Retired naval aviator Abhilash Tomy on Saturday became the first Indian to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the globe passing the three great capes in a pre-modern era sailboat, five years after he miraculously survived a killer storm that incapacitated him and caused life-threatening injuries.
After 236 days at sea all alone braving the elements, Commander Tomy on Saturday sailed into Les Sables-d’Olonne on the French coast touching the finishing line as the runner-up to the Golden Globe Race, 2023. Sixteen contestants started the race, but only two — Tomy and the South African winner Kirsten Neuschafer — completed it.
Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari congratulated Tomy.
The Indian sailor was a participant in the 2018 edition of the Golden Globe Race – organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original solo circumnavigation trip won by Sir Robin Knowx Johnston in 1968 after sailing for 312 days with a made-in-India boat named Suhaili.
What made the voyage the toughest in the world is that the contestants were to sail for about 300 days traversing 30,000 miles non-stop with 1968 technologies. This means they can not use any of the modern electronics navigational aids.
The nearest continent was Antarctica and he was equidistant from Australia and Africa.
His boat, Thuriya, was wrecked in extremely rough weather and sea conditions, with wind speeds of 130 kmph and 10 mt high waves. In his last message via satellite phone, Tomy indicated he is safe in the boat, but immobile due to back injury.
Tomy was confined to his bunk, unable to move since his yacht was rolled through 360 degrees and dismasted in a vicious Southern Ocean storm. He was rescued by a French fishing vessel after four worrying days.
His spine was fractured and doctors inserted a titanium rod. Five of his vertebrae were fused into one. He had to re-learn walking, sailing and flying. He quit the navy but decided to give the world’s toughest maritime race one more go.