Stranded At Sea, Commander Abhilash Tomy Rescued After 72 Hours Of Multinational Effort
After over 72 hours of global search and rescue efforts, Commander Abhilash Tomy of the Indian Navy was finally rescued by French fishing vessel Osiris on Monday, September 24. Reportedly, solo yachtsman Tomy was stranded around 3,200 kms off the coast of Western Australia after his boat was shattered during a storm on Friday, September 21.
The 39-year-old Indian Naval officer was representing India at the 2018 Golden Globe Race- a 30,000 miles non-stop solo racing competition which restricts the use of modern technology apart from satellite communication. The sailors were flagged off on July 1 off the coast of France. It was the 82nd day of the race when Tomy faced inclement weather.
Harsh weather conditions created havoc
According to BBC, most of the 11 competitors on Friday were sailing up north when Tomy and two other co-racers Dutchman Mark Slats and Irishman Gregor McGuckin were caught in terrible climatic conditions. While the wind speeds clocked at 70-knot, massive 14-meter waves damaged Tomy’s vessel, demasting it. The maelstrom also severely injured Tomy which rendered him incapable to move.
Though Tomy’s boat was incapacitated and his satellite phone was damaged, he kept updating the race organisers. CNN reported that after his boat’s mast was broken on Friday, Tomy managed to send a text message from the desolate location which read: “ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP.”
While he did not communicate for the next 15 hours, he had later sent a text message to the organisers informing that he’d activated his EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), which is used to alert search and rescue operations in case of emergencies.
Joint search and rescue operations launched
Massive search and rescue operations were launched by the Australian, Indian and the French Naval vessels. Tomy, drifting in his yacht, was unable to move and was surviving only on iced tea and some ration. Reportedly, the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Canberra, Australia was in charge of the rescue operations. Over the weekend, an Australian warship HMAS Ballarat, as well as Indian and Australian reconnaissance aircrafts, were dispatched to search for the 32-foot-long yacht, “Thuriya”.
The race organisers had updated the status on Facebook stating, “Pictures of THURIYA from Indian Navy P-81 Aircraft a few hours ago. Mast sails still in the water. #GGR2018 Tomy heard aircraft overhead and signalled by switching EPIRB off for short time and back on again. Mast has been acting as a sea anchor and appears clear of the hull. Companionway hatch still open. Tomy has reported previously no bad noises of impacting hull.”
While rescue ships and boats were dispatched, bad weather conditions and Tomy’s desolate location made it difficult for Indian and Australian ships to reach him. However, the French Fishing vessel Osiris was the first to reach the spot. The video of Tomy’s dramatic rescue mission was captured on camera by P-8I which was flying overhead. It shows a rubber dingy, braving the confused sea waves, trying to approach the yacht.
A huge bravo to all the people who were involved in the rescue of Abhilash Tommy. A big thank you to JRCC Australia, The Indian Navy, Osiris crew, La Reunion MRCC, HMAS Ballarat and Golden Globe Race racecontrol.Abhilash Tomy and Gregor McGuckin you guys will be missed in the fleet. First full video of the rescue of Commander Abhilash Tomy by the crew of French vessel Osiris. Video shot from IndianNavy P-81
Posted by Mark Slats on Monday, September 24, 2018
Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said, ”He has been rescued and has been pulled out on a stretcher by French Fishing Vessel Osiris He is conscious and is in safe hands.” Later it was announced that Tomy was taken to the nearby French island, I’lle Amsterdam.
Co-racer tried to rescue Tomy
Irishman Gregor McGuckin, who was one of the three sailors caught in the harrowing storm made immense efforts to rescue Tomy before the French vessel could reach him. The 32-year-old reportedly struggled with his own damaged boat to reach Tomy who was 90 miles away from him. He had also built a makeshift rig on the boat and was trying to reach Tomy’s location.
Although he was not in distress like Tomy, he had asked for a controlled evacuation from his yacht. Shortly after Tomy, McGuckin too was picked up by Osiris. The two sailors were then taken to the lonely French island.
Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted:
A sense of relief to know that naval officer @abhilashtomy is rescued by the French fishing vessel. He's concious and doing okay. The vessel will shift him to a nearby island (I'lle Amsterdam) by evening. INS Satpura will take him to Mauritius for medical attention. @PIB_India
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) September 24, 2018
Whereas, President Ram Nath Kovind thanked the joint maritime efforts and said, “Relieved Indian Navy Commander @abhilashtomy has been rescued from his location in the southern Indian Ocean. Appreciate our French and Australian friends for being part of the maritime effort to reach and assist this brave voyager. I wish him a speedy recovery.”
Reportedly, 17 sailors had begun the competition on July 1, out of which, only nine continue to remain at the sea.
The Logical Indian take
Abhilash Tomy is a seasoned sailor who had previously completed a solo trip around the world in 2013. However, even a decorated Naval officer like him had to bow down to the wrath of nature. Thanks to the joint maritime efforts of the three nations, Tomy and his fellow co-racer have safely been rescued.