Subscription Subscription
Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Two Indian women win Ocean Global Race as first female sailors team

Two Indian women win Ocean Global Race as first female sailor’s team

Updated on: 23 June,2024 09:35 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Arpika Bhosale |

The sea doesn’t know your gender, say two Indian women who were part of an all-women team that has won the Ocean Global Race

Two Indian women win Ocean Global Race as first female sailor’s team

The Maiden becomes the first all-female crew to win the Ocean Global Race, with two Indian sailors. Pic/Najiba Noori | The Maiden Factor; (right) Payal Gupta (l) and Dhanya Pilo

Listen to this article
Two Indian women win Ocean Global Race as first female sailor’s team

In September last year, a 12-member all-women crew sailed off from Southhampton in the racing yacht, Maiden. On board the yacht were Indians Ltd Cdr Payal Gupta and filmmaker cum experienced sailor Dhanya Pilo, the two being a part of a multinational crew which has now become the first-ever female team to win the Ocean Global Race.

Pilo, a filmmaker by profession and the daughter of a Naval officer who grew up around ships and sea, has been sailing since she was young, while Gupta who hails from Dehradhun, wanted to serve the country in some capacity or the other, and joined the Navy back in 2013. 

They found themselves training together in Hamble, a marina port close to Southhampton, England, three months before the race. The race is also called a “Retro Race” where navigation is undertaken via sailing equipment invented in 1973, so the Maiden crew navigated with a sextant and an old, and slightly inaccurate, weather fax machine.

The Maiden will now go down in history as it had an all-female crew reach the finish line in the race’s 50 years of history, in an otherwise male-dominated sport. We speak to Pilo over a video call and she says, “We aim to prove to all the women and girls that you can do anything you want. It doesn’t have to be just sailing. It can be cycling around the world or even starting your own company, that is the message we want the women to take away from our victory,” says Pilo from Rome, where the crew will be awarded the medal in a ceremony presided over by Queen Camilla. 

“Sailing was considered a sport for men, but our all-female team just won this race. I have always loved sailing. It was difficult to find avenues to start learning, but luckily, I had access to the Naval Sailing Club, Colaba Sailing Club and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. These clubs have help set up a sailing scene in Mumbai. Sailing options have historically been limited in India but there are increasing options available in the last few years, even in small towns. There is also a lack of availability of spare parts and then you have to request someone who might be travelling to Europe to source it for you,” adds Pilo.

Gupta, who was serving her last year in the Navy in 2023, after 10 years of service, came across the race through a social media post and applied online. She remembers a few scary moments that the Maiden saw. “When the ship was crossing from the Atlantic to Cape Town, our mainsail had a big rip because the wind speed was at 40 knots that is roughly 80 km/hr. So, while we were managing with secondary sails, we had to remove the mainsail from the mast, fix it and again raise it back up. It took the whole crew working on it for 24 hours straight,” added Gupta.

The route of the Ocean Global Race (OGR 2023-24) was Southampton–Cape Town–Auckland–Punta del Este (Uruguay) and finally back to Southampton. The race in itself was a total of 153 days with breaks of two weeks where the crew is allowed to make repairs, attend to a sick crew member and most importantly sleep, explains Pilo, “While on board, we have four-hour shifts. You do your shift, come down to the saloon, change into sleep gear (which takes 20 minutes) and then have your food at the galley, take a nap maybe and go back up to the deck again in a few hours. But you are so wired, you hardly can catch a good few hours of sleep,” she explains.  The Maiden was helmed by skipper Tracy Edwards, who won the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race skippering the first all-female crew. The story goes that Edwards had bought the Maiden by mortgaging her home back in the ’80s after she was tired of waiting for a chance to be taken on as a crew. She had worked as chef on many such races and yachts.  Edwards went back to sailing after a break and also started a charity called The Maiden Factor, that supports 50 NGOs across the world including two from India. 

Pilo ends with a message that says it all. “The sea is a great equaliser, it doesn’t care about your gender. You have to make sure you know your job, do it well, do it with all your heart—along with respect for the world around you.”

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK