The expedition was in tribute to martyrs of the 26/11 terror attack
: It was exactly 3:56 p.m. on Thursday when the boat reached the Tannirbhavi beach in Mangaluru. Aboard it was a team of six tired, bruised and extremely happy swimmers, who walked onto the shore and into the open arms of hundreds of Mangalureans waiting eagerly for them. Amidst thunderous applause, the Sea Hawks stood smiling, having not only broken all world records in sea swimming, but also having accomplished their mission.
The Sea Hawks, a mixed team of six servicemen and civilians, set their sights on the longest relay swimming expedition ever attempted as a tribute to the martyrs of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, as well as to the martyrs of the recent terror strikes in Uri and Pathankot. The team set off from the Gateway of India on November 26 and after swimming in a non-stop relay for 12 days, in which each team member swam for an hour, the Sea Hawks on Thursday completed a total of 1,013 kilometres when they ended their expedition, breaking all previous world records.
Wing Commander Param Vir Singh, leader of the Sea Hawks, said, “For the last 12 days, we have dealt with a rocky coastline, choppy waters and lakhs of jellyfish, which left us cut and bruised, not to mention extreme exhaustion. As there was only six of us, one of us would be in the water every fifth hour. We have been travelling in a low chassis boat, as it is easier to enter the sea from such a boat when you have to do it frequently, and we would be drenched from head to foot most of the time.”
“Despite niggles, physical strain and some injury we continued the relay throughout without a break,” Mr. Singh said, “For such a journey, more than the physical condition it’s the mind that matters.”
“Before Thursday, the record for the longest six-person open-water swim was held by Night Trains, an American team that completed 505 kilometres, while the record for the longest open-water relay swim, which was conducted by 200 swimmers from Ireland, was for 684.75 kilometres in 2009.
The Sea Hawks broke both these records as well as their own record, which they had set last year by swimming for 584 kilometres,” said Shekhar Kale, an independent observer from the Swimming Federation of India, who monitored the Sea Hawks’ progress personally. He added, “The Sea Hawks have taken immense efforts. Each member swam close to 172 kilometres in the last 12 days.”
The team includes retired Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Sergeant G. Narahari, IAF’s Leading Aircraftman Vicky Tokas, Mumbai Police’s Assistant Sub-Inspector Shrikant Palande, State-level sea swimming champion Rahul Chiplunkar, and 16-year-old sea swimming prodigy Manav Mehta, who is a student of Class 11.
Keeping up the morale
“I believe we made it this far solely due to the responsibility of the tribute we were carrying on our shoulders as well as because of our undying team spirit. Throughout the expedition, we kept encouraging each other and keeping the team’s morale high. Each one of us was only as strong or as weak as the entire team,” Sergeant Narahari added.
The team will now have to rest continuously for at least the next 10-15 days so that they can recover their lost sleep.
They are also suffering from the ‘drunken sailor syndrome’, a condition that makes one feel wobbly and unbalanced on solid ground after spending a long time at sea. The Sea Hawks will spend the next few days resting in Mangaluru, after which they will return to their homes.
Mr. Singh said their guide, Subodh Sule, was on the boat throughout giving information on fishing nets, rocky sea stretches and showing swimmers the route they had to take.