Chennai Heat is India’s premiere beach Ultimate tournament. Players from far away towns, cities, regions and even other countries swarm to the city of Chennai to play from sunup to well past sundown in the blistering heat. Abhinav Vinayakh tells Skyd how this tournament has been one of many stepping stones in the development of Ultimate in India, as well as what it’s like to play for a crowd beneath the floodlights.
Skyd Magazine: Who are you and how are you involved with ultimate?
Abhinav Vinayakh S: My name is Abhinav. I hold a bachelors degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering. I recently quit my job in Malaysia to come live with my parents in our ancestral village in south India and learn farming under the tutelage of my father and grandfather.I first started playing Ultimate in mid-2007 when it mushroomed in Chennai. Within weeks, I was hooked onto the concept of Spirit and the adrenaline the sport brought. Ultimate made me feel good and brought in me a strength from knowing that I was part of something special – A beautiful sport and a tightly knit community. There was no looking back.A bunch of players from the founding season, including me, formed Chakraa, a mixed recreational team that went on to win Chennai Heat in 2009 & 2010.I have spent much of my earnings playing Ultimate in Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines, Australia and of course Italy, when we went to the World Championships of Beach Ultimate. I’ve loved every minute of Ultimate I have played in all these different parts of the world and have made friends for life playing this sport.
My proudest moments in my short Ultimate career came when we (India) won the Spirit award at WCBU 2011. That was mighty special!
Very soon, I’ll be using my experience as well as the skills I’ve picked up as an AFDA accredited level 1 Ultimate coach to help bring our sport to the city of Madurai, where I grew up.
Skyd: Tell me about Chennai Heat? What is it? What is the history of it?
Abhinav: Chennai Heat, in its fifth successive year, is India’s only Beach Ultimate tournament. It’s a 7 v7 co-ed (5:2 gender ratio) tournament that brings together more than 280 players from across the country to play under floodlights at the popular Elliot’s Beach in Chennai, India. The tournament usually attracts large audiences of more than 2000 people, at any given time, giving the air an edge.
Chennai Heat offers three days of thrilling Ultimate action starting with pool play on Friday and ending with the grand finals on Sunday night. Round robin games are played to 9 points, soft cap at 45 minutes, hard cap at 50 minutes. The final is played for 15 points. All this results in an unforgettable weekend of intense sport and never ending fun.
Chennai Heat was first organized in 2007 and marked the beginning of one of India’s fastest growing tournaments. The first edition saw 40 players from within the Chennai community take part, We did not know about the existence of other pockets of Ultimate in the country then! It was a few months after this tournament that we came across Ultimate at Indicorps (Ahmedabad) and the Stray Dogs in Sweaters team in New Delhi.
Skyd: Who typically plays at CH? How many people/teams attend?
Abhinav: Being the only Beach Ultimate tournament in the region we have players and teams from all over the country attending. We even had a team from Sri Lanka in ‘08.
In 2012, we expect more than 250 players from around the country to join us. Visiting Ultimate players in the region often make a pitstop for the weekend in Chennai.
This tournament has what it takes to consistently attract Ultimate players and teams not only from all parts of India but also South East Asia and beyond. We are working closely with the local Government officials to ensure that we can freeze on the dates early to help visiting players.
Skyd: What makes CH special?
Abhinav: Chennai Heat is special because the entire local community comes together to make it happen. The tournament is made possible by the players that show up every year, and the Chennai Ultimate community, who continue to provide the necessary energy and expertise. Thats what creates this electric atmosphere and makes it a favorite amongst the crowd and the players alike. I see players come back every year for the venue, the competition, the organization, the spirit and the fun they tend to have over the whole event.
Games at Chennai Heat typically start at 6 AM and go on until around 10 AM. There is a long break to catch up on some sleep and the evening session starts at around 4 PM and lasts until 10 PM. it is simply too hot to play in the afternoons! This is the reason why we don’t have an all night party like you’d expect.
