A team of six women Indian Navy officers on Sunday embarked on an around-the-world journey in a small sailboat, aiming to cover a distance of more than 21,600 nautical miles in eight months.
INS Tarini sailed off the Goa port on a mission dubbed 'Navika Sagar Parikrama', considered the first-ever attempt by an all-woman crew to circumnavigate the globe. It would cover the distance in five legs, with stop-overs at four ports - Fremantle, Australia; Lyttleton, New Zealand; Port Stanley, the Falklands; and Cape town, South Africa - for replenishment and repairs as necessary, before returning to Goa in April 2018.
INSV Tarini is a 55-foot sailing vessel which has been built indigenously by Aquarius Shipyard, Goa and was inducted into the Indian Navy earlier this year.
The team of with six women officers led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi was flagged off by Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the presence of her predecessor and now Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lamba.
"This is not an occasion which can happen once in five years, once in 10 years. This is a historic day for India. A historic day, which will be marked in navigation history and globally," Sitharaman said after flagging off the expedition.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom the team met on Sunday, conveyed his wishes for the success of the endeavour.
"Our women are going to stand out for doing something which most wouldn't even have thought of," Sitharaman said at the event.
Talking to Aaj Tak news channel, the crew's head Vartika Joshi said the Prime Minister asked them to showcase the strengths of the country.
The first stop would be in Free-Mantle in Australia, New Zealand and then to Falklands before reaching their last stop in Cape Town in South Africa.
During the entire stretch of their journey, INSV Tarini would be monitored by a Navy command centre apart from the Indian embassies in the countries en route.
The rescue zones of the different countries have also been apprised of the mission and they would also keep an eye on them.
Senior Navy officers said that the women officers would not be passing through the piracy infested zones and are quite prepared for meeting any eventuality in the sea.
The women in the boat have established close bonds with each other, having sailed approximately 20,000 nautical miles on board INSV Mhadei and Tarini as part of training, which includes two expeditions to Mauritius (in 2016 and 2017) and a voyage from Goa to Cape Town in December 2016.
Though women are not allowed on board warships and submarines, but it is believed that such voyages would help them do this in future.
Besides Lieutenant Commander Joshi, the other members of the Navika Sagar Parikrama team are Lt Commander Pratibha Jamwal, Lt P Swathi, Lt Vijaya Devi, Lt Payal Gupta and Lt B Aishwarya.
Speaking on the occasion, Admiral Lanba said this was the first time an Indian women crew was attempting circumnavigation of the globe. The journey will see the officers sail through three oceans - Indian, Pacific and Atlantic.