This Article is From May 19, 2023

'Titanium Man' Abhilash Tomy Honoured For Finishing Toughest Sailing Race

Retired Indian Naval officer Abhilash Tomy, charted history in April 2023 when he came second in the Golden Globe Race 2022, circumnavigating the world solo in just over eight months on his yacht, Bayanat.

'Titanium Man' Abhilash Tomy Honoured For Finishing Toughest Sailing Race

The Golden Globe Race is a solo around-the-world sailing event that starts and ends in France.

New Delhi:

Lying onboard a 32 ft yacht, with a broken spine, unassisted, somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean after a storm, which thrashed him to the ground from over 5 metres, Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy thought that he should give another shot to the world's most gruelling ocean sailing race.

Nearly five years later, retired Indian Naval officer Cdr Abhilash Tomy, charted history in April 2023 when he came second in the Golden Globe Race 2022, circumnavigating the world solo in just over eight months on his yacht, Bayanat.

Abhilash completed the GGR, which kicked off on September 4, 2022, in 236 days, 14 hours, 46 minutes, 34 seconds on April 29, making him the first Indian sailor to do so.

A revival of the historic 1960s-era Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the Golden Globe Race is a solo around-the-world sailing event that starts and ends in the seaside town of Les Sables-d'Olonne in France.

While speaking to ANI after his Felicitation Ceremony, which was held on Friday at Naval Officers Mess Annexe (NOMA) Kota House here in New Delhi, Tomy said that he re-entered the GGR because he was not willing to give up.

In the arduous race, GGR, the participation is by invitation only and participants must have a minimum combined ocean sailing experience of 12,000 miles, of which 2,000 miles must be solo and another 2,000 miles should be covered on the specific boat they are using for the race.

The race is required to be non-stop, with those making one stop, are relegated to the Chichester class -- where sailors just get a separate memento to finish the race in that category -- while those who make multiple stops are disqualified or "retired".

Abhilash was an entrant in the 50th-anniversary edition of the Golden Globe, a solo non-stop race around the world which started from Les Sables d'Olonne France on July 1, 2018.

But that time, he couldn't reach past the finish line as he was caught by an extreme storm, deep in the Southern Indian Ocean, which rolled and dismasted his yacht, Thuraiya.

Abhilash, who was in third place during the storm, had fallen from the boat's mast, severely injuring his back and was unable to move his legs before he was rescued by a French Government fisheries patrol vessel, OSIRIS, three and a half days later.

In difficult conditions, the crew were able to recover Abhilash on a stretcher. He was later transferred to an Indian Navy vessel sent to recover him and two days after arriving in India, titanium rods were inserted in his spine and five vertebrae were fused into one.

Narrating the ordeal of the deadly storm, bound to capsize his yacht, he said, "I got stuck in a storm because my name was written on it. When the boat capsized I got separated from it, but I was holding on to the mast, and, when the boat straightened I was on the top of the mast but suddenly I plunged into the ground from 5-8 metres height, resulting in a fracture in my spine, lying in the boat for three days before I was rescued."

"It all happened in the most remote corner area of the earth," the non-stop solo circumnavigator said.

"In my surgery, five vertebrae were fused into a single piece and two titanium rods were fixed to my spine," he added.

The titanium man then again learned toddler-like things ranging from how to walk to how to climb steps.

"As I was walking with crutches, I did so much physiotherapy. I did kickboxing to regain my balancing ability," he said, adding that he returned to the sea within six months of joining duty.

The sea-mad nomad hung his whites in 2019 just for his madness for sailing and again participated in the race, in 2022, which nearly got him killed.

This time in the second attempt he had learnings from his past which helped him successfully cruise past the three Capes -- Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin in Australia and Cape Horn in South America.

"I learned that I needed a good team to support me. So this time I had exactly the team I had dreamt of. I had a fantastic designer from the Netherlands, who helped me set up the boat. A team manager from the US, along with my family and a brilliant sponsor," he said.

On heading for the second attempt in a race that has such a low success rate, he said, "When I had an accident and I had nothing to do for three days except to wait for rescue, I was already making plans for the next race."

"I was figuring out which boat to buy and sponsorship for the next race. It was always in my mind and I was not willing to give up," he added.

During his second attempt, Tomy sailed 10,000 miles from a piece of anchor, which he fixed on autopilot after his self-steering broke.

"Well, I think the toughest thing for me was when my self-steering broke close to Cape Horn, mount Everest of sailors. I remember I called my race organizers and informed about it to them. They in turn called my wife and told her that his second chance is over. Because a lot of people retired after their autopilot failed," he said.

"I immediately removed my toilet door, made a spear and fixed it but it also failed. I was left with a thought of what to do. I then cut my emergency radar and fashioned a spear out of it, but it did not fit. Then I finally took out a piece from the anchor and fixed it to the autopilot, from there I sailed 10,000 miles. This was the most innovative repair I have done and I did not lose the race," the retired Navy officer said proudly.

In GGR 2022 edition a total of 16 sailors participated from 11 countries. South Africa's Kirsten Neuschafer, the only woman on the starting line, won the race.

Abhilash's sea companion, 'Bayanat', will now be kept in a museum in Abu Dhabi.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)