Dilip Donde is a serving naval officer, a diving specialist and a trail blazer who truly believes in taking the path less traveled. In 2006 he volunteered to undertake the first solo circumnavigation under sail by an Indian in an Indian built boat; a feat successfully completed by around 170 people then, compared to over 5000 Everesters and over 600 astronauts. With no past precedent or domain knowledge to learn from, Cdr Donde built his boat, Mhadei, with Mr Ratnakar Dandekar at Aquarius Fibreglas Pvt Ltd, Goa, and on 18 May 2010, sailed into Indian Maritime history by successfully completing his voyage.
On completion of his path breaking voyage, he continued sailing and grooming the next generation, participating in two races from Cape Town to Rio with novice crews and the Transatlantic race 2015 from USA to UK. He mentored fellow naval officer, Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy, to raise the bar and successfully complete the first solo nonstop circumnavigation under sail by an Indian. He has since trained, among others, an all women crew of naval officers who recently undertook a sail from Visakhapatnam to Goa; another first for the country.
Cdr Donde’s book ‘The First Indian’ chronicles his experiences of building a boat with an Indian boat- builder, weaving his way through a ‘sea-blind’ and often quixotic bureaucracy, training himself with no precedent or knowledge base in the country and finally sailing solo around the world. He is a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, the Shaurya Chakra, the MacGregor Medal and the National Maritime Achievement Award.