How was India’s most prominent sailor Abhilash Tomy saved from the mighty Indian Ocean

Mumbai: Four days after he was seriously injured and stranded in a boat race, Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy was finally rescued on Monday, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.

Commander Tomy was picked up by a French fishing vessel Osiris, which had responded to an SOS from a massive joint operation launched by Indian and Australian authorities over the past three days.

“Bravo! Osiris and all involved! They have Tomy onboard and he is conscious and talking,” said the Golden Globe Race-2018 in a message.

Caught up in storm

The 39-year-old yachtsman was lying in third place in the Golden Globe Race when he and fellow competitor, Irishman Gregor McGuckin, were overtaken by a 70knot storm and 15 metre seas on Friday.

The naval sailor-cum-sportsperson participating in the GGR-2018, as a solo competitor in the Golden Globe round-the-world race, was caught in a huge storm on Friday, 5,020 km from Cape Comorin, India and 3,500 km from Perth, Australia, in the Indian Ocean.

Commander Tomy’s boat, SV Thuriya , had overturned and dismasted in the Indian Ocean on Friday. He was virtually left paralysed with severe back injuries but managed to relay messages to various authorities from his satphone.

The rescue operation

Rescuers had been unable to make direct contact with Commander Tomy as his main satellite phone was damaged, and his injury meant he was unable to reach a second satellite phone or his handheld VHF radio.

The 39-year-old navy commander had been confined to his bunk and unable to move, adrift some 3,500 kilometres from western Australia. It was good news, when Indian and Australian officials said a French fisheries patrol vessel involved in the international rescue mission had found the sailor “in a stable condition”.

The French vessel Osiris reached Commander Tomy’s yacht at 11 am IST as Australian and Indian P8 Poseidon aircraft kept watch from above, race organisers said.

The French crew boarded Commander Tomy’s yacht Thuriya using inflatable boats and administered first aid.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said Commander Tomy would be transferred to a nearby Indian Ocean island, Ile Amsterdam, for medical treatment.

An Indian naval ship would later transfer Commander Tomy to Mauritius, according to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

About Commander Abhilash Tomy

Commander Abhilash Tomy is one of India’s most prominent sailors. A pilot in the Indian Navy, he has had the advantage of spending much of his career sailing for India.

Abhilash has covered 52,000 miles under sail while in the Navy including a solo non-stop circumnavigation from Mumbai and back in 2012/13.

He has also represented India in the 2011 Cape Town to Rio Race, the Spanish Copa del Rey Race in 2014 and the Korea Cup for two years in succession. He has been awarded the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, the Kirti Chakra for valour and courageous action and Mac Gregor medal.

Talking about the challenge ahead in the Golden Globe Race 2018 he had said, “This event recreates in the closest possible way the magic of the original race. The emphasis is not on technology and its management, but on seamanship and a direct experience of sea. This spartan philosophy is in keeping with my own view that a lot can be achieved with very little.”

Tomy was awarded the Kirti Chakra (second highest peacetime gallantry award in India) and the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award. He was also awarded the MacGregor Medal in 2013.