Sailing superhero Cdr Abhilash Tomy set for Golden Globe Race next year

By Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru: India’s sailing superhero Commander Abhilash Tomy (Indian Navy) will be at Plymouth in UK amidst some of the best sailors in the business, attempting to recreate history, one year from now,

Cdr Abhilash, now 38, and 30-odd sailors from across the globe, will be on a solo circumnavigation mission on their small traditional long-keeled yachts, aided by just paper charts, a sextant and wind up chronometer as their navigate tools.

The organisers of the Golden Globe Race (GGR-18) said that the event set to begin on June 30 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the original Golden Globe Race and the remarkable achievement of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in becoming the first man to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation.

Cdr Abhilash created history on April 6, 2013 by becoming the first Indian (79th in the world) to complete a solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation under sail.

He had set out on the mission from Mumbai on November 1, 2012 on sail boat INSV Mhadei.

A Keerthi Chakra recipient, he is among the five sailors who received a special invitation to partake in the GGR-18.

His yet-to-be-named boat is currently being built at the Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd in Goa. The hull work has been completed and currently the painting work is underway ahead of its official launch within a month.

The GGR-18 organisers say that Cdr Abhilash would sail 4,500 miles from India to Cape Town, from where the yacht will be shipped to Plymouth for the race, next year.

‘Admiral Joshi wanted me to look for a tougher adventure’

In an email interaction with Mathrubhumi on Sunday, the daredevil sailor said: "After I returned from the solo non-stop circumnavigation, a question which continued to vex me was -- What next?. In a meeting with Admiral D K Joshi, he asked me to look for an adventure tougher than the previous one, which I thought was impossible. Then came along GGR-18. It took as much time to say a “Yes” as it did for the solo, non-stop. This is a race as simple, and as tough, as that.”

He said the best part of this race is the prohibition of modern communication and navigation technology, and the restriction in the size, class and construction of the boat which will task the sailor in many different ways.

“It is going to be a much closer experience of the sea,” says Cdr Abhilash. He began the preparations for GGR-18 last year with the construction of the boat.

“I have chosen to build a replica of Suhaili which was sailed by Sir Robin in 1968 and went on to win the race. I could have gone and bought any match that fit the criteria from anywhere in the world, but I was keen to build the boat in India,” he says.

With no money in his kitty when he started off last year, Cdr Abhilash got help from the passionate boat-maker in Ratnakar Dandekar (Aquarius Shipyard), who stepped in and agreed to build a platform from his own resources till a funder or sponsor came in.

One year later, no sponsors have come forward to back the dream of Cdr Abhilash, whose manager for the GGR-18 race will be his mentor, Capt Dilip Donde.

Born in Chettipuzha in Chengannacherry (Kerala), Cdr Abhilash’s father is a retired naval officer. Both his grandparents came from the farming community, with his paternal side into paddy fields and the maternal wing into rubber and coffee plantations.

“I am confident that over a billion Indians will be rooting for my success. Their wishes and prayers do matter during this challenging mission,” adds Cdr Abhilash.

(The writer is Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)

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