Ras Al Khaimah: South Indian state Kerala’s most famous annual boat race is sailing across to UAE waters this Onam festival season.

A mini version of the Nehru Trophy boat race in Kerala, a tourism attraction attended by almost 200,000 people annually, will be held in Ras Al Khaimah this Friday.

The regatta named RAK Nehru Trophy Boat Race is being organised by the Ras Al Khaimah International Marine Sports Club (RAKIMSC) in association with the Kerala Government and NMC Royal Medical Centre in RAK.

“This race is similar to the famous one in Kerala,” said Aaref Ebrahim Al Haranki, executive manager of RAKIMSC and head of rowing at the UAE Sailing and Rowing Federation

“But, instead of snake boats, we are using dragon boats which have been custom-made to look like the snake boats,” he told Gulf News on Wednesday.

Though the club has been conducting various water sport events, this is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the region, he said.

When the idea was pitched to him by RAK-based Indian expat Riyas Kaattil, Al Haranki said, he was very excited.

“Soon, we flew down to Kerala, met the Chief Minister and the Tourism Minister and received their approvals to officially name the race after Kerala’s own boat race,” he said.

He said the government of RAK also offered their full support and senior government leaders are expected to watch the event.

Gift for Malayali Community

Kattil, a marketing professional, said the event is a big gift to the Malayali community in the UAE, especially during the Onam season in the Year of Tolerance.

“We hope to make this a bigger event with participation from all the emirates from next year and offer a big prize money,” he said.

While members of various community groups of Keralites have formed nine teams, the other 10 teams participating in the event have a mix of nationalities including Emirati professional rowers.

The professional teams will take part in the morning races while the novice Keralites will compete in the afternoon.

Al Haranki said they have received 820 registrations and 3,000 people are expected to witness the event.

The races will start at 8am and finish by 6pm. The track length of the Kerala race is 1.4km, whereas the RAK event will cover 250 metres. The winners this year will receive a replica of a snake boat.