Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A sailor at heart and an explorer in soul

This post is not about me but a sailor who can certainly be called 'great' as he has achieved something that no ordinary man or woman can. This is about Commandar Abhilash Tomy, KC an Indian Naval Officer. What makes him an achiever is that; he is the first Indian, second Asian, and seventy-ninth person to complete a solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation (the action or process of sailing around the world) under sail.

It's about India’s greatest naval adventure.

The boat used for the project, Sagar Parikrama of the indian Navy was the Indian Navy Sailing Vessel INSV Mhadei, custom built by the Indian Navy. A man who covered about 40000 kms, sailing around the world, alone and without any help or stops. INSV Mhadei, went through some of the most terrible and lonely places on this planet encountering ferocious storms and raging seas. An adventure of this magnitude is so difficult that less than 100 people have ever successfully completed one. To compare, more than 5 times the number has gone to space and more than 5000 people have been on the Mt. Everest.
He set off on the historic voyage from the Gateway of India, Mumbai on 1st November 2012. Moving slowly and steadily on the route marked for him. If you can say marked, in the first place! Remember nothing is marked on the sea; one has to make it on his own but the route is more or less just a guideline.
He crossed, from West to East, the Indian, Pacific, Southern and Atlantic Oceans, covering 23,100 nautical miles, rounding Cape Leeuwin in Australia, Cape Horn in South America and Cape of Good Hope in Africa. The journey took 151 days and was completed on 31 March 2013.

Tomy was awarded the Kirti Chakra (second highest peacetime gallantry award in India) and the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award. He has spoken to students regarding the protection and conservation of the world's oceans. He has done TedX Videos, has numerous articles written about him and he has spoken on many different platforms with panache.
I was following his voyage closely just like millions of others from around the world through his blog and social media updates. He came out with a book, which was a pictorial representation of this feat, aptly titled 151.

The other day I received an invite from him, before the attachment could open I was smiling thinking that finally the man gets hooked! When I saw the invite it wasn't for his wedding but about the launch of another boat. The invite read,

Hi there,

You would have already read something about the Golden Globe Race 2018. 

Held for the first time in 1968, the race threw up the first person to circumnavigate the earth solo and non stop. Out of the nine entrants only one finished. 

The race is being repeated in 2018, with entrants requiring to use the same technology as 1968 participants, and I have a special invitation. I am building a replica of the Shuali which was the first to win this race.

The Thuriya will be launched on 7 August at Goa, and you are invited to the ceremony!

Please do confirm your presence.

I messaged him immediately, asking him if he had lost it. Why on earth would he want to do this again and this time being even more primitive, going back 50 years? To which his circumnavigation looked like a cake walk. He laughed it. I also told him that it'd cost a fortune, how was he going to manage the funds necessary for this voyage. 

Have learnt, from the history that the voyages were funded by the Kings and Queens. Thankful to them that the world is a smaller place today and there is so much travel and trade. Also the maritime industry is huge and touching almost everyone’s life. The Voyage of Vasco Da Gama was funded by the King of Portugal and that of Columbus was funded by the King of Spain.

I asked him if he had found the royalty that'd sponsor him. He said that he needed funds and in fair amounts. He had good chances of podium finish. Anything less than the funds he calculated might not be good enough but he'd still go. He was adamant not to approach any government bodies so relied on organisations to sponsor and general public to help generate funds. He said that he had fighting chances and any help would be good.

I guess we can be the royalty in our attitude and support this daredevil in his upcoming challenge. Commander Tomy, is one of India’s most prominent sailors and has been given one of five Special Invitations to join the Golden Globe Race.

A brief but jaw dropping history of the Golden Globe Race

The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race, held in 1968–1969, and was the first round-the-world yacht race. It  was controversial due to the failure of most competitors to finish the race and because of the suicide of one entrant; however, it ultimately led to the founding of the BOC Challenge and Vendée Globe round-the-world races, both of which continue to be successful and popular.

The race was sponsored by the British Sunday Times. The Golden Globe trophy was offered to the first person to complete an unassisted, non-stop single-handed circumnavigation of the world via the great capes, and a separate £5,000 prize was offered for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation.

Nine sailors started the race; four retired before leaving the Atlantic Ocean. Of the five remaining, Chay Blyth, who had set off with absolutely no sailing experience, sailed past the Cape of Good Hope before retiring; Nigel Tetley sank with 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km) to go while leading; Donald Crowhurst, who, in desperation, attempted to fake a round-the-world voyage to avoid financial ruin, began to show signs of mental illness, and then committed suicide; and Bernard Moitessier, who rejected the philosophy behind a commercialised competition, abandoned the race while in a strong position to win and kept sailing non-stop until he reached Tahiti after circling the globe one and a half times. 
Robin Knox-Johnston was the only entrant to complete the race, becoming the first person to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world. He was awarded both prizes, and later donated the £5,000 to a fund supporting Crowhurst's family.

To add to the dramatic history of the race, this I learnt from Tomy that all nine men were single except Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who had divorced his wife.  Figuratively speaking even he was single then. He was the only man who completed the Golden Globe Race, Guess what he did? He married the same lady he once divorced. Also Sir Knox- Johnston’s boat was built in Colaba, Mumbai, India.

Tomy is recreating what Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did in 1968, his boat The Thuriya is a replica of The Swahili used by Sir Knox- Johnston. Only thing not replicated is the divorce part as Tomy is all single! With his kind of madness and to keep doing something that is more challenging.  His aim is to get people to take yachting as a more serious sport. The Sea makes an individual understand the meaning of life and the realization that a little is certainly more! The only other person that I know who kept bettering himself was Sergei Bubka, the Russian pole vaulter who had no competition during his career.

I am sure Tomy will find sponsors; anyone of you reading this has a lead, would be really nice if it can reach our man.  Any organisation wants to sponsor the only Indian at the Golden Globe Race can certainly show their support and encouragement. 

All others who are reading this, now you can be a part of the race! Show your support on 
@Ketto fundraiser - 'Cdr Abhilash Tomy in the Golden Globe Race 2018'.

Follow his page for all the excitement: