From near death, and heartbreak to overcoming the toughest of odds to taste incredible success, Commander (Retired) Abhilash Tomy’s voyage over the high seas on a tiny sailboat is the stuff of edge-of-the-seat thrillers.
On Saturday, he made India and the world proud by completing the grueling Golden Globe Race, described as the ‘Voyage of Madmen’, unassisted, solo, non-stop without using any modern navigation technology.
Five years ago when Tomy was stranded in the middle of the stormy Indian Ocean in a broken boat, with a shattered spine and no GPS, as he attempted to circumnavigate the world in his boat, his chances of surviving were slim.
He was miraculously rescued, though he could barely walk after that and had to have titanium rods put in his spine. Anybody else would have been traumatised by that experience.
Yet, Tomy actually set sail attempting the world’s toughest and most dangerous endurance race again on his boat — Bayanat. Although there were plenty of anxious moments — fierce winds, a broken rudder, running out of potable water — Tomy conquered the challenges to finish the race in 235 days. The second shot was successful.
As the 44-year sailed into the French port of Les Sables –d’Olonne, where the race ended, the applause was resounding with Sia’s song Titanium being played in the background, and friends and family milling around.
“I am happy to have completed this race,” was his immediate response, as he requested for India’s National Anthem to be played. In a broadcast message, he later added, “This is a big moment for me and for everybody from Asia. This is the first time anyone from Asia has a podium finish in an around-the-world race.”
Speaking to businessline, wife Urmimala Abhilash was very emotional.
“I am very proud of him. He’s scripted history and ushered in a new era of sailing as a sport after becoming the 1st Indian and 1st Asian to win a solo non-stop circumnavigation race. I hope our country and generations hereafter are inspired to take sailing up after this and add to the richness of our ancient and rich maritime history. His journey has been tough. But he’s been tougher,” she said.
Speaking from his house at Udayamperoor in Ernakulam district, his father Tomy Valliara said, “After the first unsuccessful attempt in 2018, my only advice to him was to complete the race and not to worry about any positions.”
“Initially, there was some concern in getting sponsors for the race, but finally he got it from the country itself with a bit of delay,” said Valliara, who is eagerly waiting to see his son, who was awarded the Kirti Chakra in 2013, the Nau Sena Medal in 2019 and Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2013.