After serving 24 years in the navy, celebrity sailor Commander Abhilash Tomy has retired from Indian Naval Service.
"Added a final suffix with the noon gun today. Retired. Much gratitude to everyone who voyaged along," Tomy tweeted on Sunday evening announcing his retirement.
Says Tomy over the phone, “I want to concentrate on my sailing career now. Although the navy has encouraged my sailing and with whatever I wanted to do so far, I felt it was time I did things on my own. I plan to do the next Golden Globe Race in 2022, which starts in France. I am currently looking for sponsors. Once I find a sponsor, I will buy a boat and get ready for the Golden Globe Race.”
Son of naval officer Lt cdr VC Tomy, Abhilash grew up by the sea.
“I must have been six when my father took me to a sailing club. I was mesmerised by the many stacked hulls and dinghies on the hard and knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Also, almost all naval libraries were stocked with books on nautical adventures and I was impressionable,” says Abhilash, who adds that his love for the sea is “is a childhood fascination that is continuing”.
The 41-year-old, who was born in Changanacherry, joined the Naval Academy in Goa, from where he was commissioned into the navy in 2000. He became the first Indian and second Asian to complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail on March 31, 2013. His boat INSV Mhadei, which began with her sailor in November 2012, returned to a rousing reception after surviving over 10 metre waves and storms, which was attended by the then Indian President, Pranab Mukerjee. A recipient of the Kirti Chakra, the nation’s second-highest peacetime gallantry award for valour in 2012, he was also honoured with the prestigious Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.
Tomy was also the only Asian to compete in the 2018 edition of the Golden Globe Race, which is considered one of the most challenging endurance races in the world. In the competition, participants are required to sail around the world, single-handed and non-stop in a boat with designs and technology no “newer than 1968”. Sailors are provided with a satellite phone for only medical emergencies.
He had to, however, drop out of the race due to a spinal injury during the course of the race after rough seas and powerful winds pummeled his yacht Thuriya. The injury had left him incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat, but he was rescued by a French fisheries patrol vessel.
Asked why he would want to risk it again by participating in the Golden Globe Race in 2022 and he says, “Well, when a person 7000 km from India who has had an accident at sea says, he considers partaking in the race again, it talks a lot about his confidence in the rescue set up and the cooperation between the countries for the race. Also while handling a spine fracture, everyone in the rescue effort has to be well trained and do it correctly. There were around 30 people involved in handling me from the spot of the accident till the hospital. A small mistake and I could have been paralysed for life.”
While looking for a sponsor for the 2022 race, Abhilash hopes to work on his fitness level and also to spending time with his family. According to Abhilash, he hopes to name his boat 'Unfinished Business' – a reference to the race he was unable to complete the last time, if the sponsors permit it. "Or perhaps 'Pirate of the Arabian'."
“My family is my biggest support system. My parents, my wife, Urmimala, and my sons, Vedaant and Abhraneil, are worried but they let me go,” says Abhilash, who currently resides in Goa.