The placid surface of Vellayani Lake broke into a thousand ripples as the oarsmen dug into the water to the rhythm of drums and the cheers of supporters thronging the banks. Responding to the powerful strokes, the boats leaped to life, surging ahead.

The oarsmen, donning vests and shorts in different colours, strained hard in a bid to best their rivals. The 38th edition of the boat race for the Sri Ayyankali trophy held on the lake on Saturday evening provided an adrenalin rush for the competing teams and onlookers alike.

The organisers had pulled out all the stops to make the event attractive. Floats, with ceremonial tinsel umbrellas and drums, made a colourful spectacle.

12 teams

As many as 12 teams participated in the race in three different categories.

The Thekkekara Chundan captained by Kakkamoola Chandran bagged the Sri Ayyankali ever-rolling Minister's trophy and cash prize of Rs.15,000 in category 1.

The Kakkamoola Chundan team led by B. Gireesh won the T. Thampi memorial ever-rolling trophy and cash award of Rs.7,000 in category 2. The Solomon memorial ever-rolling trophy and cash prize of Rs.3,500 in the category 3 event went to the Thekkekara Chundan captained by Arun Chandran.

Earlier, Speaker G. Karthikeyan flagged off the race from Palapoor.

The organisers claim that the 2.5 km course is the longest for a boat race in the State.

A large crowd had turned up at Thrikulangara to witness the finish.

Water sports

Addressing a public function held to mark the start of the race, Jalotsava Committee Trust general convener Punchakari G. Raveendran Nair stressed the need to promote aqua tourism and water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, and long-distance swimming on Vellayani Lake.

He called for the construction of a floating stage on the lake to host cultural programmes and a viewers' gallery on the banks.

Mr. Nair urged the government to take immediate steps to check encroachments on the lake. He reiterated the demand to construct a hanging bridge across the lake to replace the Kakkamoola bund.

Speaker's promise

Mr. Karthikeyan promised to use his influence to realise the demands raised by the trust.

Mayor K. Chandrika; Jameela Prakasam, MLA; district panchayat vice-president Rufus Daniel; Jalotsava Committee Trust chairman R. Mosa and general secretary S. Babu; and programme committee convener Vellayani Ponnappan were present.