Champions Boat League, modelled on IPL, set to roll on September 4

The 12-leg Champions Boat League snake-boat races will end in November will resume after a Covid-induced gap of 2 years

It’s time to gear up for the IPL-modelled Champions Boat League (CBL). The second edition of the CBL will be held from September 4 to November 26 in 12 venues across five districts in Kerala. The inaugural leg of the snake-boat races will be held at Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha alongside the iconic Nehru Trophy Boat Race on September 4, Kerala’s Tourism Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas said.

Concluding with the famed President’s Trophy in Kollam on November 26, CBL-2 is being organised by Kerala Tourism as consecutive weekend events — after the inaugural at the sprawling Punnamada Lake, 50 km south of Kollam city in southern part of the state. CBL-2, like its first edition held in 2019 on the lines of the Indian Premier League in cricket, will have half its legs in Alappuzha district, two each in Kollam and Ernakulam districts and one each in Thrissur and Kottayam districts.

The venues in Alappuzha will be Pulinkunnu, Kainakary, Karuvatta, Pandanadu (Chengannur) and Kayamkulam, besides the district headquarter city. Piravom and Marine Drive will be the venues in Ernakulam, while Kollam town and Kallada will be those in Kollam district. Thazhathangadi (Kottayam) and Kottapuram (near Kodungallur in Thrissur district) are the other venues.

Besides, there will be an allied round, featuring a competition of small boats, at the Chaliyar river in Kozhikode district, said Riyas, who unveiled the new jerseys of the nine CBL teams.

CBL began in 2019 in the presence of Sachin Tendulkar

The final, which is set to be held at the scenic Ashtamudi Lake, is 60 km north of the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram. The debut CBL edition, which was flagged off by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the presence of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar in August 2019, featured nine teams and carried prize money totaling Rs 5.86 crore. Tropical Titans (traditionally Pallathuruthy Boat Club) turned out to be the winners by scoring 173 points, followed by Raging Rowers (Karichal) and Mighty Oars (NCDC Devas). Together, the three toppers bagged Rs 1.31 crore in CBL-1.

Raging Rowers got Rs 82 lakh in total, while Mighty Oars earned Rs 69 lakh as the second runners-up. Coast Dominators (fourth) got Rs 59 lakh, Backwater Knights (fifth) Rs 52 lakh and Pride Chasers (sixth) Rs 49 lakh. The teams that got the minimum assured Rs 48 lakh were Backwater Warriors (seventh), Thunder Oars (eighth) and Backwater Ninjas (ninth).

Snake-boats have seven centuries of history, starting with an order of Chembakassery principality’s 14th-century king Devanarayanan to design wooden vessels with its one prow rising in the shape of a reptile’s hood. The ruler won the battle in the sprawling backwaters, earning more reputation to the 138-foot-long boats as multipurpose carriers too. The looks of the boat made from wild jackfruit tree remain unchanged in the present times; only that CBL rules permit the number of rowers to be between 80 and 100 (when the capacity can be 150).

Champions Boat League
Representatives of the 9 teams for the upcoming IPL-model Champions Boat League pose for a picture

Champions Boat League boosts state’s legacy of snake-boat races

Kerala has a string of local boat races, but the first among them to gain national notice was named Nehru Trophy Boat Race (NTBR). That was in 1952, when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was accorded welcome as the chief guest at the boat-race on the Punnamada Lake in water-logged Kuttanad. So excited was Nehru on seeing the racing boats that he got into one of them and went on to donate a silver trophy before returning to Delhi.

If Nehru Trophy Boat Race subsequently earned Kerala international fame, CBL has further strengthened the state’s legacy of snake-boat races. Though conceived as annual event, the CBL missed its 2020 and 2021 editions owing to the outbreak of Covid-19.

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