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Navy officer ready for solo voyage round the world

Last updated on: October 31, 2012 23:13 IST

Navy officer ready for solo voyage round the world

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Manu Shankar in Mumbai

About 400 humans have made the journey into the space. Five hundred mountaineers have conquered Everest. But not even half their numbers have undertaken a solo voyage round the world by sea. 

Rediff.com's Manu Shankar speaks to Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy, who will set out an extraordinary trip from Thursday -- a solo, non-stop circumnavigation, covering about 21,600 nautical miles -- in 180 days!

He will sail on Mhadei, a Goa-made ship. 

"Ever since Commander Dilip Donde made his solo trip I wanted to something like this. So that's when I decided to plan for it," explains Abhilash, about the mission. 

Donde was part of Sagar Parikrama I, a similar voyage, in 2009, which he completed in 157 days. The success of that mission prompted him to volunteer to help Tomy in his preparations for the upcoming voyage, called Sagar Parikrama 2.

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Image: Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy aboard the Mhadei
Photographs: Credit: Facebook

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'I will be on my own'

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Ask him about the challenges he could encounter, he points out, "I will be on my own, which means I will have to start from ground one. 

"One, I have to ensure that I have enough supplies of food and fuel. Then, I have to ensure that a back-up plan is ready for any kind of failure. Even though the boat itself is self-reliant, when you are at sea, you have to be switched on 24x7." 

Tomy, 33, who was a part of the first Indian yacht team that participated in the 2011 edition of the Cape2Rio trans-Atlantic race, is quick to dispel doubts pressure or the fear of the sea on his mind.

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Image: The route map of Lieutenant Commander Abhilash Tomy's voyage
Photographs: Credit: http://sagarparikrama2.blogspot.in/
Tags: Tomy

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'Only way to avoid being sea-sick is to remain seated under a tree'

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"During such trips, one has to be calm. A major chunk of preparation involves in keeping one mentally and physically fit. I meditate, which ensures it keeps me mentally and physically fresh all the time," he informs.

So what about the sea-sickness some sailors have to contend with?

"For starters, I like being alone. And, secondly, the only way you can avoid being sea-sick is to remain seated under a tree. Besides, I will be carrying 20 books which should keep me in good company," he declares, with a laugh.

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Image: The Mhadei docked at the Gateway of India at Mumbai
Photographs: Credit: http://sagarparikrama2.blogspot.in/
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'The Mhadei won't let me down'

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The 180-day trip will see Tomy, who hails from the coastal state of Kerala, navigate without a halt. He will start and end his voyage at Gateway of India in Mumbai. En route he will cover three Southern Capes  -- Cape Leeuwin (Australia), Cape Horn (South America) and Cape Agulhas (Africa) – while crossing the equator twice. 

Mhadei, the Dutch-designed boat, is well-equipped to deal with the unpredictability of the ocean, and Tomy, having already been on a solo voyage onboard it from Cape Town to Goa without any stop in a record 34 days, is confident it will not let him down.

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Image: The Mhadei docked at the Gateway of India at Mumbai
Photographs: Credit: http://sagarparikrama2.blogspot.in/

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'All water requirements will be met with sea water'

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So what will Mhadei be carrying during the trip?

"In addition to a mix of fresh food, tinned food and ready-to-eat food and frozen dry food, we will be carrying 600 litres of water in tanks and about 200 bottles of fresh water. Other than cooking and drinking, all water requirements will be met with sea water. That includes bathing, brushing, doing the dishes, washing clothes etc.," he explains, adding, Mhadei has an RO plan (reverse osmosis – a filtration process) which can convert seawater into fresh water.

Tomy says the prime reason for undertaking this latest challenge of the seas is to put India on the world map of ocean sailing. "More and more of our young people will know and take up ocean sailing."

Much of that will depend on how the deep blue sea treats Mhadei and him over the next six months.


Image: Lieutenant commander Abhilash Tomy (left) Commander Dilip Donde (centre) with guests
Photographs: Credit: http://sagarparikrama2.blogspot.in/
Tags: Mhadei , Tomy , India

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