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.)

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