On May 22, 2010, when Commander Dilip Donde sailed the INSV Mhadei into Mumbai harbour, he made Indian maritime history, becoming the first Indian to have sailed alone around the world.
The Mhadei had set sail on August 19, 2009. In the course of the 276-day journey, the boat and her skipper were becalmed on windless seas and tossed about on nine-metre high swell. At the end, the duo looked none the worse for wear, the skipper jumping sprightly around the boat as her sails fluttered merrily in the breeze.
In the manner typical of those who seek adventure, Donde dismissed the challenges he faced during his nine months at sea lightly. "The challenges were expected, so I just dealt with them and moved on. I didn't dwell on any of them," he said.
The Mhadei made stops at four ports of call during its 39,000km long journey. The rules of solo circumnavigation require the voyage to end in the same port where it started, cross the equator twice and all meridians once, and round the three 'Great Capes' without using the engine.
Donde said, "We have proved these things are possible and can be done by Indians. We have made a beginning that makes it simpler for others to follow and a lot of people have come up and said that they were inspired to take up an adventure sport."
The Mhadei and her captain are back on the high seas now, ready for more adventure and records. This time they're on their way to Cape Town to participate in the trans-Atlantic Cape to Rio Race with a crew that includes Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy, Lt Cdr Gautam Khajuria and Chief Petty Officer Pankaj Kumar. Plans are underway to attempt at a non-stop solo circumnavigation, this time with Tomy at the helm. At the conclusion of the Cape to Rio Race, Tomy will sail the Mhadei from Rio to Cape Town with a single crew and then back to India alone as a trial run.