Ex-Navy officer Abhilash Tomy is 1st Indian, and Asian, to complete Golden Globe Race — finishes 2nd

The race, dubbed as one of the best human adventures in the world, entails a solo, nonstop circumnavigation in a sailboat.

ByPrutha Chakraborty

Published Apr 29, 2023 | 2:53 PMUpdatedApr 29, 2023 | 2:53 PM

Abhilash Tomy

On Saturday, 29 April, Abhilash Tomy, a retired Indian Naval officer, made history by crossing the finish line of the Golden Globe Race — the first India, and Asian, to do so.

The Malayali sailor finished the race in the second position as he arrived at the French port of Les Sables-d’Olonne at 04:46 UTC (10:15 am IST).

For those who are late to party, Kerala-born Abhilash had been circumnavigating the planet as part of the 2022 Golden Globe Race.

The race, dubbed as one of the best human adventures in the world, entails a solo, nonstop circumnavigation in a sailboat. It began on September 4, 2022, from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France.

Sixteen sailors started the race to win this incredibly disputed competition. By mid-February 2023, 10 had retired. Abhilash, 44, was the only Indian-origin participant.

And while South First celebrates his win today, we also have deep respect towards South Africa’s Kirsten Neuschäfer — the first woman to have won this round-the-world race.

Neuschäfer crossed the finish line one day before, on 28 April.

In a video message on Twitter, Neuschäfer said that she “can’t wait for Abhilash’s arrival”.

“I am super excited,” the 39-year-old smiles. “Abhilash has been a formidable opponent, who kept me on my toes. It’s a real honour to have been in this race and I look forward to seeing him.”

Neuschäfer’s racing boat is called Minnehaha — which was built in the Cape George yard in Port Townsend, Washington.

Abhilash’s yacht is named Bayanat. He spent 237 days alone sailing in this boat.

Completing the race in the second position means the world to Abhilash, especially since he had to prematurely pull out of the 2018 event.

In 2018, Abhilash had sailed in a boat called Thuriya — which was built in India. While for most part the race went as he planned, an extreme storm somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean severely damaged his yacht.

Abhilash injured his spine and was unable to move his legs. A multi-nation rescue effort was launched, and finally after three-and-a-half days, Abhilash was brought back to the shore. He was sailing in third position then.

In an interview last month, Abhilash’s wife, Urmimala, spoke to South First and recalled the 2018 episode as “absolute madness”. But she had reiterated that everybody should move on from that and instead root for him in the current race.

“Yes he will finish the race,” she had said optimistically. “No Asian or Indian has been able to do this in the history of the sport. Manifest the best for him collectively.”

Looks like the manifestation worked!

Speaking to South First on Saturday, Urmimala said she’s in India, waiting for Abhilash to come home: “Few people have come over to our home. Celebration awaits.”

Abhilash is the first Indian and Asian to have completed the Golden Globe Race.