Bringing the winds of change to Maldivians
Atoll, which comes from the Maldivian word atolu, means a ring-shaped reef, island or chain of islands that are formed of coral. Indeed, the name is apt as the island-nation of Maldives, made up of 26 atolls, is now sending its first Atoll Sailor around the country.
Abdul Gafoor Ali, also known as Gabbe’ for short, set sail on 31 January 2016 aboard the TOPCAT K1 vessel in what is touted as one of the most ambitious marine adventures in the history of sailing in Maldivian waters. The 43-year-old sailor, who celebrated his birthday in February last month, is the first ever individual to independently circumnavigate the Maldives.
But the Maldivian is not new to the waters. He has a host of international championships under his belt, from long-distance swimming to windsurfing to sailing, most recently coming in second at the 2015 National Catamaran Sailing Championship. He has sailed from Maldives to Seychelles, and from Seychelles to Madagascar as a skipper, and is well-qualified for the toil of open ocean and adventure navigation.
In his “Around the Maldives” journey, Gabbe’, who spends a good part of his time coaching children to surf, hopes to raise substantial funding through sponsorship of his journey in support of Maldivian children with special needs. He hopes to promote sailing as a sport to Maldivian youths and also to boost the island’s tourism, in conjunction with Visit Maldives 2016 whose tagline this year is “Maldives – the Sunny Side of Life”.
Maldives is made up of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls. They are spread roughly over 90,000 square kilometres in a north-south direction, making this one of the world’s most dispersed countries. The TOPCAT K1 that Gabbe is using is an 18-feet catamaran that can weigh up to 175kg, the flagship model of the TOPCAT fleet used in international sailing competitions.
At the time of print, Gabbe’ is halfway through his adventure route. The ambitious journey is expected to be completed in under one month, so follow his progress and cheer him on as he sails to the finish line.
For more stories and photos, check out Asian Geographic Issue 117.