Solo navigator knows he has to spread his sails

Sailing: Crownsville resident Tim Troy aims to compete in an around-the-world race next year.

July 07, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Tim Troy has a good job, a nice home and an attractive family.

Next year, he'll trade it away for long stretches of awful weather, lousy food and no one for company but himself.

Troy, 46, has his sights set on "5-Oceans," a global circumnavigation held every four years that bills itself as "the ultimate solo challenge." As many as 20 skippers will take part in the race on 50- and 60-foot high-tech yachts.

"I've been trying to do this for almost 15 years," Troy said. "I'm not getting any younger. I want to do this while I'm at my peak. This is the ultimate test of one man in one boat."

Unlike the Volvo Ocean Race, which has multiple stops and crews large enough to work in shifts, the 5-Oceans is one man wrestling a similar-sized boat with just two stops: one at the halfway point in Fremantle, Australia, and the other in an as-yet unnamed U.S. port on the Eastern Seaboard.

The race means battling days of doldrums near the equator and the screaming winds and icebergs of the Southern Ocean. It means learning to get by on catnaps and meals on the fly.

The Crownsville resident said he's up to the task. A veteran of more than 100,000 miles of ocean sailing, Troy was the 2003 winner of the Bermuda 1-2 race, a regatta that requires competitors to sail single-handed from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda, but permits a one-man crew on the return.

For his 27,000-mile journey, Troy bought a $2 million boat made of carbon fiber that uses a hinged keel to provide balance and stability.

The boat was built in 1998 in France, where the so-called canting keels have been the popular with naval architects for a number of years. Its original owner, Bernard Paoli of France, was killed in an ultralight plane crash before he could race it. Troy bought the boat from Paoli's widow.

"It was designed to go out and break records," he said. "It was built as a state-of-the-art racing machine."

Troy discovered just how fast last September as he and a friend sailed it from Le Havre, France, to its new home at Baltimore's Inner Harbor Marina. The journey took 21 days, a difficult upwind voyage that ended with a howling 45-knot ride up the Chesapeake Bay on the winds from Hurricane Ivan.

"It's as fast as expected, if not faster. We hit 24 knots on the Grand Banks. It was like riding a bucking bronco inside a bass drum," Troy said. "Definitely not for the faint of heart or someone with sensitive ears."

Down below, the boat has the same stripped-down feel of a NASCAR racer, with four bare bunks, a tiny galley for preparing meals and a cramped work station. The only personal touches are a child's watercolor painting of a fish taped to the hull and tacked to his workbench amidships a color photo of his family: his wife of 23 years, Renee; daughters Margaret, 20, and Anna, 18; and 10-year-old son Michael.

Troy has named his racer Margaret-Anna in honor of his daughters.

His family has given its blessing. In return, Troy has promised them a trip around the world so that they can see him off on Nov. 5 next year in Bilbao, Spain, meet him at the two stops and cheer him at the finish line in April 2007.

"I've been sailing since my uncle took me on a two-week cruise on the bay. They understand that this race is a life goal of mine," said Troy, a managing partner of a Baltimore-based auto parts company.

The 5-Oceans race began in 1982 as the BOC Challenge and changed its name to Around Alone in 1998. So far, race officials say they have received nearly 90 inquiries from prospective skippers, who will have to come up with the entry fee of $25,000, plus however much it takes to supply and maintain the campaign.

(The other solo circumnavigation race is the Vendee Globe, a nonstop contest. It is held every four years, and concluded its most recent edition in February.)

The Margaret-Anna and Troy still face several obstacles.

To prove both boat and skipper are ready to face a hostile sea, the International Monohull Open Class Association will require an inversion test. This summer, Troy will remove the mast from his boat and then a crane will lift Troy and the hull from the water and flip them upside down. Troy will have to free himself and right the boat to be certified.

But that may be the easier of the skipper's two hurdles. Troy figures he will need $500,000 to be competitive, and is soliciting sponsors for financial backing and volunteers to supply the elbow grease.

"With $500,000, I can do well. I can win in the 60-foot class," he said. "If I don't get a sponsor, I'm going to scrape the money together and finish. I'm going to see this through one way or another."

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