Solo Magellans Take on the World Round-the-Planet Sailboat Race Requires Lots of Courage - and a Laptop Computer

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 1994 | Go to article overview

Solo Magellans Take on the World Round-the-Planet Sailboat Race Requires Lots of Courage - and a Laptop Computer


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


MARK SCHRADER, the race director of yachting's BOC Challenge, says he doesn't believe the singlehanded around-the-world race belongs in any boating event's wake.

As a result, he's been popping into newsrooms across the United States and even overseas to make sure the challenge doesn't get lost in the swells created by the America's Cup or other established international sailing competitions.

The starter's gun won't be fired until Sept. 17 in Charleston, S.C., but Schrader figures he has to plant his message early.

So with the crewed Whitbread Round the World Race ongoing and the America's Cup looming in 1995, Schrader has been making house calls, accompanied by a trusty public-relations attache.

He recently dropped by the Monitor on a snowy day fit for a sled dog. The conditions were reminiscent, he said, of what BOC Challenge entrants sometimes face in the Southern Ocean.

Several dramatic rescues have been performed there in past years, he says. (See story, next page.) Even so, a good wintry storm can be a welcome challenge to the soloing salts entered in this sailing marathon. `It's like you're surfing'

"Most people who've competed before want to go back to the Southern Ocean, because the swells can be huge," he says. "When you're in a 50-foot boat it's like you're surfing. It's exhilarating."

Speeds of 20 to 25 knots are not uncommon, and even 30 knots is within reach when the boats drop down almost sheer walls of heaving water. America's Cup yachts, by comparison, are flying when they hit 8 to 10 knots.

America's Cup offshore racing has the history and the glamour, but Schrader is convinced that the BOC Challenge, still wet behind the ears after only three races, intrigues people, and not simply "on-the-water folks."

A former Nebraska farm boy who now lives in Stanwood, Wash., he gives many slide shows and lecture presentations to inland audiences and says they are the most enthusiastic. "They are excited by this event," he says, "because it is different, unusual" - an adventure story and sports competition all in one.

The race bears the name of its title sponsor, The BOC Group (a multinational gasses and health-care company based in England) and is billed as the "longest race {27,300 miles} on earth for an individual in any sport."

The origins of the race, Schrader explains, grew out of conversations a handful of yachtsmen had after finishing a transatlantic event 14 years ago. They decided to launch a singlehanded around-the-world race that would start and finish in the United States. A similar race, which began in England, existed briefly during the 1960s.

A small ad was placed in Cruising World magazine. Sixteen boats entered the inaugural 1982 competition. French entrants have dominated the quadrennial event, which was also held in 1986 and 1990. …

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