Support of sponsors such as Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory, Crimson Chakra, Donut House, The Quad, Synamen & 8 Perf make it possible to have floodlit games.
If you are still in doubt, here are my top reasons in a nutshell
- When was the last time you played 7 v 7 on the beach on a near full size field?
- We often have crowds of 2000+ people watching the evening floodlit games
- The setting could not be better to have some fun in the sun and sand and make some Ultimate memories! The tournament takes place on Chennai’s most beautiful Elliots Beach, . The fields are overlooked by the famous Schmidt Memorial. A photographer’s delight, sunrises are often spectacular!
- The best players in India are always there. Will give you a good idea of the level of Ultimate in the country
- It would be a great idea to combine a holiday to experience the grandeur of Chennai along with the fun and thrill of Beach Ultimate.
- We are probably one of the few tournaments in Asia to have been BULA certified over the last couple of years.
The beach is lined with restaurants and cafe’s so you don’t have to worry about bringing food to the fields! My favorites are the ice-cream stores! What better to top off a day in the sun!
Skyd: How does CH fit into the overall ultimate community in India?
Abhinav: India has tournaments through the year which unite the players scattered in pockets around the country. Each with its own unique charm. For Eg: we have ‘Flybaba’ which is the annual tournament that happens in the picturesque hill station of Kodaikanal 2000 m above sea level that used to be organised by the legendary Bryan ‘from hell’ Plymale when he was with Kodaikanal International School (KIS), while Bengaluru’s tournament happens at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, a large stadium in the heart of Bengaluru.
Similarly, Chennai Heat has become a must attend tournament in the calendars of Indian players for it is our only tournament that draws a large audience. Its absolutely great to see the sports lovers of Chennai come out in support of the local teams.
Chennai Heat has a great influence on the local Ultimate scene in Chennai. Tons of enthusiastic players turn up to learn the sport in the subsequent weeks. We have had at least two new teams formed after each of the the tournaments in 2010 and 2011. The local media has been very supportive and has been generous in their coverage.
Skyd: What’s unique about CH this year compared to others?
Abhinav: In 2012, we will see around 280 players from 16 teams all over India at the tournament. This puts it right up there with the largest tournaments ever held in India.
We are maxed out in terms of capacity. We have already had to say no to a few bids for lack of field availability.
The competition is going to be intense. A lot of the Indian players have had the opportunity to go play in international tournaments including popular beach tournaments such as Wildwood, Boracay etc. It doesn’t get any bigger than this!
The first season of our Schools Outreach program has been a runaway success. Expect lots of kids to watch and get their first feel for national-level Ultimate.
This is the first time that we are going to be charging a tournament fee to help offset the running costs. It has been surprisingly well received by a majority of the players.
Skyd: What teams are competing at CH this year and who are some of the front-runners?
Abhinav: In terms of competition, I think this is one of the most open Chennai Heat tournaments we have had. I’d say any of the top 5-6 teams could win it. Most of the top teams spend time at the gym and train at least once a week. Some have focused training sessions twice a week. It will be down to who can handle the pressure.
Front runners include:
There are other teams that could challenge any team on their day like Fly!Wild from Chennai (my pick for surprise package for the tournament).
Skyd : Anything else that’s important to share?
Abhinav: We are trying to grow Ultimate in the country and would like to welcome players from all around the world to come join us. If you are planning a holiday here and would like to combine it with coaching some Ultimate just talk to us and we’ll find a way to make it happen. We have much to learn and would relish the opportunity to learn from you /play alongside you. We also constantly seek suggestions and advice on how to take Ultimate here to the next level.
Patrick Van Der Valk (of BULA) has been a great source of support and encouragement and has been instrumental in helping us grow Beach Ultimate in the country as well as making sure India got a bid at WCBU 2011.
(Chennai Heat has been BULA certified over the last couple of years and scheduled to apply for BULA certification this year as well. )
For more information on Chennai Heat:
Tournament Director – Chennai Heat ‘12