Itching to get back to sea, says Abhilash Tomy

Itching to get back to sea, says Abhilash Tomy
Abhilash Tomy is the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe solo.

Indian Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy, who is recovering from a grievous back injury which he suffered while participating in the Golden Globe race in last September, says that he is eager to head back to sea.

Four months have passed since he was rescued in a dramatic multi-national effort, but he can recall in great detail every moment of that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience.

The 39-year-old, who is the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe solo, rejoined duty the other day. A reconnaissance pilot, he has been given a desk job by the Navy till he recovers completely.

Itching to get back to sea, says Abhilash Tomy
Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba visiting a recuperating Abhilash Tomy at the Army Hospital in New Delhi.

“I’m 80 percent fit now and I hope to recover fully in near future. I want to get back to the sea immediately after that," he said during a media interaction here the other day in which he also shared his experiences and challenges faced during the gruelling contest.

Meeting with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

I had a chance to meet Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world about fifty years ago, when I reached Falmouth in England with my yatch SV Thuriya ahead of the Golden Globe Race. He is one of my role models and I admire him a lot. Sir Robin's race began from Falmouth on June 14, 1968, and he completed the 30,000-mile sail in 312 days. When I met him, he teased me asking how many days it would take for me to complete the race. I playfully told him I would finish it in 311 days. “You are young, but too ambitious,” he said, grinning. “Sir, you are too old and jealous,” I quipped. He laughed heartily at the joke and wished me good luck.

The flag goof-up

I was attending the customary photo session before we set out on the voyage from Les Sables-d'Olonne, a seaside town in France, when I noticed a Pakistani flag among the national flags of the participants. There was no sailor from that country in the fray. It was a goof-up on the part of the Chinese firm which supplied flags for the event. The company delivered Pakistan’s flag instead of Palestine’s by mistake. Though I brought it to the notice of the organisers, they didn’t pay attention. So I took the flag down with utmost respect and folded it carefully before handing it to the race organisers.

Itching to get back to sea, says Abhilash Tomy
Abhilash onboard Thuriya.

A gesture that has a lot to cheer about!

There were hundreds of people of different nationalities who thronged near the starting point to cheer their countrymen taking part in the race. Some of the Irish people in the crowd started shouting my name and when I looked back I saw them holding the Irish national flag horizontally so that it would look like the Indian tricolor. “We are your fans too, Abhilash,” they screamed. It was a heartwarming gesture.

A Malayalee on the high seas!

During the course of the race, I happened to meet a cargo vessel named BW Lilac. One of the crew members was a Keralite. When I told him I was a participating in a global circumnavigation race, he said he knew someone from Kerala who takes up such globe-trotting expeditions. He was stunned when I revealed to him that he was talking to the same person. We exchanged pleasantries in Malayalam before bidding goodbye to each other.

With love, to Urmimala

The captain of another ship which I came across during the sailing race was an Indian. I requested him to send a WhatsApp message to my wife Urmimala. He readily fulfilled my request and texted her in English. She replied instantly. Seeing the deluge of messages, the captain called her and put the phone in speakerphone mode. I heard her voice while sailing on the high seas!

Itching to get back to sea, says Abhilash Tomy
Abhilash Tomy with wife Urmimala.

A melodious gift

During the journey, Urmimala sent me a gift through satellite phone. We were sharing messages through a satellite radio operator stationed in South Africa. One day he contacted me and told there was a message for me. I feared something bad has happened. But when he opened the message a song started to play - the ‘Manjerum Vinnoram…’ number from the movie Guppy.

The worst fear is over!

I was scared to get married. Thankfully I have overcome it! Now I fear nothing. I’m deeply and madly in love with the sea. I am raring to go back to the seas, once I am deemed fully fit. While I was recuperating, I asked Urmimala whether she would have fallen in love with me if I were an IT engineer. She replied in the negative. I take it as the green light for my future endeavours!

Raring to go

I’m 80 per cent medically fit now. I will return to my original job once I regain the fitness. Till then I will be working with the newly created Ocean Sailing Node in Goa.

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