Commander Abhilash Tomy KC (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of Commander Abhilash Tomy and is being used for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.)

He has five months to complete a full refit and sail a 2000 miles solo voyage to qualify for the GGR.

Well-known Indian sailor, Abhilash Tomy, will be participating in the 2022 edition of the Golden Globe Race (GGR).

The former naval officer, will sail in a UAE-registered sailboat named ` Bayanat’ which will race under the number 71, the year in which the United Arab Emirates was formed. The announcement was made at the ongoing Dubai Expo.

In 2018, Abhilash – he is the first Indian to sail solo nonstop around the world – was a participant in the 2018 GGR. Following a severe storm in the southern Indian Ocean that damaged his boat and left him injured, he had to be rescued. At that time, he was sailing in the ` Thuriya,’ a replica of the ` Suhaili,’ which Sir Robin Knox Johnston had used to complete the first solo nonstop circumnavigation in 1968. The ` Suhaili’ was built in Mumbai; the ` Thuriya,’ in Goa. Following his rescue, Abhilash endured surgery and a challenging road to recovery.

In his Facebook post confirming participation in the 2022 GGR, Abhilash provided a synopsis of the 2018 accident and explained why taking part in the 2022 GGR “ is a big thing” for him. Excerpts: “ After 82 days we were lying in third position when the storm overtook us. My boat was dismasted and destroyed, and I suffered a huge fall which left me with multiple spine fractures. And with pretty functionless legs. The remoteness? Couldn’t have been worse. The Antarctic was the nearest continent. We were exactly between Australia and South Africa, and south of India.’’

The situation triggered an international rescue effort. Four nations contributed – Ireland (Irish sailor Gregor McGuckin, a fellow competitor in the race made a heroic effort to reach Abhilash), India, Australia (both countries dispatched their naval assets) and France (it’s fisheries patrol vessel ` Osiris’ was the first to reach Abhilash). The injured sailor was shifted to a small island in the French Sub-Antarctic Territories where he was provided primary medical care. He was brought to India on the 16th day of the accident.

Excerpts continued: “ An MRI revealed the fractures in the spine. Two days later I was operated upon. Titanium rods were inserted in my spine and 5 vertebrae were fused into one. My legs were so badly off that I had to learn to walk again. But I did learn to walk, and then got into a cockpit and got back to flying, and sailing! 3 and a half years later, I am heading back into the same race that almost got me killed. Wish me luck !”

Abhilash’s boat for the 2022 GGR bears the name of his sponsor – Bayanat, a G42 company specializing in AI-powered geospatial intelligence. According to a report on the GGR website, Bayanat has said that during the race Abhilash would aid in ongoing scientific work, “ including the collection of water samples which can be analysed for up to date insight on the presence of microplastics in the world’s oceans.” Additionally, a small section of the yacht will be painted with a special coating which will serve as a reflectance target for satellites, “ representing a one-of-a-kind opportunity to collect calibrated data during the race.”

As per the report dated March 22, 2022, available on the GGR website, Abhilash purchased a Rustler 36 in France, and named it “ Bayanat.” The boat was previously raced in the last Golden Globe by Philippe Péché with PRB sponsorship (he retired from the race on August 25, 2018 due to a broken wind vane and put in to Cape Town). “ He has five months to complete a full refit and sail a 2000 miles solo voyage to qualify for the GGR,’’ the report said adding that with Abhilash’s entry, the total number of competitors in 2022 GGR stood at 23 sailors from 13 countries.

GGR’s list of skippers for 2022 also includes Gaurav Shinde (originally from Mumbai), who will be representing Canada in the race. “ Such great news! Can’t wait to share the start line with this legend.” – Shinde responded on Facebook to the news of Abhilash’s participation, confirmed.

