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Focus

Apr 15, 2013

Indian sails across world alone- enters the record books

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

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The Navy officer became the first in a country of billions, to circumnavigate solo, on a yacht.

An Indian navy sailor has found his name at the bottom of the list of the Joshua Slocum Society International, a global body which honors all solo and long distance sailors for epic sea voyages.

Being 200th in the list of people who circumnavigated non-stop solo or being 79th to do it by sea is nothing short of an incredible achievement. Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy is eager to get some rest post his 150-day sea sojourn before embarking on a new adventure.

In 2009, when his mentor and senior officer Commander Dilip Donde decided on a solo circumnavigation ‘Sagarparikrama 1’ (circumnavigation by sea),  Lt. Cdr Tomy assisted his superior officer in setting up the ship for sail.

That experience gave the then 30-year-old sailor the inspiration for his own journey. While his mentor achieved it with four stops, Lt Cdr Tomy targeted a non-stop journey.

He set sail on November 1st from Mumbai port in the state of Maharashtra by the same boat his mentor had sailed in ‘INSV Mhadei’ and returned on March 31. The President of India was among the people present to greet him when he sailed in.

In an e-mail interaction with The Outdoor Journal Lt Cdr gives an insight to what it takes to be a solo circumnavigator:

Q. Congratulations! You’re the first Indian to do a 150-day non-stop solo-circumnavigation, the SAGARPARIKRAMA 2. How do you feel about it?

A. I think it was a fantastic experience. Everything worked out as per the plan and when I returned the boat after 150 days, it was almost as good as new. The only “issue” was that at the end of the voyage I felt a sense of loss and the overwhelming attention showered by people around me made me wonder if I should not go back to the sea.

Q. When did this idea of circumnavigation cross your mind?

A. The idea of a circumnavigation crossed my mind in 1999 when I read about a round the world solo race in a magazine. In 2009, Cdr Donde wanted an assistant for his solo circumnavigation project and I volunteered. That was the first concrete step towards a circumnavigation.

Q. Could you describe your preparations for the voyage? How did you refuel the yacht?

A. I worked under Cdr Donde and helped him prepare the boat in all ports during SP1 (Sagarparikrama 1). I also sailed with him to Colombo and Mauritius on training voyage prior solo. When it was confirmed that I would be doing the non-stop, we planned a sail from Goa to Rio with a halt at Cape Town. I sailed under Cdr Donde and with two other crew. At Rio the boat was handed over to me and I crossed the Atlantic with one crew and sailed from Cape Town to Goa solo.

In 2012, I sailed the boat as skipper with a crew of three to Malaysia and Thailand. So, by the time I started the solo non-stop, I had about 27000 miles of experience. I carried all the fuel that I needed. So, I did not have to refuel.

Q. Tell us about your ration for the whole trip.

A. The ration came from the following sources:-
– The Defence Food Research Laboratories gave about 150 packets of ready to eat meals gratis
– A lot of freeze dry food came from New Zealand
– This was supplemented by rice and lentils and chickpeas that could be cooked and also dry nuts and fruits, dehydrated vegetables, fish pickle, canned pickle, canned fruits and all that.
– Fresh food that was taken for the voyage lasted for about one month.

Mrs Meera Donde helped me with the preparations. It was assumed that a man eats about 500 gms a day. On the basis of this calculation, food was segregated month wise and packed in plastic boxes.

Q. Did you have the fear of encountering pirates, especially off the Somalian coast or the Gulf of Eden? Were you carrying any arms for defense?

A. I did not have any form of self defense. what I did though are as follows:-
– stayed away from piracy prone areas as much as possible
– public position reports were disabled while crossing piracy infested waters

Additionally, ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy who were sailing in the area would drop by to check on me

Q. What were the international maritime bodies or countries you crossed? Did you get any assistance from them?

A. The world’s oceans are divided into Search and Rescue Regions which are managed by MRCCs in assigned countries. I passed the SRR of the following countries:
– Sri Lanka
– Australia
– NZ
– Chile
– Argentina
– South Africa
– Reunion
– Madagascar
– Mauitius
– Maldives

I did not take any assistance from them though I would pass my position reports to them every day so that they could come and help me in case of any emergency.

Q. Was your engine unserviced all the way? Or did you halt somewhere for that? How did you manage it?

A. – The engine was not used much, so it was never serviced. It did have a defect once though. It refused to start. I replaced the starter relay with spare and it worked well after that.
– The generator was serviced twice. It included an oil change and check of the sea water cooling system.
– I did that while the boat was still moving. I managed to do it by planning the servicing when the sea was calmer than usual

Q. Any such incident where you faced a storm or an instance of capsizing in the sea?

A. It is very difficult to capsize this boat. However, I did go through a couple of instances when the boat went out of control. Once was off Falkland Islands and the second time it was while rounding Cape of Good Hope

Q. You’d said that you faced your scariest moments while crossing the 3 Capes- Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope. Tell us something about it.

A. The scariest moment was while the boat rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Winds had shot unto 70 knots in a gust and the boat went out of control. The wind caught the Genoa, made a belly and it caused the mast to shake violently. It was a scary moment because I thought the mast would come off!

The sail eventually shredded and made a mess but it affected the mast much less.

Q. This yacht, INSV Mhadei, has taken 2 separate circumnavigation trips. Could you please describe this vessel? Some specifications.

A. She is a Van de Stadt Tonga 56.
– Builder- Aquarius Fibreglas pvt ltd- Goa
– Year- 2009
– LOA- 56 ft
– Displacement- 23Tons
– Construction- Wood core fiberglass
– Log- Approx 80000 nautical miles
– Mast and rigging- Southern Spars, Cape Town
– Sails- North Sails, New Zealand and Cape Town
– Navigation suite- Raymarine
– Communication Suite
– Thrane and Thrane INMARSAT Mini C
– FBB 500
– IRIDIUM SAT PHONE
– SPOT Personal tracker
– Emergency Equipment
– EPRIB, SART,  Liferaft (4 men), immersion suit
– water maker- Schenker Italia
– Engine- Volvo Penta D5
– Power generation
– main engine
– 3.5 KVA Whisper Power genset
– Superwind wind generator
– Solar panels

Q. Since you’ve travelled the whole world now, what next?

A. Some rest, and then look for the next adventure!

Pic Courtesy: Abhilash Tomy

Place: New Delhi


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