps promote the event outside the State,” T.G. Abhilash Kumar, deputy director, Tourism Department, told The Hindu.
The CBL is also proving to be a source of income for cash-strapped boat clubs and hundreds of rowers. “Previously, only the Nehru Trophy Boat Race attracted enthusiasm. However, the CBL has changed the face of the snakeboat races. Apart from promoting the sport as a whole, it is benefiting boat clubs, rowers, and boat owners. The rowers are paid better,” said Manoj P., leading captain of the Pallathuruthy Boat Club.
With a total prize money of ₹5.9-crore, the CBL is ranked the fourth highest in all sports in India. The first three winners of each CBL match will get ₹5 lakh, ₹3 lakh, and ₹1 lakh respectively. All participants are entitled to a bonus prize of ₹4 lakh per match.
The Tourism Department plans to make the CBL a ₹150-crore event in five years. “Before the second edition, we hope to conduct an auction for franchisee acquisition,” said a Tourism Department official.
The 10th leg of the CBL will be held at Kayamkulam on Saturday. The other races will be held at Kallada (November 16) and the President’s Trophy Boat Race (November 23) in Kollam.