Meet India's First Solo Circumnavigator, Abhilash Tomy!

Imagine being out at sea on a sailboat, anticipating cyclones, hoping the wind has your back and sailing towards a destination across the globe. That’s just a glimpse into the adventure of the first Indian sailor to circumnavigate the world on a sailboat. A retired Indian naval officer and yachtsman, Abhilash Tomy always dreamt of being at sea. He’s a reconnaissance pilot in the Indian Navy, holds the rank of a Lieutenant Commander and was a member of the Navy’s shooting team as well. He undertook his solo circumnavigation in 2012 and eventually retired in 2021 to focus on the Golden Globe Race that started on 4th September 2022. Abhilash’s story is one of courage, bravery and relentless spirit for exploring the unknown.

Abhilash Tomy Photo

Abhilash entered the world of sailboats through Commander Dhonde - helping him prepare the INSV Mhadei and undertaking some sailing expeditions with him as well. Over time, he started sailing alone and with other teams too. A part of the preparation for his solo voyage was spending time out at sea all by himself. He says he loved being cut off from the world and enjoyed his time alone. Finally, on 1st November 2012, he embarked on an adventure to become the first man to circumnavigate the world on a sailboat, from Mumbai. Over the course of this adventure, he encountered Cyclone Neelam in the Arabian Sea on the very next day, tackled a cold front once he crossed Australia and sustained temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius. Apart from that, there was always the fear of hailstorms, icebergs, dense fog and other dangers.

Over the course of his circumnavigation, Abhilash also celebrated the New Year and his birthday on board. He even successfully rounded Cape Horn, a process that is considered tougher than climbing Mount Everest. Only 79 people have successfully rounded it on a sailboat. He completed his journey on 31st March 2013 and reached shore on 1st April. Over the course of 150 days, he had traversed almost 40,000 km over the sea. He says that this journey changed him as a person. Now he enjoys alone time, prefers to not use social media and loves to sport a beard.

Abhilash Tomy Photo

Apart from this commemorative feat, Abhilash continues to sail for recreation and participates in the Golden Globe Race often. His first experience in the race was in 2018, which started from Les Sables d’Olonne. However, he could not complete the race due to a violent storm in the southern Indian Ocean. He was running third in the race when large waves and heavy rainfall caused serious damage to his yacht. As a result, Abhilash injured his back and was unable to move his legs Over three days later, a French fisheries patrol vessel rescued him on a stretcher. His recovery included the insertion of titanium rods in his spine and the fusing of five of his vertebrae. He had to learn how to walk again. However, he hasn’t let this deter his spirit and he is ready to set sail again in the Golden Globe Race 2022.

Nelson Mandela once said that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but a triumph over it. Abhilash’s story is a testimony to insurmountable courage and a fearless spirit that doesn't let anything deter him. Through storms and broken spines, he continues to rise and set sail again.