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Indian Navy building all-women sailing team for circumnavigation

The INSV Mhadei. Photo: Indian Navy

MUMBAI (PTI): The Indian Navy is in the process of putting together an all-women's team to circumnavigate the globe on a non-motorised sailboat later this year, to promote the spirit of adventure, it was announced on Tuesday.

"We are planning a women's expedition later this year, which will have two to three volunteers from among our ranks," Commander-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command Vice-Admiral Anil Chopra told reporters.

He was speaking after at a book release by Commander Dilip Donde, 'The First Indian: Story of the First Indian Solo Circumnavigation Under Sail'.

Commander Donde had circumnavigated the globe in 2009-10 on a specially-built vessel INSV Mhadei, becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat. Commander Abhilash Tomy followed this up with a non-stop, unassisted solo circumnavigation last year.

Vice-Admiral Chopra said the same boat, the INSV Mhadei, would be used for the all-women expedition, which should take around six months to complete.

The Navy plans to follow up the women's team sailing expedition with a solo sailing expedition by a female officer, like the one by Commander Donde and Commander Tomy, he said.

Commander Donde said that he has trained three skippers, including a woman officer, to sail on INSV Mhadei and also expressed his willingness to train more people.

However, he clarified that this is a voluntary assignment and the drive should come from within to take up such a challenge.

The Navy would also lay greater stress on more civilians adopting the activity and work with hobby groups to deepen awareness as well as participation in the sport of sailing, Vice-Admiral Chopra said.

Commander Donde said civilians interested in such a sport would have to be backed by corporates to make these audacious feats happen.

Ratnakar Dandekar of Aquarius Fibreglass, who made the INSV Mhadei, said his company is building a boat for a private citizen from the financial backing by a corporate for a longer adventure in the making.

Dandekar said that it is a 40-feet long boat (as against the INSV Mhadesi's 56-feet length) which will be built at a cost of around Rs 1.5 crore.

Commander Donde said that the biggest challenge before him was to get the boat ready in time, which involved all the elements including structural design, fixing components and sails for training.

"We got the boat in February and were required to set sail on August 15. During the period, all the training we did was to sail to Colombo and Mauritius," he said.

It is because of this reason that around one-third of the book is devoted to the preparatory stage, he said.

When asked about any special training he underwent to prepare for such an arduous journey, Commander Donde said that there was no physical or mental training and all the training happened while the boat was being made.

"Sailing was probably the easier thing. We put in three years to prepare the boat," he said, adding that preparations were on till the very morning of setting sail.


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