Back in India: Abhilash Tomy, 1st Asian to complete Golden Globe Race, on his experience

Tomy said true to the motto that 'smooth seas never made a skilful mariner', he realised he 'has got much more' in him.


Published May 20, 2023 | 2:15 PMUpdatedMay 20, 2023 | 2:15 PM

Abhilash Tomy waving the Indian Flag

 By Kunal Dutt

Commander Abhilash Tomy survived rough seas and showed exemplary physical endurance to finish second in the gruelling 30,000-mile solo and non-stop Golden Globe Race. He said he used “jugaad” to fix his boat’s damaged self-steering gear to stay afloat in the contest.

Abhilash Tomy, a retired naval officer, on 29 April, had scripted history — when he became the only Indian and first Asian to complete the competition by circumnavigating the globe in 236 days, 14 hours and 46 minutes.

Eager to meet the family

Soon after returning to India from Paris, the 44-year-old interacted with a group of reporters in Delhi at the Navy’s Kota House on Friday, 19 May, before heading to Goa to meet his wife and son.

“I haven’t met my family yet. When I attempted the Golden Globe Race (GGR) in 2018, my wife was expecting. Now, my son is four and a half years old. I spoke to him on video call though. Later, I will go to Kerala and meet my parents,” he said.

“I also want to eat a lot,” said Abhilash Tomy, who lost weight during the race, considered one of the toughest endurance tests in sport.

Related: Abhilash Tomy is 1st Asian, to complete Golden Globe Race

The Race

Participants circumnavigate the earth solo, non-stop, and unassisted. They also use the same technology as in 1968 when the world’s first such voyage took place. They use celestial charts, sextants, compasses, old HAM radio sets and other analogue devices dating pre-1968.

The race began on 4 September, last year at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France. There were 16 competitors in the fray. Of them, only seven made it past Cape Horn, considered the “Everest of Ocean Sailors”.

Also read: Abhilash Tomy inches closer to winning 2022 Golden Globe Race

Faced challenges with ‘Jugaad’

Asked about the challenges faced during the race, Abhilash Tomy said during the race, the self-steering of his boat got damaged. He recalls that the race’s organisers had called his wife and told her that it was “over” for him in the race.

“I removed the toilet door to try to make some improvisations to try to fix the self-steering and then took a piece from the anchor. Finally, with some “jugaad”, I managed and sailed another 10,000 miles,” he said.

Abhilash Tomy said true to the motto that “smooth seas never made a skilful mariner”, he realised he “has got much more” in him than he thought before undertaking the journey.

‘Never gave up’

Top 3 of Golden Globe Race

Top 3 of Golden Globe Race (Twitter)

“I can deal with a lot of problems at sea, and my skills have definitely improved,” he said while asserting that at no point in time, he thought of giving up.

Asked, if at any point in time, he thought he will be able to finish the race, Abhilash Tomy said he never had that feeling.

“Because this time I wanted to be careful, finish it and then say, ‘I have done it’, not even a metre before finishing the race,” he said.

“I knew I was running second at Cape Horn. After that, I did not know where the first person was,” Abhilash Tomy said.

The retired Indian Navy pilot joined the solo circumnavigator club when he first sailed around the world, while in service, in 2013.

The 2018 race

Abhilash Tomy interacting with top Indian Navy officials

Abhilash Tomy interacting with top Indian Navy officials. (Twitter)

Passionate about sailing, he entered GGR 2018, but his voyage was cut short by a storm in the southern Indian Ocean. His boat rolled over, the mast broke, and Abhilash Tomy fell on the deck injuring his spine.

Rescued after three days, he underwent surgery that involved fusing five vertebrae and inserting three titanium pins in his spine.

“The next Golden Globe Race is slated to be held in 2022. I had completed almost 40 per cent of the 2018 race, I would like to take a shot again and go back to the seas,” he had said in Delhi after being rescued.

Abhilash Tomy said in eight months, he was able to get back on his feet. Albeit with “titanium in my back”.

More challenges

The retired Naval officer said in the GGR 2022 race, too, he had an episode when his physical and mental strength was put to the test.

“Once I was caught in a storm, and due to my spine issue, I suffered muscular pain. One of my legs was almost rendered immobile. I dragged myself for some period and then called my physiotherapist, who suggested some exercise. Those exercises helped me to get back on my feet and carry on the race,” he said.

The boats

Abhilash Tomy's boat Bayanat

Abhilash Tomy’s boat Bayanat. (Twitter)

Abhilash Tomy sailed on the UAE-registered boat “Bayanat” sponsored by Abu Dhabi-based geospatial AI solutions provider, Bayanat. He said the boat is planned to be kept in a museum in the UAE.

Kirsten Neuschafer from South Africa finished first in the race.

In 2018, Abhilash Tomy was sailing in the ‘Thuriya’, a replica of British sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s original winner ‘Suhaili’ in 1969. The ‘Thuriya’ name comes from the Mandukya Upanishad and refers to the fourth state of consciousness.

Also read: Abhilash Tomy is 1st Indian, and Asian, to complete Golden Globe Race

Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav

“I feel, this achievement is my small tribute to India when we are celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. And, I want to celebrate with my family now,” an upbeat Abhilash Tomy said.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)