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Last updated: 09 May, 2023  

f2f.9.jpg Passion for sea & sailing got me through gruelling Golden Globe Race: Commander Abhilash Tomy

ARUN LAKSHMAN | 08 May, 2023
A retired Indian Navy Officer, Naval aviator, and yachtsman, Commander Abhilash Tomy has earned the distinction of being the first Asian to complete the gruelling Golden Globe Race, circumnavigating the globe with a boat of the 1960s technology.

In fact, he was placed second with the South African woman, Kirsten Neuschafer finishing first. In an interview with IANS, Commander Tomy shares how and why he chose a career in Navy over Engineering and Medicine.

Excerpts from the interview:

IANS: Welcome back to the mainland after a gruelling circumnavigation for 236 days. Tell us the experience please?

Commander: Solo non-stop circumnavigation is always tough and GGR 2022 was meant to be tougher than others because of its special rules and restrictions on using small boats. During the event, I faced more problems than I have ever faced in my sailing career and this included managing about 1 litre of water a day for months, climbing the mast to fix spreaders and replace running backstays, using the anchor as part for the wind vane self-steering, stitching ripped sails, replacing halyards, running out of food and what not.

IANS: You have been injured and quit from the previous Golden Globe Race in 2018. What was the feeling when you crossed the same sea this time ?

Commander: I felt immensely satisfied.

IANS: Commander Abhilash Tomy is the first Asian to achieve the feat of becoming second in Golden Globe Race. How was it?

Commander: I am probably the only Asian to win a podium finish in a round of the world race in any format and I am happy about it. But more than that I am happy to have finished GGR

IANS: Don McIntyre the GGR founder and chairman has said that your boat 'Baynet' has been the most repaired boat in the tournament. How did you overcome the obstacle?

Commander: It took a lot of innovation, stubbornness, imagination and hard work to make the repairs and the boat going.

IANS: When you got injured during the previous GGR, did you think you would ever compete again?

Commander: Yes, I had started planning this GGR as soon as I had secured myself in the bunk.

IANS: You are a Naval Pilot and would have got lucrative jobs which don't need such a grueling task. Why did you prefer this?

Commander: From childhood I have always followed my passion. I wanted to be a sailor and a pilot and it is because of this that I joined the Navy even though I had secured engineering and medical seats. That's the same reason why, despite being a pilot I followed my passion for sailing.

IANS: Your father Lt Commodore(Rtd ) V.C. Tomy has said that you had a natural inclination towards the sea since your younger days. Your comment?

Commander: He is right. I grew up close to the sea since he was in the Navy. Besides, I read a lot of books about the sea and that triggered my imagination.

IANS: 16 people commenced voyage in Les Sables d'Olonee on Sept 4,2022 for the GGR. Now only two have completed. What about the others and why they couldn't complete?

Commander: There were many reasons including loss of boat, personal reasons and technical issues with boats.

IANS: In GGR it's learned that you have to use the navigational system of the sixties with no modern technologies around. How did you cope with it?

Commander: That was very easy for me since I learnt and practised navigation in the Indian navy.

IANS: Your younger brother Aneesh Tomy has reached Les Sables d'Olonee. What was the feeling of seeing him at the finishing podium?

Commander: It was really great to see him! He got married in 2018 when I was doing GGR and during 2022 GGR they had a baby girl! After the accident in 2018, he flew down to Delhi to attend to me at the hospital and he promised that he would be at the start of GGR 2022 if I decided to take part in it. He was here at the start and was of big help and at the finish, he was here with his wife and kid.

IANS: Please let us know about your routine during the race ?

Commander: That really varies depending on weather conditions.
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