In September 2017, a team of six women officers of the Indian Navy set out to circumnavigate the globe, in an expedition titled Navika Sagar Parikrama. The task was not easy as this was the first-ever attempt by an all-women Indian team to accomplish this feat. After meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi a couple of days before embarking on their path-breaking journey, the six Navy women officers sailed off on the INSV Tarini, their small 17-metre-long and 5-metre-wide Indian-built sailboat. Eight months later, they are about arrive back home in India. At present, they are just a few nautical miles off Goa, inching closer to the Indian shores, after completing their record setting voyage. History will be created on Monday evening, when they touch the Indian shores, as Navika Sagar Parikrama will not only become the first ever all-women Indian team to circumnavigate the globe, but also the first ever all-women military team in the world to complete this feat, apart from being the first Asian all-women team to do so. The fact that this is purely an indigenous project will make every Indian proud of their achievement.
This correspondent managed to establish contact with the crew members of INSV Tarini, moments after they entered the Indian waters after battling gutsy oceanic winds and huge waves. Responding to his questions, 29-year-old team leader, Lt Cdr Vartika Joshi said, “From shore appointments held by women officers to making it to the oceans, we have come a long way, yet there is a longer way to reach. It took a humungous amount of commitment and hard work to arrive until here. The journey is definitely path-breaking and we hope it gives hopes to many more. The importance of this voyage is evident from the fact that the honourable Prime Minister and Defence Minister themselves have been great supporters of this voyage.”
INSV Tarini being a small sailboat, speaking to the other team members onboard was not difficult. Excited about completing their record setting journey, Lt S. Vijaya Devi, who belongs to Manipur said, “The thought of creating history gives me pride in what I do. I am thankful to Indian Navy that I got this opportunity to prove myself. I am really excited about reaching our motherland after eight months. There is no place like home and I am happy thinking that I will be together with my loved ones once again.”
These six Indian Navy women officers are about to complete a 21,600-nautical mile (approximately 40,000 km) journey. The expedition—which was spread over six different phases, sailed across four continents, three oceans, passed south of the capes and crossed the equator twice over the last eight months—was full of challenges. Describing one such moment, another team member, Lt Cdr Pratibha Jamwal said, “Weather has always been the biggest challenge. Wind is a necessary evil for us. Just before crossing Cape Horn, which is also known as the Everest of seafarers, we encountered a storm, which brought winds of 140 KMPH and wave height of 10 metres. It was raining heavily. The entire team was up for 24 hours. While two of us would sit near the wheel trying to steer the boat, another one would be on standby, while the rest tried to dry clothes and heat some water to keep the ones outside warm. It was freezing cold and raining continuously. That day I saw real team spirit, which gave me a sense of pride for being a part of the team.”
During these eight months, the team made five stopovers at five ports in five different countries and spoke on several foreign forums. The Indians living in these countries were present in large numbers to welcome them.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba is proud of the Navika Sagar Parikrama team. “These officers have proved beyond doubt that they are second to none and are ready to face any challenges anywhere. Standing a watch at sea is an art and science. Needs a lot of knowledge and experience. These young officers have experienced it all during these eight months and faced the vagaries of nature, from cyclonic winds to braving the huge waves to nil wind conditions…Very proud of them. I am sure they would turn out to be role models for the younger generation and be an inspiration at the same time,” said the Indian Navy Chief.