Golden Globe Race skipper Abhilash Tomy insists he has no secret sail, but is applying his experience as a pilot to get the optimum performance from his Rustler 36

A secret sail has been touted as the reason behind Abhilash Tomy‘s performance in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, but the former Indian Commander is insisting there is no secret sail.

The solo skipper of the Rustler 36, Bayanat told Yachting Monthly that he has no secret weapon.

‘Everybody’s talking about a secret sail; there is no secret sail. But from my training as a pilot, I’ve been employing a lot of little tricks to get the most out of my sails. It comes from a slightly better understanding of aerodynamics, that is all.

“To be honest, I’ve only been playing around with a yankee and staysail, sometimes with a code zero. Otherwise I’ve very, very rarely using big sails like a genoa or asymmetric or even a symmetric spinnaker. I’ve only been playing around with smaller sails.

Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy wearing a navy Guernsey jumper with a grey beard

Abhilash Tomy is a qualified maritime reconnaissance pilot. He believes his background in aviation is helping to give him an edge in the 2022 Golden Globe Race. Credit: D&JJ/Golden Globe Race 2022

‘The spinnaker might be faster, but the overall advantage that you get by putting it up and taking it down and, you know, any problems and the lack of electronic steering etc; I think it reduces the effectiveness of a spinnaker. For singlehanded sailing, it’s better to go for more versatile sails than very specialised ones as a lot of time is taken to set them up and they need a lot of attention,’ he added.

Tomy, 43, has now recovered from a 70 knot storm he sailed through on the 26 January, where he had to handsteer for 12 hours.

This left him with muscle spasms in his leg. In the 2018 Golden Globe Race, Tomy broke his back in four places after his ERIC Suhaili Replica masthead ketch Thuriya was knocked down multiple times in the southern Indian Ocean. Subsequently, Tomy had titanium rod inserted into his back, and had to learn to walk again.

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After the storm on the 26 January, he received medical advice from a physiotherapist, and also sailed north for a few days in order to physically recover and make repairs to his boat, including fixing a bolt on the spreader and repairing the traveller, which was ‘uprooted’ in the storm.

Tomy, who is planning to round Cape Horn by 16-17 February, said he is sailing conservatively, due to the Pacific swell.

‘I am sacrificing speed but I need to sail conservatively; I want to make sure that the tiller is always extremely light because I don’t want any force to go from the tiller to the wind steering or from the wind steering to the tiller.’

Abhilash Tomy, a sailor, wearing sallopettes

Abhilash Tomy is hoping to round Cape Horn in two weeks time. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR 2022

He said he ‘didn’t know’ where Kirsten Neuschafer was in the race, and his focus was Cape Horn.

‘She could be anywhere from 200 to probably 300 or 400 miles away, I don’t know. Right now, my focus is only on rounding Cape Horn without causing any further injury to the boat. So I’m sailing very conservatively and, once I round Cape Horn, I will probably look at my options.

‘In any case, if I just finish that will be quite an achievement. I believe that until now, no Asian skipper has ever finished on the podium in any format of round the world racing, be it singlehanded, non stop, with stops or fully crewed racing or double handed around the world racing. So I think just finishing itself might be an achievement,’ he said.

Abhilash Tomy helming his Rustler 36

Abhilash Tomy’s Rustler 36 was sailed in the 2018 Golden Globe Race as PRB by Philippe Péché Credit: Dick Koopmans

Tomy said being reunited with his family was ‘keeping me motivated’, and he had managed to keep in touch with them via a private maritime radio station.

‘Sailing most of the Pacific was like the Golden Globe Race in 2018, in the sense that we had a private maritime radio station giving us coverage. Almost every day I was getting a message from home and I was sending a message back. So I was constantly in touch with my wife, and manager throughout the Pacific.’

Under race rules for 2022, skippers are unable to transmit on HAM radio, but they can use registered, licensed maritime-approval HF Single Side Band (SSB) Radio.

A sailor wearing a lifejacket, sunglasses and a green jumper on his boat

Michael Guggenberger is currently in third place. Like Abhilash Tomy and Ian Herbet-Jones, he is having to ration water due to a shortage. Credit: Michael Guggenberger/GGR

Like fellow Golden Globe Race entrants, Ian Herbert-Jones and Michael Guggenberger, Tomy has limited water supply, but he has managed to catch around 50 litres, giving him around 70 litres in his tank. He believes this should be enough to get him to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone in the Atlantic, where he expects to catch more water.

Overall, Abhilash Tomy is happy with his position and his boat.

‘Everything  works fine; everything is pretty good. Except that, you know, I wish I had, had the boat for three years. I would have loved to have made a lot of changes on the boat;  the performance would have been even better.’

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 03 February 2022 at 1500 UTC

Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin

Chichester Class:

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna


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

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