Determined to win a race that almost killed him, an Indian sailor is closing in on the finish line of the prestigious Golden Globe yacht race in his UAE-registered boat Bayanat.
Abhilash Tomy first participated in the race in 2018 and was in 3rd position after 82 days when his boat was damaged in a storm. He suffered a life-threatening injury with a broken spine that required months of rehabilitation. Now, the decorated officer and specialist maritime reconnaissance pilot has returned to the race, determined to win. The race began in September 2022 and is expected to end in May this year. Abhilash is currently placed second.
“As a solo sailor attempting to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the world, I faced and continued to overcome several challenges,” said Abhilash, speaking through voice notes, in line with Golden Globe Race protocol.
During the race, competitors depart from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France and sail solo, non-stop around the world, via the five Great Capes and return to their starting point. The race has unique requirements and stipulates that contenders can only use the technology available in 1968 when the original race occurred. During the original race, nine men set out to circumvent the world and only one, named Robin Knox-Johnston, finished successfully.
Entrants are limited to sailing similar yachts and equipment to what was available to Robin – who was later knighted – in that first race. That means those participating in the race are sailing without modern technology or the benefit of satellite-based navigation aids.
Abhilash admitted that he missed his family terribly. “It is hard not to have news of how [my friends and family] are doing, but they’re also the reason why I am continuing this journey,” he said. “Other challenges include low winds for extended periods of time, injury, boat wear and tear, and lack of sleep, which come in short bursts even in the best of conditions. I also have some pretty strong cravings for a delicious pizza!”
Abhilash said that the most difficult hurdle he faced was in the Cape of Good Hope. “Sailing through the treacherous waters was an actual test of my grit and determination,” he said. “I made it with only a minor hatch leak. The Bayanat team ensured that they captured the moment and kept my spirits high.”
Bayanat, a UAE-based company specialising in providing comprehensive geospatial AI solutions, has been carrying out significant scientific work during Abhilash Tomy’s course to advance marine research and environmental conservation.
Abhilash said that he was excited to contribute to the research work. “I am supporting Bayanat by collecting water samples from the world’s oceans that will be analysed for the presence of microplastics and to detect pollution,” he said.
According to Abhilash, the company has also expanded their research and development activities to use the boat’s location to analyse and accurately forecast the local weather. “The old-school style of the race leaves room for the unpredictability of where I will be on the course,” he said. “Still, they’re using state-of-the-art AI to predict the boat’s location using weather forecasts and ocean currents data-it’s phenomenal. The deployment of this level of technology will change the landscape of geo-mapping and spatial intelligence as we know it.”
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