Commander Abhilash Tomy, Stranded in Indian Ocean During GGR Yacht Race, rescued
Aboard SV Thuriya in the 81st day of competition, Commander Abhilash Tomy was sailing in third place when he encountered a storm around 5,020 km from Kanyakumari in the Indian Ocean (Pic: Twitter).
Four days after being seriously injured and stranded during a solo Yacht race, Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy was rescued on September 24 by a French fishing vessel around 3,000 km off the coast of Western Australia. Commander Tomy, a competitor in the Golden Globe round-the-world race (GGR), was badly injured when his vessel was damaged in a storm on September 21.
Late on the same day he got caught in the storm, Commander Tomy had relayed a message via his SatPhone which said, “ACTIVATED EPIRB. CANT WALK. MIGHT NEED STRETCHER”. A subsequent message read: “CAN MOVE TOES. FEEL NUMB. CAN’T EAT OR DRINK. TOUGH 2 REACH GRAB BAG”.
The messages were picked up by Indian authorities, race organisers and the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra, who launched a joint mission to rescue him. In addition, a fellow competitor nearest to him, Irishman Gregor McGuchin — who suffered a similar demasting of his own yacht in the storm — put aside the competition to try and reach the stranded Indian. The mission bore fruit four days later.
The GGR is a race which commemorates Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s historic first ever solo circumnavigation of the globe fifty years ago. All the competitors use yachts designed to mimic the technologies that Knox-Johnston’s had, with no modern technology, except communication equipment, allowed on board. Commander Tomy, a Kirti Chakra winner, had been out in sea since the 1st of July, when he set sail from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, in his boat SV Thuriya.
Aboard the vessel in the 81st day of competition, Commander Tomy was sailing in third place, when he encountered a storm around 5,020 km from Kanyakumari in the Indian Ocean. The storm whipped up 70-knot winds and 14-metre (45 feet) waves, tearing off the mast of the Thuriya, and leaving the Indian sailor incapacitated after he sustained a severe back injury. Over the following days till his rescue, Commander Tomy, trapped in his bunk, sent regular updates of his status.
Meanwhile in the GGR, competitors some distance behind Tomy also faced a similar ordeal.
“A second storm has been building for several days and is forecast to overrun them within the next 24 hours, bringing the potential of 30-45 feet swells for 48 hours,” the GGR website reported.
“Yes, he has been rescued by a ship and what I can say is he is mentally stable. Now with this news, we are relieved 75 per cent. We all were tense for the past three days...” the sailor’s father VC Tomy told the media gathered in Kochi.
“This is basically an adventure and in such events it's a 50:50 chance and he and we were well aware of this. He will come out of it. What we are told is that he is going to be moved to Amsterdam. Initially it was said he would be taken to Australia. His brother is there in Australia and I have also started to move my papers to go and be with him. We are happy now as the prayers of so many has been answered,” Tomy Senior, a retired naval Commander said.
Tomy became the first Indian sailor to circumnavigate the globe non stop on a sailboat, in 2013, and is one of India’s most decorated and accomplished sailors.
He began that voyage onboard INSV Mhadei from Mumbai on November 1, and returned on April 6 the next year (2014) to become the first Indian and only the second Asian to achieve this feat — going around the globe in the high seas for 150 days.
(With inputs from IANS)
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