Dragonboats come to Jaffna

By Jekhan Aruliah

Northwind Projects, a team promoting sporting and other activities in the Northern Province, successfully brought together the Sri Lankan Navy, the Northern Provincial Council’s Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sport and Youth Affairs and the Jaffna District Fishermen’s Co-operative Society Union’s Federation. They came together to kick-off dragonboat racing, canoeing, and the Swim for Safety programmes in Jaffna.

Under the direction of Rear Admiral Priyantha Perera, Commander Northern Naval Area, the Navy as part of its Social Responsibility Programme brought the trainers and boats to Jaffna. The Navy conducted a two week training course which started on 1st and finished on 14th August 2021 for eight trainee trainers from Jaffna. A bio-bubble was created at Fort Hammenhiel on Karainagar Island, which the Navy trainers and the Jaffna trainees entered after passing PCR tests. They stayed in this bio-bubble for the entire two weeks, food and accommodation provided by the Navy. For the Navy all was coordinated by Captain Aruna Weerasinghe, Commander of the SLNS Elara camp which includes Fort Hammenhiel.

L-R Suganthan Shanmuganathan (Northwind); Rear Admiral Priyantha Perera (Navy); Jekhan Aruliah (Northwind); Captain Aruna Weerasinghe (Navy)

Mr L.Ilaangovan, Secretary of the Northern Provincial Council Ministry of Education Sports and Cultural Affairs, with his Assistant Director Physical Education Mr Rajaseelan, is arranging seven leading Jaffna schools to be trained and to compete. Physical Education teachers from five of these schools joined as Trainee Trainers. Mr Annalingam Annarasah, President of the Jaffna Fishermen’s Federation, is bringing teams from six societies to be trained and to compete. He also provided one trainee-trainer to enter the bio-bubble for the 2 weeks of training.

Training of the school and fishermen teams will be dependent on the status of the COVID-19 crisis, and will only happen when the health authorities allow it.

Shortly before the training was to start the Navy brought a 40’ container carrying the dragonboats, kayaks and canoes, and a floating jetty. The kayaks and canoes, including one para-canoe, were provided by the Canoeing & Kayaking Association of Sri Lanka. The Navy sent trainers for the dragonboats and kayaks, including two Life Guard swimming coaches and a medic.

Kayaks, canoes and dragon boats arrived in Jaffna borrowed from the Navy and the Canoeing & Kayaking Association of Sri Lanka

On 14th August the two week training completed and a certificate awarding ceremony was held at the Fort Hammenhiel resort.

Once the health authorities allow it the trained trainers will turn their attention to teams from the seven schools, and from the six fishermen societies. The schools will compete in Under 14, and the fishermen in Under 24 categories. Training for this first competition will last 6 weeks. In due course teams will be trained across the Northern Province, and will compete in the Nationals.

The Northwind Projects team on the ground in Jaffna, Mr Jekhan Aruliah and Mr Suganthan Shanmuganathan, highly appreciated the speed and enthusiasm all parties showed.

They commented “Northwind Projects will make this an annual boating festival. We are already working with the Yachting Association of Sri Lanka the National Association of Canoeing and Kayaking and Sri Lanka Life Saving to bring them into the festival. We are fortunate to have Mr Supem de Silva in our Northwind Projects team who is a Sports Administrator working with many sports associations, Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Tourism and the National Olympic Committee to promote Sports Tourism island wide”.

Navy and Jaffna Dragonboat coaches

( — The writer Jekhan Aruliah was born in Sri Lanka and moved with his family to the UK when he was two years of age. Brought up in London, he graduated from Cambridge University in 1986 with a degree in Natural Sciences. Jekhan then spent over two decades in the IT industry, for half of which he was managing offshore software development for British companies in Colombo and in Gurgaon (India). In 2015 Jekhan decided to move to Jaffna where he is now involved in social and economic projects. He is part of the Northwind Projects team, and can be contacted at jekhanaruliah@gmail.com — )