PANAJI: An all-woman crew commanding the INSV Tarini today returned to Goa after successfully circumnavigating the globe in a 55-foot sailboat in more than eight months, the first-ever Indian expedition steered by women sailors.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba welcomed the crew at INS Mandovi boat pool in Panaji.
The 'Navika Sagar Parikrama' expedition was flagged off on September 10.
Terming the expedition historic, Sitharaman said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would meet the six crew members in Delhi on Wednesday.
Led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, the crew comprising lt commanders Pratibha Jamwal and Swati P, lieutenants Aishwarya Boddapati, S Vijaya Devi and Payal Gupta covered a total of 21,980 nautical miles in INSV Tarini, inducted into the Indian Navy on February 18 last year.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept a tab on what is going on (with Navika Sagar Parikrama). Occasionally, he also directly spoke to them and kept the nation's motivation and interest on," Sitharaman said after receiving the crew.
She said she felt "honoured" by the achievement of the young women.
"I just don't want to say that it is a pleasure (to receive the crew), I feel honoured and I feel humbled by the great achievement of these six women," the minister said.
She recalled that flagging off the crew on September 10 last year was her first "out-of-Delhi appointment", three days after she became the defence minister.
She praised the women for making history.
"And today, by the grace of God and the grit and courage that the girls have shown, they are back home to join all of us, having made history," she said.
The minister said "the feat is not about girls' achievement, it is (about) youngsters from India achieving and it is a whole motivation for the youth.
The women of the country have shown to youngsters that if they want to do something they can do it indeed".
She said she followed the circumnavigation everyday.
"I have not contributed anything except one retweet of the navy spokesperson in the morning to say where they are and what is their location. In fact, that just one retweet in the morning became the first thing. Wherever I went in the country, the conversation would start with 'how are the girls'?" she said.
"That became the conversation amongst many people who were closely following ministry of defence," Sitharaman said.
The minister said the girls have made history not only for themselves but also for the Navy.
"In every small way and big way, the Navika Sagar Parikrama is something that we can be proud of for generations to come," she said.
The six women officers were trained for the project under Captain Dilip Donde, the first Indian to solo-circumnavigate the globe between August 19, 2009, and May 19, 2010, onboard the Indian-built vessel INSV Mhadei, a Navy official said.
A Navy spokesperson said the expedition was completed in six legs, with stopovers at Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falkland Islands), Cape Town (South Africa) and Mauritius.
"The crew covered 21,600 nautical miles in the Indian-built sailing vessel INSV Tarini that visited five countries and crossed the Equator twice.
It sailed across four continents and three oceans, and passed south of the three Great Capes - Leeuwin, Horn and Good Hope," the spokesperson said.