Now an Indian on a mission to sail around the world in 180 days

Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy
Australia’s Jessica Watson, from Buderim, Queensland, is the youngest person to sail around the world, non-stop and unassisted, born on May 18, 1993   on the Gold Coast, making Jessica 16 when she set sail from Sydney on October 18, 2009.

After 210 days at sea, Jessica arrived back in Sydney Harbour on May 15, 2010. At her welcome back reception she told the world, “I don’t consider myself a hero. I’m just an ordinary girl who believed in a dream.” On her 10m yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, a S&S (Sparkman and Stephens) 34 she had covered about 23,000 nautical miles (38,000 kilometres).

And now we have an Indian doing solo around the world. Though not as young as Jessica, 33-year old Navy Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy has set his sight on creating Indian sailing history by circumnavigating the world solo, without stopping at any port for assistance. He is currently sailing South-West of Australia.

To prepare for the mission – Sagar Parikrama II, Tomy started his voyage in November training under the wings of his mentor and famed navy commander Dilip Dhonde, a man who’s been there, done that.

Dhonde undertook a solosail, Sagar Parikrama, around the world on August 19, 2009.

He started from Mumbai, passing close to Australia, New Zealand, around the Cape Horn ( Chile) and Cape of Good Hope ( South Africa), before finally dropping anchor on May 22, 2010, in Maximum City.

Tomy is retracing the same route as Dhonde in the very same boat, INSV Mahadei , a vessel first built for the latter’s mission.

But while Dhonde stopped at several ports in the course of his sail, his mentee Tomy is not making any pitstops at all, sailing 45,000 km at a go in around five to six months.

“Some basic additions have been made in Mahadei for the non- stop journey,” Tomy said.

Mahadei boasts of a wind generator and solar panel.

Apart from food to sustain Tomy throughout the 180 days of his expedition, the boat carries fuel to its full capacity – 400 litres. In this lies a major challenge for Tomy, that of conserving energy. The fuel in a sail boat is used only to generate electricity.

Going non- stop and taking breaks at ports have their own pros and cons. Sailing without a break, one has to adjust to the sea conditions only once, as opposed to the repeated adaptation required under the alternative, Tomy said.

The port calls, however, have a huge advantage in the fact that the boat is repaired for the next leg of the voyage.

To make up for this, Mahadei has backup systems to help Tomy deal with malfunctions.

Tomy was the natural choice when the navy decided to launch the mission, as he was closely associated with Dhonde’s mission and knows the Mahadei well, having brought it back home after a trans-Atlantic sail race that ended in Brazil.

The navy pilot says, he meditates religiously to equip himself to face the challenges ahead. He also sailed to Indonesia in Mahadei recently as a precursor to his mammoth voyage.

Despite the challenges, Tomy says about the trip. “I think there is good chance of success.”

Once he completes the mission, Tomy will join a select group of 80 nonstop circumnavigators in the world.

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