Golden Globe Race: Indian navy officer lost at sea with serious back injury

An Indian navy officer who was participating in the Golden Globe Race, a round-the-globe yacht race, when the mast on his 10-metre vessel broke off in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean, believed to be about 1,800 nautical miles south-west of Perth.

Abhilash Tomy had set sail on Thuriya from Les Sables d’Olonne in western France on July 1. According to reports, this would have been his second solo-circumnavigation of the globe in a non-motorised sailboat. He is the first Indian to complete a solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation under sail on INSV Mhadei (Sagar Parikrama-2 mission)


On Saturday, he managed to send a message saying: “Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat… Sat phone down.”

Tomy, a 39-year-old commander in the Indian navy, is able to communicate using a YB3 texting unit but his primary satellite phone is damaged. He hails from the south-Indian state of Kerala. 

The organisers of the Golden Globe Race said Saturday they were scrambling to rescue missing Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, but admitted he was “as far from help as you can possibly be”.

Tomy’s yacht Thuriya had its mast broken off when it was rolled in a storm on Friday and the yachtsman suffered what he called “a severe back injury”. The organisers described him as “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat” and his yacht is 2,000 miles (3,704 kilometres) off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.

The organisers said on the race website: “The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilash Tomy who is as far from help as you can possibly be.”

He has a second satellite phone and a handheld VHF radio packed in an emergency bag, but organisers said he was unable to reach it for the moment.

The organisers said they had urged him to try to get to the bag because it could be crucial in making contact with a plane from Australia and an Indian air force plane which might be able to fly over the area.

Given the distance from land, the planes will not be able to spend long in the area, the organisers added. A French fishing boat was also heading to the scene “but may not arrive for a few days”.

What is the Golden Globe Race?

The Golden Globe Race involves a gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe in yachts similar to those used in the first race 50 years ago, with no modern technology allowed except the communication equipment.

Tomy’s own yacht is a replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhail, winner of the first Golden Globe Race.

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