Publication:The West Australian; Date:Sep 30, 2009; Section:Letters; Page Number:28

India sets sail into maritime history


The first Indian sailor to attempt a solo circumnavigation of the world has arrived in Fremantle for supplies and repairs after 31 days at sea.

    Cdr Dilip Donde, of the Indian Navy, who left Mumbai on August 19, said the historic attempt was a “coming of age” journey for his nation which was designed to showcase its growing maritime prowess.

    “A lot of people in India are watching to see what happens,” he said.

    His 17m vessel, Mhadei, was the first fibreglass yacht constructed entirely in India. “We built the boat in India to prove we have the capability,” he said.

    Named for a local river goddess worshiped in the western State of Goa where it was constructed, it had performed well during the 9260km trip between India and WA, he said.

    “I’ve been through all sorts of weather patterns already, from gales to big swells and big seas, but she’s well built,” Cdr Donde said.

    On November 1, the repaired and restocked Mhadei will set sail for Christchurch in New Zealand. From there, Cdr Donde will travel to the Falkland Islands and around the Cape of Good Hope before heading home.

    Cdr Donde, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Saturday, said he had stocked up on books and CDs to while away the lonely hours at sea.

    With 20 years naval experience under his belt as a sailor and clearance diver, he was confident he would complete the 41,670km journey in about eight months, arriving back in Mumbai towards the end of May.

    India’s defence advisor to Australia, Capt. Jatinder Singh, travelled from Canberra to meet Cdr Donde as he sailed into Fremantle.

    Capt. Singh said India, one of the fastest-growing economies, was ready to sail into maritime history.

    “It’s significant in the sense that it’s the first time we are doing such a venture,” he said. “It’s a sign of a nation trying to grow into its true place in the world. We’re now looking towards the sea.”

Epic voyage: Dilip Donde on the yacht he is sailing around the world. Picture: Guy Magowan