Cutting through the 1.1-km-long race track on the Ashtamudi Lake with captivating speed, the Sree Ganesh snake-boat of Saint Francis Boat Club, Kollam, won the maiden President's Trophy and a cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.
The boat's oarsmen were thrilled as they defeated this year's Nehru Trophy winner, Devas , of Jesus Boat Club, Kollam, in the finals.
The races began on an exciting note, watched by thousands of spectators from the banks of the lake. But a heavy downpour, when the finals were about to start, dampened the spirit. The oarsmen, however, did not belie the expectations of the spectators and gave their best.
Sixteen snake boats took part in the event, and the four finalists were selected from four heats. Devas came second and got a cash prize of Rs.75,000, and Anari Chundan of Thiruvarpu Boat Club, Kottayam, came third and took home Rs.50,000. The four finalists were given a bonus of Rs.1.5 lakh each.
Though Karichal of Sangham Kannetti, Karunagapally, the 13-time winner of the Nehru Trophy, came first in the fourth heats, the boat was disqualified for cutting across the track. Anari Chundan , which came second in the heats, thus entered the finals.
The winners in the races of Veppu ‘A' and ‘B' grade boats and the Iruttukuthi grade boats were also given cash prizes.
President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the race. She arrived at the venue soon after the heats.
In her address, the President said that boat races were an old tradition in Kerala, a part of the social, economic, religious, and cultural life of its people.
Ms. Patil said she was glad that the race here was launched with the active participation of people and the support of the Union and the State governments. She commended the organisers, particularly N. Peethambara Kurup, MP.
The President expressed the hope that a spirit of unity and determination would encourage the organisers to conduct the race every year on a particular day with more vigour and participation, taking it to the level of an internationally reputable event.
Delivering the keynote address, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that participating in the launch of the boat race was witnessing a historic moment. This was because the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha, launched by the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was now a big event in the country.
He said there was no doubt that the President's Trophy Boat Race launched by the President herself would soon become a major event in the country. The State government would extend all help for its conduct in the coming years.
On behalf of the people of Kollam, Mayor Prasanna Earnest handed over a memento to the President.
Ms. Patil presented the President's Trophy and the cash prize in cheque to the captain of the Sree Ganesh boat, K. Arun Kumar. Mr. Peethambara Kurup welcomed the gathering.