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Award-winning inventor launches wave-less boat in honour of Ray Wijewardene

Comments / 1156 Views / Friday, 23 May 2014 00:45

By Malik Gunatilleke

Award-winning inventor Indresri Karunathilaka yesterday formally launched a version of his ‘wave-less boat,’ in honour of Dr. Ray Wijewardene at an event held at the Colombo Rowing Club.

The wave-less boat that Karunathilaka first built several years ago won numerous awards including the Presidential Award in 2008, International Silver Prize at the Seoul International Invention Fair in 2009 and ‘The Ray’ award in 2012 from the The Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust (RWCT).

He also received a grant of Rs. 1 million from Commercial Bank, to assist him in preparing his invention for commercialisation.

In view of the support he received from the RWCT, Karunathilaka explained that he wanted to build a smaller version of his award-winning invention as a tribute to the late Wijewardene.

Karunathilaka changed the standard hull of a boat from a ‘V’ shape by including non-symmetric twin hulls fixed inversely, allowing the water to travel through the hollow mid-section of the hull. This in turn prevented the boat from creating waves that go on to harm river banks and cause erosion.

Working towards ‘Wonder of Asia’

Asked as to what inspired him to create his wave-less boat, Karunathilaka told the Daily FT that Sri Lanka must work towards being the ‘Wonder of Asia,’ which includes creating a safe boat service within the country in order to protect the environment and promote tourism.

“Around 2,500 new hotel rooms will be built in the next five years around the Beira Lake alone. When the tourists flood in, they need some form of excursion. With nearly 150 waterways in Sri Lanka, there still isn’t a successful boat service. What we have now is a basic fibreglass boat with a tin-roof that really isn’t safe. Tourists need to wear lifejackets and in this tropical climate it is not the most comfortable way to travel.”

Karunathilaka explained the money he had saved to build his home and purchase a vehicle had instead been poured into this project, which he believed would revolutionise the boat service in the country.

“The initial support for this project was given by the National Science Foundation. Then I created my first wave-less boat which was the invention that won ‘The Ray’ award.”

The boat was 36 feet wide and could accommodate around 50 to 60 passengers. The boat could travel at an average speed of about eight to 10 kmph and was also unsinkable which negated the need to wear lifejackets.

True calling

The inventor spent his early career in a very different line of work before he finally found his true calling. Karunathilaka studied in the Science stream during his A/Ls but worked as an accountant and in senior managerial positions in several companies. However, he claimed that he was never content with these occupations and wanted to follow his childhood dream of creating something that would make a difference.

“I took to designing small fibreglass boats such as small vessels for rivers. My grandfather was in the transport service from Ratnapura to Chilaw across the Bolgoda and Kalu Rivers. It became a requirement to find a solution to the severe damage caused to river banks by motor boats.”

He confessed though that he never learnt anything about boats and did not know from where his knowledge originated. “I suppose it’s a talent you’re born with. I did my own research and learnt things as I went along.”

He claimed that the wave-less boat takes around two months to build with a cost of Rs. 500,000, but added that it would cost less to manufacture once it hits the market.

Proud family

Karunathilaka’s wife Jayamini and two of his three children, 4-year-old Bhagya and 11-year-old Bhashana, were also present at the event and eagerly expressed their pride in Karunathilaka’s accomplishments.

“He was always passionate about creating new things and he took a particular interest in building boats. The whole family is happy and proud of his achievements,” Jaymini said.

She added that her son Bhashana was inspired by this creation and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps someday. Speaking at the launch, Sri Lanka Inventors Commission Commissioner Deepal Sooriyaarachchi highlighted the importance of invention and innovation within the current economic climate.

“An inventor always asks the question ‘why?’ and more importantly ‘why not?’ and it is this ideal that is celebrated through the Ray Wijewardene award.” Meanwhile, Karunathilaka stated that he intends to continue his work as an inventor and had many other projects in the pipeline.

“My journey will not stop here. I have already planned many other inventions but due to certain reasons I cannot reveal anything about them at this moment.”

Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe

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