Abhilash Tomy has come second in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, after battling equipment failure in the latter half of the race
Abhilash Tomy was the last entrant to sign up for the 2022 Golden Globe Race, and had just months to prepare his Rustler 36 ahead of the start.
Throughout the latter half of the race, he battled with more gear breakages than the rest of the fleet, including problems with his windvane steering, rigging, mast, generators, and battery charging problems which led to electrical system blackouts.
He also had to face his own demons, sailing past the location in the Indian Ocean where his boat dismasted in the 2018 Golden Globe Race; during the knockdown, he fell from the mast to the deck, breaking his back in four places. He was rescued and had titanium rods inserted into his spine; he also had to learn to walk again.
But the former Indian Commander’s second placed position in the solo round the world yacht race was a moment of triumphant over adversity.
Unlike the winner of the 2022 Golden Globe Race, Kirsten Neuschafer, Tomy had a fast sail at the end, crossing the finish line after 236 days at sea.
Speaking from onboard, he shared that for the last three days he had been living on tea, after running out of food.
As he progressed up the famous Les Sables d’Olonne channel, Tomy lit a flare and waved at the crowds, although he burnt his hand in the process.
He was joined onboard by Kirsten Neuschafer and Ian Herbert-Jones, who had arrived in the French port from Cape Town, where he was dropped by a fishing boat after his rescue in the southern Atlantic.
Simon Curwen, who was the first to cross the finish line on Thursday also joined Tomy onboard once Bayanat had come alongside the dock.
‘However bad the experience at sea, however tough or rough it is, when you see all of these people you get the courage to go back, and twice I have experienced that. All the people treat you like a hero and you think you are like a hero and then you want to go back,’ said Tomy, who lost 20 kilos during the race.
‘I am exhausted. I am looking forward to three days of rest before I start sailing again,’ he continued.
Tomy shared that he had told his team he would come in second before he started, and once he passed the Cape of Good Hope he never expected to win the race as Curwen was ahead of him.
Abhilash Tomy’s Rustler 36, Bayanat was often quicker upwind and in light conditions than Neuschafer’s Cape George 36.
He was at the front of the fleet coming out of the Bay of Biscay and was 4th through the Lanzarote gate.
He shared that for 10 days he had suffered with severe PTSD and could not eat due to re-living his 2018 Golden Globe Race knockdown.
Not to be defeated, Abhilash Tomy pushed on, averaging speeds of 6.8 knots and chasing the then leader Simon Curwen across the Atlantic, which allowed him to take second place.
After rounding the island of Trinidade, he took a more middle route into Cape Town which meant he was stuck in the centre of a high pressure system, causing him to express his frustration at the lack of weather information available.
Unlike many of the skippers, Tomy has no weather fax onboard and was instead relying on receiving information via his HF radio.
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Entering the Indian Ocean, he was the first to divert to assist fellow entrant, Tapio Lehtinen, whose Gaia 36, Asteria sank 450 miles off South Africa.
At the time, he was 170 miles south-southwest of Lehtinen; he was later released by Golden Globe Race HQ when Kirsten Neuschafer picked up the distress call. He was awarded a 12 hour time compensation by race organisers.
Across the Indian Ocean, Abhilash Tomy remained in third place, but began experiencing problems with his Wind Pilot self-steering system, replacing for blade in the servo rudder.
Third into Hobart, he shared how passing the point of his 2018 knockdown had given him a ‘psychological boost’.
The 43-year-old spend longer at the gate than Neuschafer and Curwen, choosing to rest and make repairs to his boat, as well as fix his ripped mainsail.
Like Neuschafer, he was trapped in no wind zones around New Zealand for several days, which allowed Curwen to move into a different weather system and increase his lead.
Across the Pacific, Tomy and Neuschafer traded 2nd and 3rd places, and by the 27 January he was 50 miles in front of Neuschafer.
But storms on approach to Cape Horn took a physical toll on Tomy, and he had to sail to make the boat comfortable, rather than pushing on in race mode.
Having hand steered for 12 hours, he was suffering from back pain and numb limbs and was advised by the race doctors to rest and exercise to gain control of his legs.
He also has extensive repairs to make to the boat including rigging and mainsail track maintenance. This allowed Neuschafer to increase her lead to 300 miles.
More heavy weather was to follow, and Bayanat’s windvane servo rudder failed again after the boat was knocked down in 60 knot winds. Initially Tomy cut a replacement from the door of the heads but this proved too weak, and he fashioned a new rudder from the boat’s main emergency rudder.
He also had to make repairs to his spreaders of his rig.
He rounded Cape Horn on 18 February 2022, three days after Neuschafer, and entering the horse latitudes, just 400 miles separated them.
Abhilash Tomy chose a more inshore route, following the rhumb line up the Atlantic.
This also allowed him to again climb the mast to replace a broken running backstay with his guard wire, which he replaced with his emergency HF antenna. He also had to handstich his mainsheet, which ripped completed from luff to leach below the first reef point.
At this point, electrical problems meant he was struggling to receive the vital weather information he needed on his HF radio, and he chose to sail closer to the rhumb line than Neuschafer or Curwen.
This meant he sailed a narrower doldrums than Neuschafer and he was soon gaining on her, having found strong, consistent tradewinds earlier than the South African skipper.
By 21 April, just a few miles separated Tomy and Kirsten; he then took the lead, briefly. He also has to replace a broken starboard runner.
Six days later, British skipper Simon Curwen took line honours and was the first winner in the Chichester Class for entrants who make one stop.
Around 10 hours later, Kirsten Neuschafer ghosted across the finish line to take first place in the 2022 Golden Globe Race.
Positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 29 April 2023 at 1200 UTC
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha – FINISHED 1st
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat – FINISHED 2nd
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri – 1687nm to the finish
Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara – FINISHED 1st (Chichester Class)
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna – 2562nm to the finish
Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
Elliot Smith, (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
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