Rowboats and sailboats virtually crawled 1,900-3,100 km on land for more than a fortnight to participate in a regatta at a mountain lake in Meghalaya.
Twenty-two rowing and sailing clubs from across India are participating at the Rising Sun Water Sports Championship organised by the Kolkata-based headquarters of the Army’s Eastern Command in collaboration with the Meghalaya government at Umiam Lake from November 3-5. This is the first such event in the northeast, known more for white-water rafting on fast-flowing rivers.
About 20 km short of Meghalaya capital Shillong, Umiam is a 220 sq. km man-made reservoir at a little below 1,000 metres or 3,200 feet above sea level.
“We began planning for the event a few months ago factoring in the time it would take to make it happen. The boats had to be transported in long, modified trucks from places 1,875 km to 3,150 km away,” a Colonel of the Army’s 21 Mountain Division said, declining to be quoted.
The average overall length of monohull sailboats is 30 ft and the average length at waterline — span of a boat at the level where it sits in the water — is about 25 ft. The minimum length of a rowboat is 14 ft.
“The Eastern Command Aquatics Node was established at Umiam Lake to accentuate the spirit of adventure and watermanship through the conduct of various water sports. This led to the Rising Sun event,” Brigadier Deepak Gaur said.
Much ahead of the event, the Army sent teams to various water sports locations across the country to coordinate with sailing and rowing clubs for participation. The preparations for the “long haul” followed.
With the assistance of the armed forces, members of 22 private, State and services clubs dismantled the boats, bubble-wrapped them, had large-sized containers welded to specifications, secured and cushioned the boats and packed them again in foam to minimise damage during transportation.
The trucks hauling the containers moved at designated speeds, taking care of jerks and speed-breakers and managing the turning radius at tight places.
“It took more than two weeks from packing and welding to unloading the boats at Umiam. Taking them back to Visakhapatnam, Mysuru, Pune, Bhopal and Delhi will involve the same procedure,” the Colonel said.
The boats took the shortest time to travel from Visakhapatnam, about 1,875 km from Umiam and the longest from Mysuru, 3,150 km away.
The effort to make the event a reality would make Meghalaya a water sports destination, the State’s Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma hoped. “The State is blessed with water bodies in beautiful settings but we have not been able to take full advantage of it so far,” he said after inaugurating the regatta on November 3.
According to sailing and rowing experts, Manipur’s Loktak Lake and southern Assam’s Sonbeel have the potential to become water sports destinations.