On September 10 last year, six young women drawn from different parts of India, and bonded to a common dream, were flagged off by India’s Defence Minister, also a woman, from Goa, on board a 17m sailing vessel, the INSV Tarini.
Their mission was to circumnavigate the globe, touching Australian, New Zealand, the Falklands and South African shores before returning to Goa in about 230 days.
Why is this story so riveting? For starters, the feat is rare and difficult – there are more attempts to climb Mount Everest every year than to circumnavigate in sail boats.
Then, circumnavigation is not for the weak-minded. It demands an exactitude and forbearance of the highest order.
A team must start and finish in the same port, sail a distance of 21600 nautical miles, sail south of the three Great Capes of the Southern Hemisphere, cross all longitudes in the same direction, cross the equator twice, not use any canals or use the engine for propulsion.
To get an idea, the distance from India to Brazil is about 8000 nautical miles, and this attempt is more than twice that distance.
The crew of Tarini was neither born to the sport of ocean sailing, nor are they from particularly privileged backgrounds. Yet they have taken to a sport and an adventure where hitherto mainly men have dared. This is what makes the narrative so compelling.
They exemplify grit and determination, remind us that gender does not define potential, and underscore the fact that nothing is impossible for women.
Since casting off from Goa, the crew has already spent more than 100 sailing days at sea.
They have been through a gamut of emotions. They have witnessed the Southern Lights south of Tasmania during the second leg, on a clear starry night which left them in awe.
They have seen a whole family of pilot whales up front next to the boat, which filled them with dread and excitement.
They have (once) mistaken a dead sperm whale in the middle of the ocean that resembled an island from a distance with birds sitting on it.
The storms that they have encountered in the Pacific had winds raging up to 130 km/* with monstrous waves of 9m in height. They spent 16 sleepless hours to navigate out of that danger.
The Tarini girls inspire Indian women, indeed all Womanity. Many doubted that they could undertake the bold voyage with its attendant rigours.
Many were sceptical that they would complete the journey. That scepticism, even cynicism, is history because the girls are poised now to complete the fourth and penultimate leg of their journey, due to reach Cape Town in the first week of March 2018.
The circumnavigation will be completed as they will touch Goa after the South Africa leg.
They will shatter several records – the first Indian women, indeed Asian women, to accomplish the feat. The Indian Navy will also be the first military to notch up an all-women circumnavigation.
It is a matter of immense pride for us that the vessel was “Made in India”. The mast, however, was built with the assistance of Southern Spars, Cape Town. Yet another inspiring example of the sterling friendship between India and South Africa….
Join to my Facebook groups