THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: One night, recently, Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy set out on his new boat from Goa. He was on his way to Karwar, Karnataka. Very soon into the journey, Abhilash realised that he had forgotten to take a torch. As a result, in the enveloping darkness, he could not use a compass or the auto pilot. He drifted for hours. It was only when the sun came up that he could figure out where he was. Amazingly, he had been on the right track all along.
This was a training run in preparation for the Golden Global Race, which will start on July 1 from Les Sables-d’Olonne, a seaside town in France. He is one of three special invitees to take part. The other two are Nabil Amra from Palestine and a Turk, Ertan Beskardes, who is representing Britain. The other 16 sailors are from countries like UK, USA, France, Australia, Netherlands, Finland and Norway.The race is a recreation on the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s solo non-stop around the world during the Golden Globe Race in 1968.
The distance travelled will be 55,000 kms and it will take around nine months. Abhilash plans to do about 200 kms a day. What is going to make it difficult is that the sailors will not be able to make use of any technology invented after 1968. So out goes the Global Positioning System, electronic or digital equipment, calculators or satellite-based navigation aids.
So, these days, the 39-year-old is busy navigating using the sun and the stars. “You have to find out the exact angle of the sun and the moon, using spherical trigonometry and logarithm tables,” he says.
To be mentally prepared, he is also doing a lot of meditation. “It makes you calm,” says Abhilash. “You no longer react to a situation. Instead, you can view it dispassionately. This will enable you to make the right decisions.”
Having a spiritual bent of mind, it is no surprise that Abhilash’s boat is called the Thuriya. “It is a Sanskrit word which means the fourth stage of consciousness,” he says.As for the boat, it is 32 feet in length, with a width of 10 ½ feet. It is a replica of Sir Robin’s boat and has been made by the Aquarius Shipyard in Goa at a cost of Rs 2.6 crore. Abhilash will need a few more crores for expenses connected with the race. Not surprisingly, he has been on the search for sponsors. “So far, the Goa Shipyard Ltd. and Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. have agreed to be sponsors,” he says. “I am in discussions with the Cochin Shipyard and also looking for corporate sponsors.”
Asked about the key to success in the race, Abhilash says, “Normally, in any race, the fastest guy will win. But since this race will go on for 300 days, the sailor who will perform consistently and avoid unnecessary risks will win.”
What will be an enormous confidence-booster is that Abhilash did something similar five years ago. He became the first Indian to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the globe in a boat with sails. “That experience will be a huge plus for me at the back of my mind,” says Abhilash. Interestingly, so far, less than 100 people have sailed the globe solo and non-stop. So Abhilash is already in rare company. And come July, he will take part in a race that will be watched keenly by the sailing fraternity all over the world. A chance to make history is beckoning. “I will try my best,” he says.