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Fishing vessel rescues stranded Navy commander


Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy's mentor and race manager Cdr (retd) Dilip Donde was a relieved man Monday after a French vessel rescued the injured sailor, whose yacht went adrift in the Indian Ocean for three days.

Cdr Tomy was rescued by fishing vessel Osiris, which was diverted from its nearby location after Friday's storm which damaged the Navy officer's boat Thuriya.

"Abhilash is very determined and focused. That he volunteered to do the circumnavigation of the globe a second time itself speaks of his mental strength," Cdr Donde told PTI on phone from Goa, where he is settled after retirement from the Navy.

"Initially, all of us were worried but now we are very relieved," Cdr Donde, who is credited with placing India in the group of countries whose sailors have accomplished solo circumnavigations, said.

In 2010, Cdr Donde became the first Indian to finish circumnavigation of the globe, with five stopovers, while his pupil Cdr Tomy did the same in 2013, without any stopovers. Cdr Tomy was participating in the Golden Globe Race (GGR), being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first non-stop sailing by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, when his 32-feet long yacht dismasted after Friday's storm.

GGR participants are using 1968-vintage equipment for the daunting voyage. Cdr Tomy, who was placed third, faced a massive storm and choppy waters with high tides, which toppled his yacht. It later stabilized but the mast broke up, making it drift for three days, Cdr Donde said. Cdr Tomy would have been inside the bunk when the toppling happened, he added.

"None of us have spoken to him yet. But it looks like when he was inside, he suffered an injury to his back, which made him immobile inside the bunk," Cdr Donde said, adding the fate of a satellite phone kept for emergencies is also not known.

Throughout the ordeal, Cdr Tomy was communicating with the race headquarters through satellite-based texting equipment, he said. According to GGR's Facebook page, Cdr Tomy went without any food as he lay in the drifting boat, over 1800 miles away from Western Australia coast.

Cdr Tomy's short texts described both his state and the surroundings - an injured back, inability to move, rough seas and the need for a stretcher for evacuation.

When asked if Cdr Tomy had taken any mental training ahead of the race, the former Navy officer said, "What more training does one need after having finished the same journey before?" Ahead of the GGR flag-off from the coast of Les Sables dOlonne in France on July 1, there were survival workshops which Cdr Tomy underwent where the participants were taught about the use of life-saving equipment, he said.

Cdr Tomy, a reconnaissance pilot with the Navy, also underwent training as part of his commissioning and on-the-job training which makes him a very strong person, Cdr Donde said. Indian Navy's reconnaissance aircraft P8I flew over Thuriya Sunday, giving the world a glimpse of Cdr Tomy's ill-fated vessel. The Navy also diverted stealth frigate INS Satpura to help in the rescue.

"Cdr Tomy is now being taken to the Ile Amsterdam island, located about 100 miles away, where he will be administered first aid. Depending on his condition, he will be shifted for further treatment," Cdr Donde said.


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