CBL heads for a photo finish with the President’s Trophy at Kollam

The last round of CBL 2023 will be held on December 9. Photo: Krishna Kumar K E

Alappuzha: The third edition of the Champions Boat League (CBL) is set for a pulsating finish with two-time champions ‘Tropical Titans’ and ‘Coast Dominators’ extending their rivalry to the last round, the President’s Trophy at Kollam on December 9. Unlike the previous two editions, it’s a neck-to-neck competition this time around between the two teams -- rowed by Pallathuruthy Boat Club (Veeyapuram Chundan) and United Boat Club, Kainakary, (Nadubhagam Chundan) respectively, as they are separated by just a few points even at the final stage.

Pallathuruthy Boat Club and United Boat Club are a few points apart as they enter the last round. Photo: Krishna Kumar K E

The close finishes drew in big crowds at some of the venues, adding an energetic atmosphere and keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. The intense competition brought out the best of the participating teams as well, as they exhibited a stellar performance throughout the league stages. The stage is now set for the grand finale on Saturday as boat race enthusiasts keep guessing the winner, whether the PBC boat club can achieve a hat-trick of victories or the UBC will spring a surprise at the last moment.

“In 2022, the PBC had an easy outing and enjoyed a 20-point difference when they entered the last leg of the IPL-modelled competition. This time, just four points separate the top two teams, which added to the allure and excitement,” reflected Benny Thomas, a Kuttanad native and a boat race enthusiast.

Nine magnificent snake boats, locally known as Chundan Vallams, compete in a league format that spreads across four months and 12 venues across the state, starting from the Nehru Trophy Boat Race at Punnamada in Alappuzha on August 12. However, the nail-biting finishes and the adrenaline rush can result in unexpected twists and turns as the event is not without its share of controversies.

A major charge raised was about certain venues and the lack of depth in the waters there. Boat clubs complained that the uneven depth resulted in their rivals enjoying an “unfair advantage”, especially in places like Ernakulam Marine Drive, Kayamkulam, and Pandanad. The boats on tracks near the shores are affected by external factors, other than the rowing skills. Local spectators lost their cool and attacked the camp of the PBC after the club lost to UBC in the 9th round race held at Karuvatta in Alappuzha on October 28. The cops later arrested eight people in connection with the attack.

The trophy for CBL winners. Photo: Krishna Kumar K E

Mishaps, though unfortunate, were also part of the drama. Following their victory in the penultimate race held at Pandanad in Chengannur on December 2, the snake boat rowed by the PBC collided with a motorboat, damaging the front portion and injuring one of the rowers. The club hopes to finish the repair works of the lucky mascot timely so that the same snake boat can be used in the “final” at Kollam as well.

It was UBC that was leading the points table till the halfway stage before the PBC managed to turn the tide in their favour with three wins on the trot in the last three rounds. The latter now leads with 106 points and almost has one hand on the trophy. The winners will walk away with a Rs 25 lakh cash prize.

A major charge raised was about certain venues and the lack of depth in the waters there. Photo: Krishna Kumar K E

The CBL, which offers a chance to view the majestic snake boats of Kerala and its energetic rowers display their rowing skills and perfect coordination, has become a major tourist draw and has also strengthened the State’s legacy of snake-boat races that earned international fame with the NTBR. Though conceived as an annual event, the CBL had missed its 2020 and 2021 editions owing to the pandemic outbreak. Tropical Titans, (Nadubhagom Chundan rowed by Pallathuruthy Boat Club) won the inaugural edition in 2019, and they retained the trophy three years later when they rowed Mahadevikad Kattil Thekkethil.  

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