In 2012-13, Commander Abhilash Tomy went around the globe in a sailboat, solo and non-stop. He undertook that voyage in INSV Mhadei – a 17-mt sloop. It took him 151 days to battle the seas, cold fronts, cyclones, and more from the spectrum of nature’s fury to complete that feat. At the end of it, he got a ceremonial reception from the President of India in Mumbai upon his arrival! Here’s my story on his first circumnavigation – Abhilash Tomy – The Life of Another Pi and here is the speech by the then-President – Sh. Pranab Mukherjee.
Abhilash Tomy and His Unquenchable Thirst for Adventure
As the first and only Indian to have done it, he was awarded the Kirti Chakra – the second-highest Indian Military peacetime award for valour and self-sacrifice. One would think there is little else left to achieve in a lifetime after such a sterling accomplishment. But then, Abhilash is made of different stuff. He would make you think again.
To better that achievement, on a special invite from the organisers of Golden Globe Race 2018, he has planned another solo, non-stop circumnavigation.
Golden Globe Race – A Brief Background
The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was announced in March 1968 to address the only sailing challenge that was left – a solo, non-stop sail around the globe. The prize money was $5000 for the fastest time.
9 people with varying degrees of skill participated in the race, and only one – Robin Knox-Johnston – finished the race. His sailboat was a 9.75-mt ketch named Suhaili. Interestingly, that boat was built in India.
The 50th Anniversary edition of the race will begin on 30th June 2018 from Plymouth, England. The rules of the race mandate that only such gadgetry is allowed that existed in 1968. That means no electronic equipment, including common gadgets such as a pocket calculator, digital watch, GPS and satellite radio, will be allowed. The participants will have to navigate using the sun, stars, sextant and magnetic compass. The challenge thus is manifold and is a true test of human endurance and resilience against nature.
India’s Only Entry
In acknowledgment of Commander Abhilash Tomy’s exceptional sailing prowess, the organisers of the race have extended a special invitation to him for participation in the race. He, thus, will be the only Indian entry in the race that is likely to be limited to just 30 participants.
For the race, after considering various race-permitted design options, Abhilash zeroed in on the same boat design that Suhaili had used. In fact, in the 2018 edition of the race, only his boat will have the same design as Sir Robin’s boat. And like Sir Robin’s boat, Abhilash’s boat is also being built in India. Given its smaller size, the lack of modern-day navigational equipment and a much greater distance (approx. an additional 7,000 nautical miles), Abhilash estimates that he will take approx. 300 days to finish this race!
A Strong Team
For building this boat, Abhilash fell back on Ratnakar Dandekar of Goa’s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt. Ltd., as Ratnakar has a proven track record of already delivering two sailboats to Indian Navy that have been built for circumnavigation – INSV Mhadei (already circumnavigated in 2009/10 and 2012/13) and INSV Tarini (setting out for circumnavigation with an all-women crew later this month).
Since the manager of the team is a key member, Abhilash requested his mentor, Captain Dilip Donde, to assume that role. Captain Donde has the credentials of being the first Indian to have circumnavigated the globe solo (though, that was not a non-stop circumnavigation). So, between Abhilash, Dilip and Ratnakar, here’s a team to reckon with.
The Launch of Thuriya
On 7th August 2017, in an informal function that was well attended by media, Abhilash launched his boat – Thuriya – at Aquarius Shipyard facility in scenic Divar Island, Goa. Incidentally, launching a boat is the ceremony when the hull of the boat touches water for the first time.
The name of the boat is derived from the Upanishads, which describe Thuriya as a state of pure consciousness, or the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness.
While the boat has been launched, much work still remains. The fitting of masts, fitment of workstation and galley, installation of HF and VHF radios and their antennae, procurement and placement of life-saving equipment like Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and life raft, etc. still needs to happen. It is only after the completion of that work, the boat trials will begin. It is expected that Abhilash will start the boat trials by end-September.
The next big step will be to sail out for the UK by early January to reach in time for the race. But before that, Abhilash is on a lookout for sponsors as the total expense of the race will be huge. As of now, it is a self-funded project. For sponsorship enquiries, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s wishing fair winds and Godspeed to this man with an unquenchable thirst for adventure!