Indian Navy female crew arrive in New Zealand
The Indian Navy’s all-women crewed vessel, sailing ship INSV Tarini, arrived in Lyttelton yesterday (29 Nov.), the second stop in an around-the-world attempt by the six officers on board.
The crew, in the 17m sloop, set out on their 40,000km journey from Goa, India on 10 September, reaching Freemantle on 23 October on its first leg and departing again on 5 November for Lyttelton. They arrived a day late, with Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Vartika Joshi describing unusually calm seas with little wind as they crossed the Tasman Sea.
“We were told to expect rough seas, but somehow that didn’t happen,” she said. The lack of wind was the most challenging aspect of the journey so far. “It can get really frustrating, when the sails start flapping, and you don’t make good headway.”
The project Navika Sagar Parikrama is the first time in India’s history that an all-women crew is circumnavigating the globe. The Government of India says the voyage raises visibility of women’s participation in challenging environments and is aligned with India’s national policy to empower women to attain their full potential.
Welcoming INVS Tarini to New Zealand on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Captain Corina Bruce was in admiration of the significant undertaking the female crew had embarked on. “These ladies are not only representative of their country and their service but also as a high performing team of ocean sailors. This round-the-world voyage is definitely not for the faint hearted but these sailors have clearly shown that they have what it takes.”
Ahead of them will be the challenge of the longest – and likely rougher – leg, from Lyttelton to the Falkland Islands, which involves passing Cape Horn. In the meantime, the crew - Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal and P Swathi, and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta - will spend around two weeks in New Zealand. “Our main focus will be to get the boat ready for the next leg. We would like to look around. This is a beautiful place.”
LTCDR Joshi says the crew, including herself, were selected from a pool of volunteers. “I like the fact that it gets me out into the ocean. I’m from the hills in India. I immediately took up the opportunity, thinking it would be a great adventure.”
She says sailing is a great activity and everyone should do it. “I think the sea has plenty of things to teach us. When we started sailing, we didn’t have an idea of what this would be like, spending days together. You have a sense of freedom, and it makes you more humble. It teaches you to take things one day at a time. It teaches you patience.” She works a three-watch system, with three to four hours rotation. “It depends on the weather. Two people outside on watch, the rest can relax, do the cooking, maintain the equipment.”
The overall voyage is expected to take seven months. The crew follow in the footsteps of retired Indian Navy Captain Dilip Donde, who circumnavigated the globe solo in 2009 in INSV Mhadei, and Commander Abhilash Tomy, who did the feat solo and non-stop in 2013. Tarini, commissioned into the Indian Navy in February, is a sister vessel to INSV Mhadei.