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Md. sailor has everything but sponsor

Tim Troy wants, at age 48, to sail around the world in the Velux 5 Oceans Race (formerly BOC Challenge) that begins in October in Spain. He thinks he can be the first American to win. Right now, he might be considered a long shot, but this is not a matter of competence.

Tim Troy wants, at age 48, to sail around the world in the Velux 5 Oceans Race (formerly BOC Challenge) that begins in October in Spain. He thinks he can be the first American to win. Right now, he might be considered a long shot, but this is not a matter of competence.

Troy has the boat, an Open 60 named Margaret Anna. He has the credentials: Two-time winner of the Bermuda 1-2 single-handed offshore race and three trans-Atlantic crossings (one single-handed). He has the plan, tailored for a low-budget campaign: Sail conservatively and take advantage of attrition in the fleet. And he has the passion, evidence of which is his signature on a second mortgage on the family home in Maryland and the empty space in the garage where the sports car used to be.

What Troy does not have is a major sponsor. His yacht is up on a dock on Baltimore’s industrial waterfront, where he spends his free time making improvements. He says he needs about $150,000 more to get to the starting line in Bilbao-Bizkaia on Oct. 22.

“I am going to keep pushing until I have to leave for Spain Sept. 1,” says Troy, a managing partner in an automotive parts firm. If he does not have extra funding by then, he says he will stay home. That would be the third failed attempt by Troy to race around the world. Twice before, his dream has been scuttled by a lack of funding.

“I’m in the works right now talking with a bank to try to borrow some [more] money. I’ve second-mortgaged my house already. If I can borrow another $50,000 to $75,000, then I can probably shoestring my way and get to the starting line,” he says. “Who knows? Maybe at the last minute somebody will come along and I’ll have money to buy some sails.”

The Velux (the major race sponsor is a Danish company that makes skylights sold at home centers in the United States) is the most recent version of the oldest single-handed around-the-world race. The BOC was started in 1982 and later became Around Alone. This year Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who in 1969 became the first person to sail single-handed around the world, will be among the competitors. The race will comprise three legs, with stops in Fremantle, Australia, and Norfolk, Va., before returning to Bilbao — a course of about 30,000 miles. In addition to Troy and Knox-Johnston, seven sailors have registered to race Open 60s and one in an Open 50.

Troy, a native of Maryland, learned to sail on the Chesapeake after a two-week cruise at age 12 on his uncle’s boat. “I bought my first boat, a 38-foot wooden sloop with no motor, when I was 18,” he says. “That’s really the boat I learned to sail on. [It was] the school of hard knocks. It drew 8 feet. I think I ran aground on every sandbar on the Chesapeake Bay.”

He married his wife, Renee, when he was 26, and together they cruised extensively on a Whitby 42. Their first child, Margaret, arrived 18 months into the marriage, but the cruising continued. Then they replaced the Whitby with a Hinckley Bermuda 40 and concentrated on coastal cruising. In 1989, on a New England cruise, Troy met the late single-handed racer Mike Plant.

“He was the premier American solo sailor,” Troy recalls. Troy started thinking about single-handed racing. He realized that since Renee was always minding the children (daughter Anna had arrived) he was in essence sailing the Hinckley by himself. “Once bit by the bug, I couldn’t shake it,” he says.

Plant’s Open 60, Duracell, was for sale, and Troy negotiated a good price and “literally two days later, Duracell was washed up on the beach in a hurricane,” he says. He bought another Open 60, however, sailing it back across the Atlantic from England single-handed. He sold the Hinckley and in 1993 won his first Bermuda 1-2 in the Open 60. He then tried to get a sponsor for the upcoming BOC Challenge. When he failed, he sold the Open 60 and bought a Block Island 40 for family cruising.

The single-handed bug was still gnawing, however, and in 2002 he sold the cruiser for a second Open 60 that he found in France. He planned to enter the 2004 Vendee Globe. But he still lacked the touch with major sponsors, and that campaign never got mounted. This time he had not yet sold the race boat when another Open 60 came on the market, a carbon-fiber rocket launched in 1999. “It was such a bargain that I actually owned two Open 60s at one time. I had no business owning one. I was out of my mind,” he says. He began thinking of the Velux 5 Oceans race.

Troy — his two daughters are in college and he and Renee have a son, Michael, 11 — says he is motivated by the pursuit of personal gratification. “I want to do something that sort of sets myself apart from the rest of the crowd. Only 165 people have sailed around the world alone. It’s a small community. Far more have climbed to the top of Mount Everest [or] flown in space. In this day and age, it’s hard to find a challenge like that. It’s something I think I could tell my grandchildren about and pass down as a legacy.”

“I had been successful enough in business that I thought I could pay for the campaign myself,” says Troy. “Which leads to where I am now. I’m about $150,000 short. Half of that is allocated to just buying new sails. I feel like I can be competitive with the boat I have as long as my gear is up to par with the other competitors. With the sails that I have, I can probably get around. I would feel a whole lot better with a couple of new sails.” The bill for a new main, genoa and jib would be about $75,000, he says. The rest of the money would pay for insurance, some electronic gear and the cost of having the boat officially measured for the race, about $20,000.

Troy, whose inner drive has also led to competition in triathlons, says he is supported in this obsession by his wife, although she is keen on keeping the life insurance premium up to date. The support he is looking for from a sponsor, he says, is a bargain. The sponsor’s name would be on his sails and his hull.

“I’ve got a lot of money invested in this and a lot of time,” Troy notes. “Somebody could take advantage of all I have in this by getting in at the end ...putting up a fraction of the cost.”;