Kainakary decks up to host CBL this weekend, as race returns to Alappuzha belt
Ending its three-round itinerary in central Kerala, Champions Boat League (CBL) is set to return to the state’s heartland of water-races this Saturday when Kainakary in this coastal district will host the eighth leg of the three-month event concluding next month.
Celebrated for its scenic beauty, the Vembanad lake would be the venue for the nine snake-boats to vie yet another time for honours at the 12-leg championships being organised by Kerala Tourism. The non-saline water body has five rivers draining into the tip of Kainakary, which has a tradition of boat races.
Located in Kuttanad taluk which is India’s lowest altitude region, Kainakary has the added fame for being among the world’s very few farmlands lying below the sea level. Amid bountiful rains this monsoon, the village looks forward to seeing the belt’s snake-boats competing for prize monies totalling Rs 5.9 crores that make CBL the country’s fourth highest-paid sporting event.
Currently, Tropical Titans remain atop the CBL table with 98 points, followed by Raging Rowers and Mighty Oars sharing the second spot with 47 points each. Given that CBL rules don’t give the following team a third position in such a situation, Coast Dominators (42) rank fourth at the end of the seventh round.
The participants, much like the spectators, have realised that each millisecond counts in CBL. At the previous round in Kottappuram of Thrissur district on October 19, the final race saw a photo-finish. Tropical Titans did retain their winning streak (which was broken in Kochi on October 5), but it required camera assistance to confirm the evening’s second and third: Backwater Knights (3:40.01) and Mighty Oars (3:41.13).
Adding to the excitement were spirited post-heat races. The losers’ finals saw Raging Rowers clock 3:41.76, just milliseconds ahead of Coast Dominators (3:41.84) and Pride Chasers (3:41.85). Close finishes were the highlight of the second losers’ finals as well.
That venue at Muziris Heritage Waterfront, near Kodungallur, hosted back-to-back CBL rounds, unexpectedly. For, organisers found certain stretches up to the originally scheduled Ponnani in Malappuram district unnavigable for the snake-boats. In the October 12 Kottappuram round, too, Tropical Titans were the victors, with Raging Rowers and Backwater Knights finishing second and third amid a drizzle.
“It’s now clear that not even the leading teams can afford to be complacent,” notes a top Kerala Tourism official. “Quite a few races had their results decided by a whisker.”
For now, Pride Chasers and Backwater Knights share the fifth position with 34 points each. In the seventh rank is Backwater Warriors (21), followed by Thunder Oars (19) and Backwater Ninjas (14).
Any round’s topper secures Rs 5 lakh, while the first runner-up gets Rs 3 lakh and the second runner-up Rs 1 lakh. All participating teams are entitled to Rs 4 lakh per round. The overall CBL winner gets Rs 25 lakh, followed by Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the second and third prize winners.
The CBL rounds held invariably on Saturdays are, typically, enriched with local races for smaller-category boats besides the staging of folk, classical and contemporary arts.
The post-Kainakary schedule goes thus: November 2 (Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha district), November 9 (Kayamkulam, Alappuzha), November 16 (Kallada, Kollam district) and November 23 (Kollam, President’s Trophy Boat Race).
Earlier this month, the fifth leg of the ongoing CBL was held in Kochi (Marine Drive, Ernakulam), before Piravom (September 28), Karuvatta (Sep 14), Thazhathangadi (Kottayam, Sep 7) and Alappuzha (Punnamada, Aug 31).
The races are being broadcast live. Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Asianet Worldwide, Asianet Plus, Hotstar, ETV Andhra Pradesh and ETV Telangana will continue to beam the future CBL rounds live for an hour from 4 pm.
The CBL (www.championsboatleague.in), billed as a game-changing initiative, seeks to professionalise Kerala’s largely scattered snake-boat races, while commercialising them without losing the conventional spirit.
Tickets can be booked online through ‘Book my Show’ platform, besides outlets that facilitate spot purchase of tickets. The prices range from Rs 200 to 2,000.