Deccan Chronicle

Army's first all-women sailing expedition completed!

Deccan Chronicle.| Sulogna Mehta

Published on: February 21, 2022 | Updated on: February 21, 2022

A group of women officers sailed 900 nautical miles in 7 days on the Chennai-Vizag-Chennai route.

(L-R) Maj Sanjana Mittal, Maj Arpita Dwivedi, Capt Malvika Rawat, Capt Shubham Solanki, Mai Mukta S Gautam, Maj Priya Semwal, Maj Priya Das, Capt Jyoti Singh, Maj Rashmil S, Capt Sonal Goyal

(L-R) Maj Sanjana Mittal, Maj Arpita Dwivedi, Capt Malvika Rawat, Capt Shubham Solanki, Mai Mukta S Gautam, Maj Priya Semwal, Maj Priya Das, Capt Jyoti Singh, Maj Rashmil S, Capt Sonal Goyal

When the yacht Frama dropped anchor at the Visakhapatnam Port on February 17, after sailing 330 nautical miles (around 611 kms) in 54 hours from Chennai, it scripted history — it was manned by an all-women team of Army officers — the first such expedition organised by the Indian Army.
After routine repairs and replenishment of supplies, the 44-foot Bavaria class sailing vessel set off on February 18 from Visakhapatnam to Chennai on the return leg of its journey. The team covered a total of around 900 nautical miles (approx 1,700 kilometres) in 7 days.

This sailing expedition was organised under the aegis of Army Adventure Wing Southern Command Sailing Node and EME Sailing Association (MCEME), in order to promote sailing as a sport and encourage women to join the Indian Army. It was supported by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. The expedition was flagged off from Chennai by Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana and Lt.Governor of Puducherry.
Major Mukta Shree Gautam, the skipper of the expedition talked about the great experience. "The all-women sailing expedition was the brainchild of Lieutenant General TSA Narayanan, Commandant of MCEME (Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering). The officers who volunteered and trained for it belong to various branches of the Army, including Ordnance, Signals and the EME. Some of them are first-time sailors. We were first trained for 25 days at Marve, Mumbai. The training capsule was both a basic and a refresher course and was followed by a 10-day training on board the yacht in Chennai," says Major Mukta.
Majors Priya Semwal, Priya Das, Rashmil S, Arpita Dwivedi and Sanjana M, and Captains Jyoti Singh, Malvika Rawat, Subham Solanki and Sonal Goyal are the other members who underwent training, apart from Major Mukta.

Major Prashant Kishore from the Army and Lt.Vishwanadh from the Indian Navy supported and coordinated the expedition from the ground.
Major Mukta says, "We sailed through a full moon night when the sea was very rough and the tide was high. We entered deep sea waters and had to steer clear of the oil wells of Kakinada-Krishnapatnam and avoid the fishing nets as well. The visibility dropped after it turned cloudy on the second day and navigating under such conditions was quite hard. Though we were mentally prepared for the unknown, it was a challenge for us to maintain calm amid the heavy winds and disturbed waters. The Bay of Bengal is known to be more turbulent and unpredictable than the Arabian Sea. There was no network connection mid-sea. Many of us experienced bouts of sea sickness as the sailboat was tossing throughout. However, we all maintained calm, braved the challenges, coordinated and bonded very well."
The sailboat, a German-made vessel, provided comparatively more security and stability and  was a good choice for the rough waters of the Bay of Bengal, she adds.

There were some enchanting experiences too. "We were followed by a school of dolphins, which swam close to our yacht. We had not seen so many dolphins so close before," says Major Mukta. "We also saw huge sea turtles and flying fish. The Bay of Bengal is rich in biodiversity. The waters of the east coast are cleaner and clearer than those of the western coast near Mumbai."
This isn’t Major Mukta’s first sailing expedition. She has taken part in national-level competitive sailing. In 2018, she sailed from Haldia to Porbandar in 40 days and also participated in various regattas, as part of a mixed crew of men and women officers. She was also part of four mountain expeditions organised by the Army to Mt. Stok Kangri, Mt. Bhagirathi, Mt. Kun and Mt. Khangchengyao in Sikkim –  the last mentioned was organised by the Tri-Services Command.
The first from her family to join the defence forces, Major Mukta comes from Rajasthan, which is very far from the coast. "The pull of adventure, the need for better exposure and the desire to serve the country made me join the Armed Forces a decade ago. My family, especially my mother, always motivated
me to follow my heart, take up new challenges and sports,"
she says.

About The Author
Latest News
Most Popular