Abhilash Tomy seeks funds to reattempt race that nearly proved fatal for him
In the 75th year of the country’s Independence, a champion Indian sailor will attempt a feat that almost killed him three years ago --- an enormously challenging solo and non-stop circumnavigation race that bars the use of modern technology.
But Abhilash Tomy’s quest for sailing glory faces a funding hurdle; he needs to raise up to ₹4 crore to get through to the 2022 edition of the quadrennial Golden Globe Race (GGR).
Struggling to find sponsors for the around-the-world race, the former navy commander has decided to take a shot at crowdfunding to be able to compete in the gruelling event, an endurance test like no other in the world of competitive sailing.
“I could not finish the 2018 edition of the race because of an accident. It’s been in my head for a long time. I am ready for the unfinished business. I have launched a crowd-funding campaign to arrange funds for a boat and several other associated expenses,” Tomy said over phone from Goa.
He has launched a fundraising campaign on the Ketto crowdfunding platform, and fondly describes his supporters as “crew” who stand a chance “to be a part of a race around the world.”
Tomy suffered a debilitating back injury on September 21, 2018, after rough seas and powerful winds in the southern Indian Ocean , one of the remotest spots on Earth, crippled his yacht, SV Thuriya. He was rescued 70 hours later.
“I did not suffer from any post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident. There are no fear issues. I was doing fairly well until the storm took Thuriya down. I regard my participation in GGR-22 as a fitting tribute to the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence,” he said.
Before the September 21 accident, Tomy was in the third position among 11 international participants and had sailed more than 10,500 nautical miles since the race began on July 1, 2018, from a port in France.
That was the 50th year of the race that commemorates Robin Knox-Johnston’s feat in 1968, with participants required to operate under the same conditions, even navigating using charts and the stars.
“This time it’s going to be even harder as participants will be given only 25 litres of fuel compared to 120 litres in 2018. I kept all the fuel for power generation. This time I will be dependent on sun and winds to charge batteries. The good thing is that participants will be allowed to carry cameras this time,” said Tomy, who took premature retirement from the navy in January 2021.
Tomy became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe on board his previous boat Mhadei, solo, non-stop and unassisted, in 2013. At the end of the five-month-long voyage, the President of India received Tomy and his boat at the Gateway of India in Mumbai. He was awarded India’s second-highest peace-time gallantry award, Kirti Chakra, for the achievement.
Tomy has raised around ₹1.5 lakh on the crowdfunding platform over the last two days against a goal of ₹3 crore. He launched the campaign on July 6.
“It all boils down to how much money I can raise. There are costs associated with getting a boat, its refit, entry fee for the event, technical managers and other expenses. I have approached some corporate houses too but haven’t had any response so far,” he said.
Tomy first announced that he would take part in GGR-22 at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit-2019. Speaking at the 17th edition of the summit, he gave details of the harrowing moments that abruptly ended his participation in GGR-18 but thrust him into the spotlight for surviving an ordeal that tested the limits of human endurance.
“When the boat turned upright after the second knockdown, my wrist was stuck on wires connecting the mast. At one point, the strap of my watch broke, and I fell nine metres on a piece of aluminium called the boom. Then I fell to the deck on my back. I cleaned up some of the broken equipment, but half an hour later, I could not stand,” said Tomy of the moments that turned out to be the point when he broke his spine in four places.
When a rescue team --- a coordinated effort of four nations --- finally reached him, his first thought was that he was hallucinating.
“After 48 hours of sleep deprivation, hallucination is common. When I heard the knock, I thought this could be a hallucination and I must be prepared for that. But then they were there, real people — and I told them you are like angels to me,” he said at the summit.
Now he needs more.