Iconic sailor Abhilash Tomy to take part in Golden Globe Race 2022

The solo circumnavigator was forced to quit GGR 2018 after sustaining serious spinal injury

March 22, 2022 04:25 pm | Updated 08:08 pm IST - KOCHI

New adventure: Commander Abhilash Tomy is the only Indian to sail round the world non-stop and solo.

New adventure: Commander Abhilash Tomy is the only Indian to sail round the world non-stop and solo. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I’m heading back into the same race that almost got me killed,” Commander (retd) Abhilash Tomy, the intrepid sailor who became the first Indian to go around the globe solo, unassisted and without stops on a sail boat nine years ago, tweeted around noon on Tuesday, March 22, announcing his participation in the 2022 edition of the Golden Globe Race (GGR).

Tomy’s debut in GGR 2018 – the second edition of a race that was first held in 1968 with just one finisher, the legendary Robin Knox-Johnston – was eventful when a storm in the southern Indian Ocean dismasted his boat Thuriya and left him immobile, with a spinal injury. He was rescued three days later in a mutination effort.

“Two days later, I was operated upon. Titanium rods were inserted in my spine and five vertebrae were fused into one. But I did learn to walk, and then got into a cockpit [Tomy was a pilot in the Indian Navy] and got back to flying and sailing,” he recalled on twitter.

If the Navy had sponsored his race in 2018, he now has the backing of Bayanat, a UAE-based company in the field of geospatial artificial intelligence. Tomy aims to get Bayanat, the rechristened boat Gregal used by French sailor Philippe Peche in GGR 2018, repaired before taking it out on a 2,000-mile voyage as part of the qualifying process for the GGR, in its third edition this year. The actual race will have him set off on the boat from Les Sables d’Olonne on the western coast of France on September 4.

Tomy had been looking for sponsors for the race and even tried raising funds online when the UAE firm approached him. “The online crowdfunding initiative helped build awareness about the ocean race,” he says on the phone from Dubai.

It’s only fitting for a company in the field of AI to support a mission like this, he adds. “You have to gather a large amount data for AI which is what a sailor on a mission like this does. Like in AI, a sailor is also into mapping and then there’s this undeniable human element,” he explains.

Tomy was sailing in the third position when the accident aborted his race in 2018. He wants to cross the finishing line this time around.

What makes the 30,000-mile GGR daunting is that it only allows the participants to use boats built to old-world specifications without any modern navigational gear. Sextants and paper charts are what the sailors taking part in it will be relying on in this solo, unassisted non-stop race.

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