MUMBAI: Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy is all set to participate in the Golden Globe Race (GGR) that will start from the Les Sables-d'Olonne port of France on Sunday July 1. The 30,000 miles long race is being organised to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's historic world's first solo non-stop circumnavigation in the Golden Globe Yacht Race in 1968-69.
39-year-old Tomy, who is the only Indian among 18 skippers to participate in the race, is not new to circumnavigating the globe. In 2013, he completed a non-stop, unassisted solo voyage around the earth on the Mhadei in five months while covering 23,000 nautical miles later and sailing south of the five Great Capes of the Southern Hemisphere. The first Indian and the second Asian to have achieved this feat, he was honoured with a ceremonial Presidential Reception at the Gateway of India.
Sir Robin took 312 days to complete the voyage, and Tomy has set his eyes for 311 days. "This event recreates, in the closest possible way, the magic of the original race. The emphasis is not on technology and its management but on seamanship and a direct experience of the seas. This Spartan philosophy is in line with my own view that a lot can be achieved with very little," Tomy said.
Born on the 5th of February 1979 in Kerala to a naval officer, Tomy had developed love for sailing after he graduated from the Naval Academy in Goa in 1999. He was drafted in to be Commander Dilip Donde's assistant for his circumnavigation, Sagar Parikrama 1. He has several feathers in his cap in the following years.
Tony has yet another special for this much-talked-about event. His boat, 'Thuriya' is designed as a replica of Sir Robin's winning boat 'Suhaili'. While 'Thuriya' (in Sanskrit, it means the fourth state of the consciousness) is built at Goa's Aquarius Shipyard, 'Suhaili' too had an India connection. It was built in Colaba.
The 8-tonner Thuriya will brave the most demanding of the weather conditions and choppy waters which test even thousand-tonner-ships during the voyage. The skippers will have to be alert round the clock and also ensure their ships are on the right direction. There is no GPS-enabled navigation and the skippers will have to depend on celestial movements, which will be used to first plot their location on a map, and then chart the way ahead. On the return, all the notings will have to be shown to qualify as a finish.
Thuriya embodies the spirit of ‘less is more’. Every inch is utilised for a specific purpose and objects like a plotting table for navigation, a micro-kitchen, a toilet and a small bed that he calls his 'winter palace' dominate. The 'summer palace' is out on the deck, Tomy quips.
There are also the essentials like four gas cylinders, water and dry food to last the voyage. To be sure, the organisers have allowed the participants to carry satellite phones, but only for medical emergencies.
Tomy started preparations for the GGR in 2016, starting with the boat design,launched the boat a year later, practiced in the Indian waters and navigated through the complex Indian laws before sending her to a yard in the Netherlands for final fitments and sailed into Falmouth, England--the start point of the first GGR--earlier this month.
The skippers will sail South into the Atlantic Ocean to round the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, then head East to pass through the Cape Agulhas in Australia, cross the international dateline, and finally go round the Cape Horn in South America to re-enter the Atlantic Ocean for sailing back Northwards to the start point.
Tomy acknowledges the Thuriya may not be the fastest of the boats, as it's modelled on an old design, but for him, the GGR is more a race for survival than speed.