Abhilash Tomy has completed his voyage as part of the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR).
He and his boat Bayanat crossed the finish line at 04:46 hours Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), on Saturday, April 29, 2023 to place second in the race. The GGR entails a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the planet.
In a video posted on the GGR Facebook page, Abhilash could be seen saying soon after his arrival at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France that this is the first time an Asian is securing a podium finish in a round-the-world race of any format. “ It’s a big moment for me,’’ Abhilash, a former officer with the Indian Navy, said. April 29 was the 236th day since the commencement of race on September 4, 2022. Responding to a message from Admiral R. Hari Kumar, chief of the Indian Navy, congratulating him on his achievement, Abhilash recalled the support he had received from the senior officer when in 2018 he put in his resignation because he wished to attempt the GGR and was unsure he would be able to do that through the navy. The admiral was at that time, head of HR in the navy. “ He understood the importance of GGR and he pushed the boundaries of a lot of rules to make sure that I was here,’’ Abhilash said, adding that when he had the accident in the 2018 GGR (his boat, Thuriya, was dismasted and he suffered serious injury in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean), the admiral had been in the operations room directing the rescue.
“ I am happy to have completed the circle. The stigma of losing a boat…I didn’t want to, you know, once is an accident, twice is a habit! So, I really wanted to get Bayanat back and I can tell you, Bayanat got me back,’’ Abhilash said. Asked about the impact of his podium finish in India, Abhilash pointed out how small the number of yachts in all of India was. From that backdrop, if he could think of a circumnavigation race and complete it, it meant the youngsters of India can do a lot. Comparing the two solo, non-stop circumnavigations he has done so far, Abhilash said that the INSV Mhadei (in which he did his first circumnavigation) was a big boat, one that kept you safe as long as you made sure that nothing happened to it. It didn’t demand a lot. “ But a small boat with wind pilot and no GPS is a hundred times more difficult. But at the same time, I want to say that if that circumnavigation had not happened, I would not have dreamt of coming for GGR. So, they are important in their own places but a GGR is a hundred times tougher than what I did in 2013.’’
The 2022 GGR was won by Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa. She reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at 19:44 UTC on April 27, 2023 becoming the first woman and the first South African to win a round-the-world race. Kirsten, Abhilash and Michael Guggenberger of Austria (he is yet to finish) were the only sailors remaining in the event’s solo, non-stop category. The rest had retired or slipped to the race’s Chichester Class featuring one stopover. Simon Curwen of England, sailing in Chichester Class, was the first GGR participant to get back to Les Sables-d’Olonne with circumnavigation of the planet done. He arrived at 10:38 UTC on April 27.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)