Who doesn’t know about Kerala’s famed Nehru Trophy Boat Races? In 2019, the famed race became the first water sport formatted on the lines of IPL cricket and is christened the Champions Boat League (CBL). Billed as a game-changing initiative, the CBL seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit.
Nine CBL snakeboats raced ahead with rhythmic rows of oarsmen cheered by an enthusiastic crowd along the banks of the sprawling Punnamada lake in this coastal city, splashing blue waters in a spirited competition. In the first leg, Pallathuruthi Boat Club won the 67th Nehru Boat Race and also the first race of the maiden CBL at Alappuzha as the pioneering three-month sporting event got off to a racy start in the sprawling Punnamada Lake here.
Kerala CM hailed the pioneering boat league as an event that reinforces the spirit of unity among people. “True, you compete with each other with your boats. But at the end of the day, it is all about harmonious relationship between us human beings,” he noted.
Sachin Tendulkar, tthe batting legedn said, the CBL marks the turn of a new leaf in the history of Kerala’s boat races. “I have led teams where the players’ number totals 16, while it is around 100 in a boat race. That requires tremendous understanding between the members and skills of coordination from the part of the captain,” added the 46-year-old winner of the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s top-most civilian honour.
Hailing the gender equality seen in the boat-races, Tendulkar said, “I see a lot of women rowing the boats here. It’s very encouraging. Women are not just to manage the kitchen. A healthy woman at home means a healthy family. That happens only when you venture out of your home and bond well with the public at large.”
The CBL’s inauguration was marked by water adventure sports that included jet ski flyboard and paragliding. Kerala Tourism Minister also hailed the CBL as an eminent product that will help the state brighten its four months of off-season from June marked by monsoon rains. “Tourism provides Kerala with 10 per cent of its GDP. We plan to raise the sector’s contribution to 13 per cent in a couple of years,” he added.
The top CBL winner of every leg is entitled to Rs 5 lakh, followed by Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh. While all participants are entitled to a bonus prize of Rs 4 lakh per match, the three-month boat league has prize monies totalling Rs 5.9 crore which ranks CBL India’s fourth-highest paid in all sports.