The Sea and I


Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy, an Indian Navy aviator, is set to be the first Indian to sail solo non-stop around the world. Smita Nair tracks his incredible journey— his depleting food stocks, the climb up the boat's 25-metre mast and why he was upset as his boat rounded the Cape Horn

Four days after his boat was flagged off from Mumbai's Gateway of India on November 1, 2012, Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy realised he had forgotten to pack oyster sauce, his preferred ingredient for stir-fry vegetables. Days later, as he headed towards Cyclone Nilam, his definition of "misery" was the absence of a chopping board, which meant the vegetables went "whole" into the pan. "You see, for me, the voyage is about letting go of my needs," says the 34-year-old Indian Navy officer.

Not that he could have had it any other way. A solo, non-stop circumnavigation meant he could return to Mumbai only after he clocked a distance of 21,600 nautical miles, sailing south of the Great Capes—Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope—crossing the equator twice as he covered the circumference of the Earth. As he completes his five-month-long voyage, titled Sagar Parikrama 2, on the 56-foot-long INSV Mhadei (he clocked almost 22,000 nautical miles in 150 days) and comes home to Mumbai, where a presidential welcome awaits him, Abhilash Tomy will become the first Indian and probably the first professional aviator to cover three oceans—Indian Ocean, South Atlantic and South Pacific—unassisted and non-stop.

"I had packed 50 cans of soft drinks for 180 days and they ran out soon, which means one after every fourth day proved to be very, very special," says Abhilash, a maritime reconnaissance pilot with the Navy. But longing for cola was the least of his concerns.

So far, there have only been 78 people around the world who have sailed solo and returned to tell the tale. Also, when he crossed the 10,000 nautical mile mark non-stop on January 9, 2013, he became the first Indian to do so.

... contd.

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