Indian sailor Abhilash returns to race that almost kills him | Sports

On sailor Abhilash Tomy’s Twitter account, a tweet was pinned: “I will be participating in the 2022 Golden Globes Race on Bayanat. That’s a big thing for me and here’s why. On September 18, 2018, I was racing in the southern Indian Ocean when we encountered an unusual storm that claimed two of the three boats in its path. Mine is one of them. “

What follows is his narration of how things turned out. But what it doesn’t refer to is the suffering that Tomy went through during those uncertain moments. And as he prepares for another attempt at the same race in September, it doesn’t show in his voice either.

“Of course, I think about the effort, but without regard to the emotional quotient. It’s quite profane, a very realistic look at what happened,” Tomy told Al Jazeera.

The Golden Globe Race (GGR) is a championship race featuring some of the most experienced sailors from around the world.

It involves a circumnavigation of the world, starting at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France.

There are no modern navigational tools to traverse 30,000 nautical miles (55,560km) or to communicate with the world except in certain circumstances when the rules allow.

A call for rescue or help means disqualification.

A former sailor and pilot in the Indian Navy, Tomy became the 200th person in the world to make a non-stop solo circumnavigation in 2012-13.

Starting at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, he headed southeast towards New Zealand, rounding the Cape of Horn, before heading north to the Cape of Good Hope, and back to his starting point in India.

“I believe you need to have certain qualities that will help you survive. I’m very patient, I’m happy to be alone, I don’t get bored with myself. And as a pilot, I learned the importance of following procedures,” added Tomy.

And some of these traits were important as it reduced survivability on his first GGR attempt 4 years ago.

Somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, he was on his third run when the storm made landfall on Tomy’s ship, a 32-foot-long masted ketchup named Thuriya.

They were blown away by strong winds of 70-80 knots (130-150kmph), which quickly changed course, causing huge waves that capsized the sailboat. It stood upright again on the hull, but capsized a second time.

As it straightened, Tomy got caught in the mast. He fell into what he remembers being anywhere between 5 meters and 9 meters (16-30 feet).

“My back hits the boom. When I got back inside the boat, the pain became severe so I tried to sit in vajrasana [thunderbolt or diamond pose]. That doesn’t make things better, my knees keep going down when I try to stand.”

When he realized that something was wrong, Tomy called for help. After 80 days at sea, his race was held.

For more than three days, he lay in wait before help finally arrived.

Chartwork Abhilash Tomy
What kept him going was the fact that he was already planning the race again, his wife remembers [Courtesy: Abhilash Tomy]

“I’m remembering things I need to tell the doctor,” says Tomy. And where rescuers can find essentials like my passport, documents and phone. After that, I look forward to meeting my pregnant wife. And, of course, I’m planning my next attempt.

“This business has not been completed since that day.

“But I don’t really carry any post-traumatic stress disorder with me. No regrets or regrets. I think that comes from spending a lot of time alone at sea.”

It was only when he returned to India that he was informed of the extent of the damage.

Then surgery took place and his five vertebrae were fused into a single unit. Two weeks later, he returned home to Goa to begin rehabilitation – he had to learn how to walk again.

“Whenever we talked, he would bring things down,” says Urmimala, Tomy’s wife.

“I only knew that he had injured his back, until I read an article that covered it in more detail. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him. All I remember is that when I first saw him in the hospital, I knew I had to get this man up as fast as I could. Because the one lying there wasn’t Tomy. “

The convalescence period presents challenges other than physical recovery.

Urmimala recalls Tomy’s most difficult moment as when he realized he couldn’t help his pregnant wife. Then there’s a huge investment to think about what he’s done to get to the starting line.

“Most of it is my money, my savings and all that. And now I have nothing to show for it. That’s madness,” said Tomy.

What kept him going was the fact that he was already planning the race again, his wife remembers.

“That’s what he likes to do. And the birth of our baby boy Abhraneil helped him recover earlier,” Urmimala said.

Abhilash Tomy
Tomy chose to retire early from the navy last January to focus on racing [Courtesy: Abhilash Tomy]

After hobbling on crutches and several rounds of physical therapy, Tomy followed a rigorous routine that included gym, pilates, and kickboxing. More than a year after the crash, Tomy had to pay strict medical bills with the navy to continue his pilot duties – a maneuver that climaxed with the escape of an underwater plane. .

All along, the race was in the back of his head.

But his wait continued for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was during this period that he read books on celestial navigation and planned his next endeavor.

He even chose to retire early from the navy last January to focus on racing.

Things started to fall into place in March 2021. Tomy found a backer in Bayanat, a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

He sourced a Rustler 36 from a French sailor and moved to Europe to build it with a Dutch boat manufacturer.

On July 15, he tested the waters by setting out for a 2,000-mile (3,218km) test. The heavy traffic kept him awake and survived three to four hours of sleep a day for a week.


That leads to hallucinations in the dead of night.

“It’s pretty bad. I heard myself speaking in Malayalam. It was my mother asking me to take a break. Then I heard my wife say that I can take a nap when I get to the airport. And then I found myself looking for a taxi to get there. The good thing is that I realized these were hallucinations, even though it had never happened to me before,” he said.

Aside from a few minor snags he’s been working on, Bayanat has been steady on the 19-day journey. He soon prepared the final steps for the race, stocking up on supplies and spares, especially his savior on round trips: popcorn.

On August 14, Tomy participated in the SITraN Challenge. Later that night, Bayanat collided with a Dutch ship some 120 nautical miles (222 km) off the coast of Gijon.

Hours after the incident, Tomy released a statement on Twitter: “Small brush with a ship. Well done, go all out! “

GGR 2022 is scheduled to begin on September 4th instead of the usual time in July. Tomy believes it has a lot to do with the weather, similar to what affected him in 2018.

Just getting to the starting line can be a challenge. Out of 32 entries, only 16 are likely to be part of the race.

“Last time, the main goal was to get started because it was a big deal for India. This time, my goal is to finish.”

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