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Gaurav Shinde: around the world and back

Back from a round-the-world yacht race, Gaurav Shinde knows that it's not how far you go but what you bring back.

brunch Updated: Jun 01, 2014 10:54 IST
Divya Verma

In the past four months, Goregaon boy Gaurav Shinde has broken a tooth, lost around 12 kilos, contracted hypothermia twice and fallen unconscious. The 27-year-old product-quality associate with Google India in Hyderabad still counts himself lucky; these were but small prices to pay to become the first Indian to even attempt the 11-month Clipper ’13-’14 Round the World Yacht Race.

Leaving was hard. Right before he set sail, he received an ultimatum from his girlfriend: choose me or the sea. The young sailor picked the ocean, sailing with an empty heart but filling his head with unforgettable experiences. Shinde lasted just four months in the race before he sailed back home on April 24 (the day Mumbai went to the polls). He spoke to Brunch about seeing the world and all that you can’t leave behind.

First off, did you vote?
Of course! As soon as I returned. That was the best part of coming back on election day.

You couldn’t finish the race. Why?
I was out there only for four months because I couldn’t get funding for the whole 11 months. I started from Australia [on Jan 6], went to Singapore, Hong Kong, Qingdao in China and then San Francisco, which was my last stop. It was a fun, scary, and an eye-opening experience.

It’s not quite a broken rudder, but it must be hard to sail with a broken heart...

Honestly, I didn’t have time to think about it. I was lonely at times, but it was mostly because I was in a team full of people from the UK, Australia and America. I was the only Indian and I longed to speak to someone in Hindi. More than anyone else, I really missed my parents.

And obviously ghar ka khana...
Yes, food was a major challenge. Those guys eat really bland food, while I like it seasoned. You can eat such food once in a while, but when you really need motivation in life, you need something that satisfies your palate.

On Facebook, you wrote that there were days you’d cry yourself to sleep. Why?
Sailing isn’t easy. We were changing sails all the time, and one sail weighs around 500 kilos. The boat is at a 70-degree angle, making it difficult for you to stand straight. It’s cold, almost snowing, or there is a hailstorm and the waves are hitting you. You are just physically and mentally exhausted after a point. In fact, while sailing from Hong Kong to China, I broke a tooth and it got infected. I had to get it extracted in Mumbai... After a while, you just get used to all the madness and the schedule of waking up every four hours.

What made you do it, anyway?
See, sailing is a very selfish sport. Out at sea, you don’t have to be worried about money, there is no pressure. With people, it’s a mad catfight – on land, I have to fight for space even to stand in a local train. This is not the kind of fight I want in life. I want to do something that is new and exciting, and sailing conditions are new every hour. On a boat, the only thing you’re fighting with is nature and the unpredictable conditionson the sea. It gives me a high that I just can’t explain.

But you shared the vessel with 12 others. That’s like a reality show you can’t get out of.
There were 12 of us, and after spending so much time together, you are bound to become friends. There was a man who was the vice-president of one of the biggest shipping companies in the world. Also, I became good friends with a test driver for Land Rover. He is also an F1 test driver.

When do you set sail next?
I have big plans for sailing. I want to turn it into my profession. Also, my friends – one is a naval architect and the other, a Maratha navy historian – and I are trying to design a yacht on the lines of an old Indian boat. We want to sail around the world over two to three years to make people aware of India’s nautical heritage.

And has your heart found its moorings as well?
I am all right. I am happy sailing and doing something I love. I feel much lighter now. The race was an opportunity of a lifetime, and now after coming back from this great adventure, I know this is what I want to do.

Follow @DivyaVerma on Twitter

From HT Brunch, May 31
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