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At Sea

Bill Radke

Karen Fritsche

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Tim Troy
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A few weeks ago on the show, we met Tim Troy. He was the only American entered in a race, called the Velux 5, in which he would sail solo around the globe. We talked with him from his yacht in Bilbao, Spain, where the race was about to start, and he told us about the challenges he was about to face trying to sail the world alone. Bill Radke catches up with Tim Troy, on dry land, and finds out that things didn't go according to plan.

Tim Troy's Decision in His Own Words

I am both emotionally and financially exhausted by not being allowed to participate in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race. You can not imagine the disappointment I am feeling after working so long and so hard at becoming a member of the elite group of people who have sailed around the world alone.

In the fall of 2005, after buying the Open 60 Margaret Anna, I begged IMOCA (IMOCA is the governing body of Open 60 class boats) to come to the U.S. to do a complete measurement of my boat. I did this knowing that I would need plenty of time to correct any problems that there might be with the boat, if issues were found during the measurement.

I also knew that the 180-degree test would be a major undertaking. The 180 is when you flip the boat upside down, to simulate a capsize, and then right the boat while the skipper is inside. After several attempts at getting IMOCA to the U.S., I was told by phone and e-mail that because the boat already had an IMOCA certificate it would not be necessary to re-measure the boat. All I would need to do, would be to pay the 2006 dues, and a new certificate would be issued. This news came as a huge relief, and also a source of worry. It just did not seem right. But I had no choice but to believe what was told, and proceed with the major re-fit I had planned for the boat.

So in the Fall of 2005 a started to completely disassemble the boat: mast off, rudders and bearing out, keel off, etc. Shortly after the first of 2006 I was notified that there had been a rule change, and the boat would need to be re-measured. I was also told that the boat would NOT need to do the 180 test, just the 90 degree test to determine the AVS (angle of vanishing stability). This test is designed to make sure that if the boat were to be knocked on her side by a big wave it would come back up. Now here I am working my full-time job sixty to seventy hours a week, working on the boat evenings and weekends, and trying to pull off a miracle in itself by getting to the starting line in time. Well, work I did, and with one month before my scheduled departure for Spain I made the detailed plans to have the boat measured here in the U.S.

I rented a crane, hired a diver, chartered a heavy boat to hold the mast down for measurement, recruited three assistants, and made plans to shut the marina down for two days while we did the measurement. Then one day before the measurer was to come from Europe there was a terrorist threat in England that shut down the airport. New plan, measure the boat in Spain along with Sir Robin, and Uni Baserko before the start. I was assured that this would not present a problem as the boat had a certificate and nothing had been done to the boat that would alter the last measurement.

So with just two weeks to go before the start we measured. Keep in mind that when the measurement was done in Spain I was again told that the 180 test was NOT needed. We needed to completely unload the boat prior to the measurement. Everything I had was left on the dock in wind and rain. One night a huge wind came through the fleet, several of the boats were damaged, one of the race boats came loose from her mooring, swung into mine and punched a large hole in my bow. In the same storm many of the items that I had on the dock were blown away. After three days of agonizing, the boat was finally back in the water, and we started to dry off all of my gear and reload the boat. Then with one week to go I was informed by IMOCA that the boat was off the AVS by three degrees, and was told by the designer that I would need to add 300 kilos of lead to the fin in order to get her to conform. I contacted the designer of the keel and he said that he had designed in a ten percent safety margin, and 300 kilos would bring the boat right to the limit of this margin.

I already lost my friend and mentor, Mike Plant to a keel problem, and I did not think it was safe to head out into the great southern Ocean with a pile of lead taped to my fin. We thought the safest way to get the boat to conform was to remove weight from the mast and rig, and add a small amount to the keel.

Then the killer, with three days to go before the start I was told by IMOCA I would need to do the 180-degree test. Unbelievable--after so many requests on my part to do the test prior to this, and then with just three days to go. I was in shock, very depressed, and totally exhausted. But to come so far, and to work so hard, I had to try and find a fast and safe way to get into the race. We thought it best to move the boat north to La Rochelle, France, the Open 60 capital of the world. There I was given professional advice on how best to approach the job. It was determined that we could make the corrections in time, but if it were mandatory to do the 180, there was just not enough time left.

That is when I had to make the toughest decision in my life, to pull out of the race.

I want to thank the many people and companies who helped me try and pull this off, without their help, and you know who you are, I would never have gotten as far as I did. I also want to make a special thanks to all of the wonderful people I met in Bilbao, Spain. It only makes it harder, as I feel as though I have let so many people down. I can only say that when I come back, and I will, I will take the lessons I have learned, and all the support I have gotten, and work even harder to get this job done.

Tim Troy November 9, 2006


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