COVID-19 casts a shadow over boat races

Nadubhagom Chundan, rowed by the Pallathuruthy Boat Club (Tropical Titans), emerges winners of the first season of the Champions Boat League at Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam on November 23, 2019.  

It is that time of year when snakeboat teams conduct rigorous training in the backwaters of Kuttanad to the chanting of aarpo irro irro.... and the harmonious strains of Vanchipattu. But, the backwaters around the villages in Kuttanad are quiet this time.

Watch | COVID-19 pandemic delays Kerala’s boat races

The spectacle of 140-ft-long snakeboats (chundan vallams), crewed by around 100 oarsmen, darting over the water to the zestful cheering of crowds is likely to be missed during this boat race season, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic playing spoilsport.


Much to the dismay of boat race buffs, the Champakulam Moolam boat race, the season opener, will not be held on July 4.

“It is not possible to organise the race ensuring physical-distancing norms. However, we may still conduct the necessary rituals associated with the race. A final decision on it will be taken on Wednesday,” says A.V. Murali, convener, Moolam Boat Race Committee.

The conduct of other small and big races including the Nehru trophy boat race, known as Kuttanad’s Olympics on water, and the fate of the second season of the Champions Boat League (CBL) hang in the balance.

“At present, no discussions are taking place regarding the conduct of the Nehru trophy, also the first race of the CBL. Given the present situation, it is very unlikely that the race will be held on the second Saturday of August. It is possible the race will be rescheduled to a later stage. However, it depends on improvement in the pandemic situation. We should also consider the health of rowers and spectators,” says an official associated with the conduct of the race.

CBL hit

According to an official with the Tourism Department, the process of franchisee acquisitions of CBL teams has come to a halt due to the pestilence. Although some of the boat clubs have recruited rowers several months ago, they remain less optimistic about races taking place anytime soon.

“It is not possible to conduct races with 100 rowers in a snakeboat due to the prevailing situation. I don’t see boat races happening soon,” says, V. Jayaprasad, president, Pallathuruthy Boat Club, the winner of the maiden CBL season.

S. Jayakumar, secretary, Karichal Chundan Vallam Samithi, says the cancellation of the races would result in a dip in their revenue.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 3:04:55 PM |

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