Men, women equal at sea, says Commander Dilip Donde

Commander trains all-women crew to circumnavigate world.

Visakhapatnam: Sailing around the globe solo, writing a book and helping the first women crew and others to circumnavigate the world. That is Commander Dilip Donde, the first Indian to sail around the world solo unassisted.

To take part in the IFR with their small vessel Mhadei he had come to Vizag along with the first Indian women crew which is all set to make a full circle of the world. He shares his experiences of sailing round the globe, how he is training the women and also the significance of IFR with DC.

“I would like to thank the Indian Navy for taking up this solo sailing project which very few navies have done. I was the first to volunteer for this challenge and have been involved with the project since when a log turned into the sailing vessel Mhadei,” the Commander said.

Describing his sailing solo experience, he said, “It was a humbling experience. Just imagine, cyclone Hudhud or a wind with half that speed hitting your small boat and you are alone. It would be terrible. Then you realise how insignificant you are before nature. I also thought how for small things we crib on land.”

When asked whether he has any plan to beat his own record in future the Commander said that would not serve any purpose. “The experience which I gained from the voyage would be confined to me. So, I took the backseat by training others for this challenge. In 2006 there was none when the Navy announced this challenge and now about a dozen people are ready for this adventure.”

On how he is training the first women crew for the historic voyage the expert sailor said, “I always maintain men and women are equal when it comes to sailing. Nature does not control its fury if women are steering a boat. And, the boat only understands only your confidence.”

The IFR would help to showcase India’s naval might to other countries and to people of the country who are ignorant or have little knowledge about the Indian Navy, he said.

Women crew eager for the world voyage
During the fleet review the Indian Navy vessel Mhadei, though very small, would provide reason for the Indian Navy and all Indians to hold their heads high as it would be carrying the first Indian women crew circumnavigating the globe. The women crew of five sailed to Vizag from Goa to take part in the naval event.

The women, all in their early 20s, took up the challenge to sail around the globe, unassisted and non-stop, as they like sailing. “There is no specific reason for me to join the crew. I just did not want to miss this great opportunity which is possible only during my Navy career. We are putting in all efforts to prepare for this voyage,” said Varika Joshi, the skipper. Hailing from Uttarakhand, she joined Indian Navy as naval architect and did not have sailing experience.

“I have gone through the basic sail theory course at Mumbai. In Kochi, we were given training in navigation, communication and basic rope and life saving skills. We are implementing all what we learnt during our training, on Mhadei now. After all these things cannot be taught in a classroom,” she added. “If the weather is good we would listen to music, read books and enjoy nature during our voyage,” she said.

Lt Vijaya from Manipur who joined the crew at Vizag, says joining the Navy was a dream come true. “I did post-graduation in English from DU. I did not have sailing experience or technical knowledge. But, it’s my liking for sailing that made me take up this challenge.”

The other crew members are Lt. Pratibha Jamwal, Lt. P. Swathi and Sub Lt. Payal Gupta. The sixth member will join in March.

Visakhapatnam girl part of voyage
She always had sparks for white uniform from her childhood. “I used to wear naval uniform before joining Indian navy as I actively participated in Navy NCC cadet from my school days. The only difference is I did not have the official stripe then,” said Lt P. Swathi, who is part of the first women crew set for the circumnavigation of the globe.

Citizens here are upbeat after knowing that Ms Swathi who is from Vizag is going to be the part of the historic voyage.

“I knew almost everything about navy and what is there in store for me before joining navy. I joined Indian navy in 2011 as Air Traffic Controlling officer when I was 20 years. I was doing my post-graduation then,” she says.

“Given the sailing interest, I used to sail every Sunday as part of the NCC training. So, I have knowledge about it and interest in it from my childhood,” she added. Though Lt Swathi volunteered for the circumnavigation of the globe, she did not have exactly what it was all about.

“I volunteered for it thinking it as a competition for some days. I did know that it would go on for months, non-stop, during the screening process. However, I didn’t want to lose such an opportunity and give it a try. I am giving my best for this challenge” she added.

“I am really happy for the reason that IFR is being conducted in Vizag despite being battered by Hudhud just a year back. Besides, I am feeling proud being part of an event of IFR called Parade of Sails,” she said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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