Round-the-World Sailor Rescued Following Massive Storm That Smashed Ship

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A couple of months back I posted about the return of a challenging round-the-world sailing event called the Golden Globe Race. At the time, we had just wrapped up our coverage of the Volvo Ocean Race, and the GGR was just ramping up. The differences between the two competitions were stunning however, as the VOR was a stage race with large crews of sailors helming ultra-modern vessels as they raced across the globe. In contrast, the GGR is for solo racers who must circumnavigate the planet non-stop, creating an entirely different level of challenge. Earlier in the week we learned just how difficult that challenge was, when one of the participants had to be rescued at sea.

Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, the first person from his home country to sail solo around the world, was rescued by a French ship after his vessel was severely damaged by a massive storm. The trouble began when Tomy’s ship, the Thuriya, was caught by massive waves reaching 14 meters (45 feet) in height. The storm demasted the boat and tossed its captain around to the point where he sustained serious injuries, prompting Tomy to call for help.

Last weekend, the Indian sailor used his satellite phone to send out a distress signal, texting that he couldn’t walk and may have needed a stretcher. Later he indicated that he could move his toes, but was unable to crawl to his grab bag to get food or water. This prompted race officials to put out a call for assistance, with the French ship promising to render aid.

At the time, Tomy was 3300 km (2050 miles) off the coast of Perth, Australia and 82 days into his round-the-world voyage. Rescue efforts were hampered by rough seas but eventually he was recovered and was taken to Mauritius for medical treatment. Locating and retrieving him took the combined efforts of the Indian and Australian navies however, which worked in conjunction with the French ship the Osiris.

When the storm hit, Tomy was sitting in third place in the Golden Globe Race and faring quite well. But the massive waves and high winds caused the Thuriya to roll 360º, shattering the masts –– and her sailor –– in the process. Thankfully, Abhilash is going to be alright, even if it may take awhile to recover.

As for the race itself, 18 skippers started at the finish line and now half have retired from the event, proving it is a ware of attrition that requires stamina and determination to go along with skill and experience.

Kraig Becker