Les Sables-d’Olonne (France): Braving howling winds, roaring seas and a torn sail, Malayali sailor Abhilash Tomy is going strong with his daunting expedition in the Globe Race (GGR) which has entered its final lap.
The harsh weather conditions in Atlantic could not pull the gritty Abhilash down in one of the toughest and longest sailboat competitions.
"One of the main sails of my boat 'Bayanat' was torn but we did not notice it. It is quite difficult to sail with a damaged sail as it allows the wind to propel the boat. I climbed up the towering mast and brought the torn sail down. While laying it out on deck, I realised that the 24-square metre-long sail was ripped for about four square metres. It took me about 24 hours to put them back together," Abhilash said in a satellite phone message.
"After suffering multiple knockdowns on the waters of the Pacific Ocean last month, I wanted to stay fully focused on the journey. It was then the sail required mending. There were heavy rains when I repaired the sail, but it was a blessing in disguise as I was able to collect about 30 litres of water while stitching together the torn sail. As the water storage tank was contaminated in last month's knockdown, I have to be careful not to waste a drop of water. Mostly I'm using canned food now. Before the rains, I had been cooking in seawater. There are chances of more rains in the coming days," the former Indian Navy officer said.
Last week, Abhilash had lost his windvane steering after his boat was knocked down by rough waves. It is an important apparatus of sailors as it gives an indication of the current apparent wind direction. As he did not have a spare windvane, Abhilash used a piece of log to ascertain the wind direction. Notably, British sailor Simon Curwen, who was leading the race, had to make landfall in Chile to make repairs to his windvane steering.
Currently, Abhilash is passing through the waters close to Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro and is about 8,980 kms (4,848.812 nautical miles) away from Les Sables d'Olonne, the finishing point located in Western France. He was also able to close the gap with Kirsten Neuschafer, the woman sailor from South Africa who leads the race, by about 640 kms (345.572 nautical miles).
The 30,000-mile GGR, which began from Les Sables d'Olonne on September 4, 2022, completed 185 days on Wednesday. Abhilash had first circumnavigated the globe in 2012-13, becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat by sailing for 151 days on the INSV Mhadei as part of the Indian Navy's Sagarparikrama expedition.
The 44-year-old Abhilash is reattempting the gruelling race which he was forced to quit after sustaining serious spinal injury in 2018.