Troy wants to sail the world alone Marylander plans for BOC Challenge

January 19, 1992

ANNAPOLIS -- In September 1994, Timothy Troy hopes to be able to slip away from his job in Baltimore and spend eight months seeing something of the watery side of the planet -- as a contestant in the BOC Challenge, a single-handed sailing race around the world.

The BOC, if you do not already know, is the Everest of single-handed sailing.

In previous BOCs, boats have been lost and men have died alone at sea -- and others have been pulled from sinking yachts by fellow competitors, their dreams shattered by icebergs or flooded out by rogue waves in the Southern Ocean.

Certainly, the BOC can become a fool's game for man or boat improperly prepared.

Troy, a 33-year-old vice president of Delmarva Transmission Parts, seems neither foolhardy nor incompetent as he moves around the bare cabin of Jarkan Yacht Builders, the 60-footer he has purchased for the BOC.

Jarkan has been around before, you see, under the cautious hand of Australian Kanga Birdles and finished fifth. The boat, Troy says, will easily make it again, and with new, composite sails to replace the dacron suit Birdles used, can be expected to fly.

"It is a great challenge, I think, in today's world with so few things like this left," Troy said as he sat at the navigator's station, a picture of his wife and two children taped to the bulkhead behind him.

"Kanga was telling me that there are more men who have walkeon the moon than have raced around the world solo. I don't know how true that is, but it is a small fraternity in today's mass population. Only a handful of men and women have done this type of thing."

Never has a Marylander done it, and it may be that Troy, too, will be unable to compete. Troy's problem, of course, is money, and he is looking for sponsorship from state or regional corporations.

The problem with finding it is that, in this country, solo sailing is an oddity. Ask someone in Des Moines what the BOC is, and it is likely that he or she won't know. Ask an executive taking lunch at Harborplace, and you likely will get the same answer.

Ask a European, a Kiwi or an Aussie and most likely he or she will be able to name the winners of past BOCs.

"In France particularly, those guys are national heroes," Troy said. "It is like the NFL, maybe even bigger."

Here, perhaps, they are considered eccentric.

"And it is a shame that it is that way," Troy said. "For instance, take Mike Plant, he has done some phenomenal things, but, if you were not in the sailing community, you would not know who Mike Plant is."

Plant has been the top American competitor in the BOC and the only American to secure a major corporate sponsor for the race, Duracell Batteries. In fact, Plant is largely responsible for Troy's interest in the 1994 race.

Troy met Plant while looking for a boat to buy for a prospective world-wide charter service that would allow a clientele to book portions of global voyages over a number of years. Before Hurricane Bob washed Duracell onto the beach in Newport, R.I., Plant's entrant in the last BOC seemed the perfect boat.

In the course of trying to make a deal for Duracell, Troy went sailing with Plant several times and they began to talk of a greater adventure.

"By the time I had decided to buy Duracell, I had changed my mind about the charter business," Troy said. "I wanted to do the BOC and, man, I wanted to do it bad."

But before a deal could be completed, Hurricane Bob washed Duracell onto the beach.

Plant put Troy in touch with Birdles and a rough deal was worked out for Jarkan, basically sight unseen, so long as Birdles would travel from Australia to Plymouth, England, to help Troy bring the boat west across the Atlantic.

"I thought, if he was willing to sail the boat back across the Atantic in November and December, the boat must be OK," Troy said. "Basically, we had a gentleman's agreement that, if this boat is everything you say it is . . . we will make a deal."

The trip across the Atlantic, Troy said, was a succession of gales, including one 24-hour period when the winds reached 80 knots and following seas were 30 to 40 feet. By Birdles' estimation, Troy said, the conditions were worse than anything he encountered throughout the last BOC.

"Beforehand, I had told some customers that I was sailing the boat back from England," Troy said, "and they were like, 'Wow, that sounds great. You'll be sitting in the sun having cocktails all the way back.'

"We hit one gale after another right on the nose. We didn't see one yacht all the way, but I talked to a couple of freighters we saw and even the captains of the freighters were like, 'What are you doing out here?' "

Troy says he has logged many bluewater miles in some 20 years of sailing, but still must compete a 2,000-mile solo race and prove his proficiency with celestial navigation to qualify for the BOC.

But his greatest obstacle probably will be sponsorship.

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