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Indian naval officer circumnavigating world reaches New Zealand


New Delhi: Commander Dilip Dhonde of the Indian Navy, the first Indian to attempt to circumnavigate the world alone, Saturday reached Christchurch in New Zealand after covering 9,000 nautical miles.

A large crowd, including several Indians, welcomed Dhonde at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch. His last port call was at Fremantle Port in western Australia from where he set off Nov 1.

“Mhadei, the Indian Naval Sailing Vessel, along with Dhonde at the helm entered Lyttelton Port today (Saturday). He will set sail for Falkland Islands (South Atlantic Ocean) Dec 6 after tending to the various maintenance requirements of the boat,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander P.V.S. Satish told IANS here.

Dhonde, 42, embarked on the solo circumnavigation of the world Aug 19 this year from Mumbai. Less than 300 people the world over have succeeded in this endeavour till date, with this being the first attempt for an Indian.

Speaking about his experience on his blog, Dhonde said: “Since the last three days winds gusting to 55 knots, swell – 8 to 9 metres, temperature below 10 degree Celsius. Stay sail came down yesterday probably due broken halyard, waiting for winds to reduce to put it up. Starboard wheel had to be disconnected as the base holding its ram connection to the rudder broke in heavy weather so one electronic autopilot less and no Wind Vane autopilot.”

“Port, and only, autopilot groaning badly and threatening to rip its base out! Doing over 8 knots with just 1/3 of main sail, 03 reefs, and still getting overpowered at times! Forecast predicts winds to reduce after tomorrow, keeping my fingers crossed!” adds Dhonde.

Mhadei, during her voyage of over 21,600 nautical miles (38,880 km) under sail will take on the exceptional winds and swell which are prevalent especially below 60 degree South latitude called the Screaming 60s.

“This feat is often compared to conquering of Everest (the highest peak in the world) yet ironically is one that requires greater mettle and much longer time. The perils of the capricious sea and the vagaries of the unpredictable weather in a lonely sailboat become the canvas where this Herculean challenge to the human spirit unravels,” Satish added.

“Mhadei will sail for approximately nine months and is stopping at only four ports – Fremantle (Australia), Christchurch (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falkland Islands) and Cape Town (South Africa) before returning to Mumbai,” the spokesperson added.

There are four pre-requisites to qualify for a circumnavigation voyage. First, it should start and end in the same Port — Mumbai in this case — crossing all the meridians of longitude at least once and the equator at least twice.

Second, the distance covered should be more than the length of a meridian, 21,600 nautical miles. Third, the boat should not pass through any canals or straits, where use of engines or towing would be unavoidable. And fourth, the boat should round the three Great Capes – Cape Leeuwin (Australia), Cape Horn (South America) and Cape of Good Hope (Africa).