What if you are sent on an expedition of circumnavigating the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted on a yacht? How long do you think you can survive? A week? A month maybe? But this man, Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy covered 23,100 nautical miles on a solo, nonstop, non-assisted trip on a yacht in 151 days under the expedition called ‘Sagar Parikrama 2’.
Packed with food, water and every other thing that would be required to survive over 151 days at sea, Tomy and his vessel INSV Mhadei were flagged off on 1st of November 2012 from the Gateway of India, Mumbai, expecting to create history, as the first Indian to achieve such a feat. The start of his journey itself tried to raze his courage as he was hit by a cyclone. His vessel was unsteady and undulating but his courage wasn’t and so he decided to not withdraw from the task of circumnavigation. He sailed all the way from the coast of Mumbai to down towards Australia and then cutting through the cold waters around Antarctica, he reached Cape Horn. Rounding Cape Horn is considered one of the most terrifying obstacles faced by sailors across the world and Commander Abhilash Tomy, owing to his generic love for challenges, not once but twice delivered himself through it. The first time during his solo circumnavigation trip and the second time during the Golden Globe Race.
During his solo travel, the solitude that commander Abhilash Tomy experienced is something that is unimaginable for its extreme emotional and psychological effects. While talking to a representative of ManipalBlog, he said that he never loses hope and perhaps this is what made him sustain such an unbearable remoteness. In his recounting of the solo circumnavigation trip at the ‘Deep Sea Crisis Management Lecture’ at TAPMI, he narrated a few funny incidents that happened. For example, after crossing the Cape Horn, Commander Abhilash Tomy came across another boat, which excited him because the thought of hearing a human voice after four months exhilarated him. He quickly went to the cabin and connected to the radio of the other boat and spoke to the person on board. It turned out to be a woman traveling to Antarctica for a scientific expedition. After a few minutes of talking and sharing their experiences at sea with each other, he asked the lady if he could see her face for he had not seen a human face for months. The reply that came was astonishing for him. The lady said, “There is no way in hell that I will show my face to a person who has not seen a human face for months.”
Commander Abhilash Tomy reached the coast of Mumbai on the 7th of April 2013 and was received by the then President of India, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, his mentors, and the Indian Navy at the Gateway of India. His speech about surviving 151 days at deep-sea solo and without the assistance, opened the eyes of the audience and gave an analogous ideology of problems that can happen in one’s life and how to face them. While he was being interviewed by ManipalBlog, we could easily highlight his relentless optimism and presence of mind.
While on his Golden Globe race after crossing the Cape Horn, Commander Abhilash Tomy was severely injured and he was on his bunk for four days without food and only the iced tea which kept him hydrated. He messaged the race authorities and explained to them the situation and hence began search operations for him by navies of Australia, India, and France. He was rescued by the French naval ship Osiris and was taken to the Amsterdam island where he was diagnosed with several fractures in his spine. A few days later he was picked up by the Indian naval ship from Amsterdam island and dropped off on the coast of Vishakhapatnam, where he was admitted into a hospital and was given physiotherapy for the next two months that followed. Unfortunately, he didn’t win the Golden Globe race by at least took the honor of representing India at the front-line which in itself was a pioneering task.
Surviving all of the problems he faced Commander Abhilash Tomy’s will to survive makes everyone believe that one cannot falter no matter what problem arises in their life. He didn’t lose hope when the diesel from the vessel engine was spilled in his drinking water when he was just 15 days away from his success. He didn’t lose his calm even after being hit by cyclones which ripped off the sails of his ship. He got the news of his wife being pregnant while he was in the middle of the sea but he chose to keep his emotions under control in order to stay focused and that’s what deep-sea crisis management is all about- going calm and going strong.
His speech moved the audience and made a great impact. He continues to be one of the best members of the Indian Navy. When asked if he was willing to go on the Golden Globe race once again he replied, “Yes, I would never want to miss such an opportunity.”