The 2022 GGR is scheduled to commence from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France, on September 4. “ Whilst the proven formula of the 2018 Notice of Race will remain substantially the same, there are some additions for this third running of the Golden Globe. Sailors must show prior ocean sailing experience of at least 8,000 miles and another 2000 miles solo before applying to compete. Two new film drop points have been added to the course: Cape Town and Punta del Este. An extra 2000 miles non-stop solo qualifying voyage in the GGR entered yacht, using only celestial navigation, is required on top of the previous minimum 8000 ocean miles and a further 2000 solo miles. Thus, a total experience of 12000 miles at the start of the race,” the GGR website said.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


From the race in Saudi Arabia (Photo: courtesy Adventure III)

Indian ultra and trail runner, Nupur Singh, finished second among women and seventh overall in the 81-kilometre category of EcoTrail AlUla 2022 held on March 19.

In January 2022, Nupur Singh received an invite from Asia Trail Masters, a series of trail running races in Asia, to participate in EcoTrail AlUla 2022.

For much of 2021 Nupur had been battling a personal crisis; she lost both her parents to COVID-19. “ In January 2022 I was not in a good shape. I was completely off training for most of 2021 because of the situation at home,’’ she said.

The invitation from Asia Trail Masters propelled Nupur to resume her training.

“ I was very excited by the invite to EcoTrail AlUla. I wanted to come back to running,’’ she said. Nupur commenced her training in Manali, where she resides. “ It was snowing there. So, I shifted to Bir, where I trained for one and a half months. Here, the weather was a mix of cold mornings followed by hot afternoons,” she said. She also participated in Tuffman Stadium Run’s 6-hour relay race, opting for an afternoon slot of two hours, primarily to train herself for running in Saudi Arabia’s desert heat.

Nupur travelled to Jeddah from New Delhi and after an overnight stay there, moved on to Al-‘Ula, a city in North West Saudi Arabia, in the Medina Region of the country.

From the race in Saudi Arabia (Photo: courtesy Adventure III)

The 81 km race at EcoTrail AlUla is predominantly a trail course comprising deep sandy stretches for over 10-12 km, followed by rocky canyons with stretches of continuous ups and downs. The wide open desert landscape was interspersed with rock formations, date farms, architectural monuments and the occasional road for transitioning to different areas. The course also winds through Hegra, the archaeological site, marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire course has an elevation gain of 1200 meters.

“ Here, the mornings and nights are cold while the afternoons are quite hot. The race started at 6:10 AM on March 19, 2022, and the initial terrain was a mix of deep and paved sand. It was chilly and that helped me pick up a good pace. From the beginning, I had decided to run my own race and not push too much early on and to enjoy the course and my comeback. The most enjoyable part of the course for me was the canyon section; technical terrain with mountain views is what I love the most,” she said.

Saudi Arabia’s dress code ensured that women runners wore outfits that covered themselves fully. “ It was beautiful to see so many women taking part in the race and at aid stations,” Nupur said.

Nupur said she felt strong for most part of the race. “ I never felt low at any point. My nutrition and hydration went off quite well. It was a good come-back race for me,” she said. She finished in nine hours, 19 minutes and 25 seconds. It earned her the second position among women and an overall seventh place.

A second place-finish; on the podium with the other winners (Photo: courtesy Adventure III)

Her nutrition consisted of Unived gels, salt tablets, peanut butter, oranges and locally grown dates. For hydration, she had Unived recovery drink mixes and water.

In the 81 km category, there were a total of 67 participants of which 31 runners finished the race.

Nupur got into running in 2014. Soon afterwards she started organising races in the mountains. In November 2019, she participated in the IAU 100 km Asia & Oceania Championships held in Jordan. She ran in the open category and finished in fairly good time behind British athlete, Joasia Zakrzwenski, the winner of the open race.

Following the race in Saudi Arabia, her aim now is to participate in qualifying races for the IAU 100 km World Championship to be held in August 2022 in Berlin, Germany and the IAU Trail Championship scheduled to be held in November 2022.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)