The largest water team sport of the world, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, will have an added attraction this year: for the first time, a UAE-based multi-national women’s team will take part in the fiercely fought snake boat race on Punnamada Lake in Alapuzha.
The 10-member women's team captained by Briton Julie Amer will arrive in Thiruvananthapuram on August 8, four days prior to the event.
They will receive pre-race training session in the company of 23 women paddlers from Alapuzha boat club. If the authorities give the green signal, next year there will be an exclusive foreigners' team to fire the tranquil lakefront of the Venice of the East (as Chinese travelogues call Alapuzha).
The event is jointly sponsored by Mountain High, UAE-based Adventurous Club, Dodge International and Jayasree Travels, a leading tour operator of the Middle East.
Talking to HT from Dubai, Jayasree Travels MD KS Vikraman said this experiment would give the race an international touch.
“It will be a big boost to the sport and the tourism industry. It's a novel way to connect the rich traditions of various countries," he said.
Alapuzha's snake boats are unique in many ways. Measuring over 100-feet in length with a raised prow, they are hand-crafted from wood without a single nail and powered by as many as 125 oarsmen.
Unlike other boats, oarsmen here use paddles made of coconut reed. The race, held on the second Saturday of August every year, begins with a dazzling pageant of water floats and performing arts. Last year, an estimated 2.5 lakh people witnessed the grand spectacle.
The history of the race is linked to Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to central Travancore in 1952. On a trip from Kottayam to Alapuzha by boat, Nehru was so enchanted by the beauty of the place that he jumped into a chundan vallom (snake boat) much to the surprise of his security guards.
On his return to Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy to the Kerala government -- a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus.