MEET ABHILASH TOMY
Over 6000 People have climbed Everest and a little less than 600 people have been part of space missions so far but when we compare these figures to number of people who have completed solo nonstop circumnavigation of the globe and the figure stands at 79. Perhaps that is why it is one of the toughest endeavors known to mankind.
Lt. Commander Abhilash Tomy, is the first Indian and the second Asian and the seventy ninth person on the earth to complete the solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the globe. An avid reader, Abhilash is a master of many talents including photography and palmistry and is a pilot as well.
Childhood and Navy
Abhilash was a curious introvert since his childhood and used to do pretty well in studies. His father was in the navy and thus it was not unnatural for him to get attracted to sea. From putting out thermocole rafts in the sea to sailing solo nonstop around the world was not an easy journey. Post his schooling he cleared both engineering and medical entrance exams but he chose navy and as a result came under a lot of criticism from his friends for not choosing a well settled and easy path.
Abhilash says – “When I look back, I can say with certainty that the decision to join the navy had been borne out of the fact that I had wanted to be at sea and in a manner I had been bewitched by the tales of seafarers that I had read as a child.”
Abhilash pays a lot of emphasis on utilizing the waiting time for things to happen – “Once I was taken to a boat club and the fine lines of sailboats and other hulls left such a lasting impression on me that I stoked the curiosity forever. I would take a sailboat out to sea as often as I could and I kept grabbing opportunities as they came my way. Flying too happened similarly. The navy asked for volunteers and I raised my hand. I got so engrossed with flying that I did well in the training period with the Air Force and the staff appointments in the Navy afterwards. It was similarly that I took to photography, palmistry and such hobbies. Essentially I have used my waiting times well.”
Being an Apprentice, Project Sagarparikrama
Vice Admiral Manohar Awati envisioned project Sagarparikrama, who wanted to see an Indian circumnavigate the globe solo in a sailboat. Cdr. Dilip Dhonde was selected to spearhead the project and Lt. Cdr Abhilash Tomy was his standby to help him on the same. Though Cdr. Dhonde completed the solo circumnavigation and the project was hailed as a big success, he had to stop at four places. As Navy decided to go further and decided to do more difficult things, project Sagarparikrama – II was commissioned.
Abhliash says –
“When I had joined Sagarparikrama as Cdr Donde’s assistant, I had realised the importance of what he was doing and that it would someday become a part of the nation’s history. I also saw it as a natural progression of what I had been doing until then in the area of sailing and adventure. Sagarparikrama was the biggest thing that would happen in the field of adventure and sailing in the country and I was raring to be a part of it.”
Preparations for Sagarparikrama – II
Though Abhilash had extensively worked towards Sagarparikrama and the level of preparation was not that high as most of the navy personnel are pretty fit and working on the boat and keep sailing it automatically developed the muscle group that would be required for the voyage.
“Working on the boat in harbor required lifting and moving heavy weights (upto 100 kilos) many times a day and all that I had to do to remain in fit condition was to do it myself rather than leave it to the assistant.”
Working on this project for almost three years Abhilash was more relieved when he sailed on 1st November 2012 from the Mumbai port, Although it was not a challenge being alone but sometimes there were tasks which are too tough for an individual to handle for which you wish had there been an someone to help it would have been much easier.
Talking how his flying lessons helped him in sailing Abhilash says – “when you become a pilot you are told that the mark of a superior pilot is that he never gets into a situation that would require the use of his superior skills. I followed that policy and although I was as best prepared for an eventuality I made sure that I would not do anything rash or unplanned which would put me in deeper trouble.”
Daily routine at sea
While we wonder what could be the daily routine of someone who is alone at sea, Abhilash enlightens us with the activities he had to carry out at sea. he says –
My daily routine was pretty well set. I did not have fixed hours to sleep because the boat is sailing all the while and she never stops. I would grab 15-30 mins of sleep whenever I could and like that I would do something like 4-5 hours a day.
The day itself officially began with the sunrise. That’s when I would do the half hour of meditation, and then have a glass of milk or so, download the weather predictions and pour over the weather charts for hours. AT 8 I had to make a report to the navy after which I would take rounds of the boat and plan out the work that needed to be done that day. I had to finish all work before the sun set. After a heavy breakfast I would finish as much work as possible. By noon I had to make a few navigational observations. Lunch would happen by 2 or so and then I would continue working on the boat till sunset after which the second set of weather predictions would come in. By 8 pm I had to make the second sitrep(situation report).
In between all this I had to shoot video footage and click pictures, write a blog, maintain a facebook page, write my blog, sail the boat, navigate her, make the necessary communications, plan sail changes, service the machinery, repair damages among other tasks.
Well who said life at sea was easy?
While sailing there were times when winds would touch cyclone speeds and temperatures ranged from 40 deg to sub zero. I have sailed through regions of the planet that are known as being without rules, without laws, without gods and without common sense. While rounding Cape of Good Hope, also known as the Graveyard of Ships, I went into a storm that saw winds in excess of 70 knots and wave height which easily topped at 15 meters plus.
The best moment came when Abhilash rounded the Cape Horn(the southernmost of the Great Capes of the planet) which is popularly known as “Everest of oceans” among seafarers due to the difficulty in navigating around it on the eve of Republic day and hoisted the national flag.
Looking at future Abhilash says he is looking forward to perform a circumnavigation in a microlight aircraft thus becoming the person to circumnavigate the earth both by air and water.
For people looking forward to work on their dreams Abhilash has only one advice, “Stay Single!”.
Cdr Abhilash Tomy is embarking on the Golden Global Race, which will start on July 1 from Les Sables-d’Olonne, a seaside town in France. He is one of three special invitees to take part. The other two are Nabil Amra from Palestine and a Turk, Ertan Beskardes, who is representing Britain. The other 16 sailors are from countries like UK, USA, France, Australia, Netherlands, Finland and Norway.The race is a recreation on the 50th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s solo non-stop around the world during the Golden Globe Race in 1968.
The distance travelled will be 55,000 kms and it will take around nine months. Abhilash plans to do about 200 kms a day. What is going to make it difficult is that the sailors will not be able to make use of any technology invented after 1968. So out goes the Global Positioning System, electronic or digital equipment, calculators or satellite-based navigation aids. Asked about the key to success in the race, Abhilash says, “Normally, in any race, the fastest guy will win. But since this race will go on for 300 days, the sailor who will perform consistently and avoid unnecessary risks will win.”