All-woman Navy team set to circle the globe and break a few barriers

The crew of INSV Tarini Source: Nayanika Chatterjee/ThePrint

This will be the first time an all-woman military team will be embarking on such a journey and could help pave the way for women in combat service

Vandana Menon & Nayanika Chatterjee

Women might still not be able to serve on-board submarines and warships but the Indian Navy is set to send its first all-woman team on a circumnavigation mission that will require skill, endurance and favourable winds.

“After Commander Tomy, people thought ‘what next? Where can we go from here? How can we make this better?’ And then, this idea was born,” said Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, the skipper of the sailing boat INSV Tarini. She was referring to Commander Abhilash Tomy’s non-stop solo circumnavigation in 2012 on INSV Madhei.

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Lt. Cdr. Vartika Joshi, the skipper of INSV Tarini. When asked about the possibility of stepping on each other’s nerves during the eight-month voyage, she said, “As we spend time together, we don’t need to be trained on getting along with each other as we spend time on sea, the training continues.”

 

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Cdr Dilip Dhonde, the first Indian to embark on a solo circumnavigation expedition has been training the team since 2014. Ratnakar Dandekar is the ship maker who built both INSV Mhadei and INSV Tarini. INSV Tarini is a part of the Make In India campaign.

 

The boat they will sail on is the INSV Tarini – an indigenous project by Aquarius Fibreglass that also built Tarini’s sister vessel, the INSV Madhei. Besides survival equipment, the crew will also be armed with enough books, films and TV shows for entertainment for the eight-month-long voyage.

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Lt. Cdr. Pratibha Jamwal gave us insight into how the team plans on biding their time during the voyage. “We’re taking TV shows like Suits, Prison Break and obviously Game of Thrones,” she told us.

 

The six women officers will leave Goa in the first week of September to return on Indian soil after a journey around the globe by May next year. The mission will also perhaps demonstrate that the Navy – which is already ahead of the other two forces on this aspect – will be open to a greater role for women in combat service.

According to the Navy, this will be the first time that a military all-woman team will embark on such a voyage. The six women will set sail from Goa, making their first stop in Australia and New Zealand. They will then embark on the longest and most treacherous step of the journey to the Falkland Islands. Their final stop is Cape Town in South Africa.

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Lt. P. Swathi spoke to us about how the voyage is a point of pride for her. When asked about being a woman going on the expedition, she said, “I am a human being doing something that’s never been done before and that makes me proud.”

 

The entire team met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday, who wished them well and assured them that he would be tracking their journey across the globe.

Photographs by Nayanika Chatterjee for ThePrint.

 

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