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Injured & Stranded Mid-Ocean, Indian Navy Man Rescued: So Who Is Abhilash Tomy?

Injured & Stranded Mid-Ocean, Indian Navy Man Rescued: So Who Is Abhilash Tomy?

Indian Navy Commander Tomy, will be circumnavigating the globe for a second time, for a prestigious race.

Update: Indian Navy Officer, Abhilash Tomy, was participating in a round-the-world solo expedition when his yacht dismasted towards the southern Indian Ocean on Friday, September 21, leaving him stranded with a back injury and in extremely turbulent weather and sea conditions.

Commander Tomy was finally tracked down by an Indian Navy Reconnaissance aircraft and successfully rescued by French vessel Osiris on Monday morning. He will be picked up by Australian Naval ship HMAS Ballarat, which was deployed from Perth to rescue him, following which INS Satpura will be arriving at Tomy’s current location by Friday and take him to Mauritius for medical attention.

Interestingly, few know that Captain Alok Ananda (the commander of INS Satpura) lost his father at the time he was speeding to rescue Tomy.

Curious why Commander Tomy is so celebrated? Read the story below!

In the year 2012-2013, Indian Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy was the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe, without a halt. He effectively wrote a new chapter in India’s maritime history, by going around the earth under sails, solo, non-stop and unassisted. Setting sail out of Mumbai on November 1, 2012, in the sailboat INS Mhadei, he successfully returned in April 2013 and was welcomed by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Gateway of India.

The Economic Times reports that now, aged 39, he is going to be the only Indian participating in the gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe, from France, beginning in July.

He will do so, in a non-motorised sailboat. Commander Tomy sailed into Les Sables d’Olonne, in France, a few days ago, where the Golden Globe Race will be flagged off on July 1.

Commander Tomy will circumnavigate the globe, for the Golden Globe Race. Image Credit: Commander Tomy
Commander Tomy will circumnavigate the globe, for the Golden Globe Race. Image Credit: Commander Tomy

The race itself is being held to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the date it was held for the first and the last time. It was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who completed the voyage in 312 days and became the first human to do a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the world. Tomy aims to finish the race in 311 days, one day less than Sir Johnston’s timing.

There will be 18 skippers at the start, with everyone using the same equipment, tools and boat similar to the one used by Sir Johnston. Celestial objects and physical maps will aid in navigation, and there will be little communication with the outside world, as according to race officials, the sat-phone provided, is just for medical emergencies.

Commander Tomy’s vessel will be the 10-metre long ‘Thuriya’, similar in design to Sir Johnston’s ‘Suhaili’, which was incidentally manufactured in Mumbai. During the first circumnavigation, he had used GPS-based maps, and other satellite-based technology.

Commander Abhilash Tomy, will sail aboard the 'Thuriya'. Image Credit: Abhilash Tomy
Commander Abhilash Tomy, will sail aboard the ‘Thuriya’. Image Credit: Abhilash Tomy

Now, he will make do with a compass, printed maps and stars and planetary movements. He says there is only a single HF radio set for contact. Like Sir Robin, Commander Tomy will also rely on the rain, for drinking water. There is no outside help, from anywhere during the race.

It has taken around two years for Commander Tomy to prepare for the race, which will start from Les Sables d’Olonne, in France, go south till the Cape of Good Hope, continue sailing eastward in the Southern Hemisphere past the International Date Line, and pass Cape Horn, to start sailing north in the mighty Atlantic, for the final leg.

The participants will be carrying a lot of safety equipment along with them. Commander Tomy himself has packed essentials like tinned food, meals, 140 litres of fuel, gas cylinders and books. By his own admission, he admits this is four times more than what he carried in his last round trip of the world.

Support is coming by way of the Indian Navy, an Aquarius Shipyard for the race, and Commander (Retd) Dilip Donde, who is the first Indian to have circumnavigated the world with stops, and will be overseeing the trip as base manager.

Sailing a boat with an old design is very challenging. The 52-foot Mhadei, Commander Tomy’s first vessel, had more space, for miniaturised modern gadgetry. Now, there are bulky charts, more equipment, and sextants, for the smaller, 32-foot Thuriya. Moreover, the Southern Ocean has giant waves, that toss smaller vessels violently, increasing sailor fatigue.

You may also like:- The Yacht Club of Hyderabad: Helping Less-Privileged Children Sail Toward a Brighter Future!

Commander Tomy will spend a year at sea, and those wanting to follow him can find 3-hourly position updates on the Golden Globe Race website, and a weekly sound-bite from the Commander himself. He can also post one-way text messages on the website.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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