Kochi: Chambakulam snake boat won their record tenth Nehru Trophy Boat Race (NTBR) title as the 62nd edition of the much-popular event came to a thrilling climax at the famous Punnamada backwaters in Alappuzha in south Indian state of Kerala, on Saturday.
The etymology of the race that is held here in Alappuzha every year is that when Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of Independent India visited Kerala in 1952, the people of Alappuzha gave him a roaring reception and he was escorted by the huge snake-boats. Nehru later donated a rolling trophy to be awarded to the winner of the race. The trophy is a replica of a snake-boat in silver, placed on wooden abacus.
According to District Collector and NTBR Chairman N. Padmakumar, the race popularly known as Kerala's Olympics on Water, has gained immense popularity over the years. "The sport has received global attraction due and it has now become more competitive than ever before," he noted. Owners of these respective snake boats invest heavily to take part in the race.
"Each boat has at least over 100 sailors and to take part in the race they spend a lot of money. Most of these boats are sponsored by corporate companies and thus they do not find any issues when it comes to funds," he pointed out.
"Foreigners flock Alappuzha during this time to watch the race. This year there is an increase in the number compared to previous years."
In front of 30,000 spectators who witnessed the race, Chambakulam boat set a new record by beating defending champions Sri Ganeshan by 4:37minutes to lift the title that they last won in 1995.
"This is a huge comeback by us. We have been working hard for the last few months and thankfully we are the new champions," said Chambakulam skipper George Thomas .
For the first time in the history of the race, 72 boats including 22 snake boats took part in the event that was flagged-off by Sheila Dikshit, Governor of Kerala State.
The Kerala government has announced an additional annual grant of Rs 50 lakhs to improve the infrastructure of the race. Professor P. J. Kurien, deputy-chairman of Rajya Sabha (lower house of Indian parliament) was the special guest.
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