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The Happiest Place at Sea: Roy P. Disney Returns to the Bermuda Race With Pyewacket 70

June 11, 2024

By Mark LeBeau


There is something about the Newport Bermuda Race that seems to get sailors hooked. One “Thrash to the Onion Patch” never quite seems to be enough—even after setting new records. 

R/P 75 Pyewacket in 2002 / Yachting World

For Roy P. Disney, grand-nephew of Walt Disney and owner of 2024 race entry Pyewacket 70, the Bermuda Race is special amongst other off-shore sailing competitions. In 2002, Disney sailed with his father to set a then record time of 53 hours. “It was pretty heinous,” said Disney of that race 22 years ago. Despite being plagued by sea sickness and food poisoning, his 2002 crew arrived in Bermuda victorious.

Disney and his crew have sailed on different boats in many races, but he notes that the Bermuda race is unique. “What sets the Bermuda Race apart? Two basic answers: The Gulfstream and crossing it, and the cold, swirling, and often violent North Atlantic Ocean.”

Pyewacket 70 has already made a journey around the world, and is designed to perform best in windy conditions. After purchasing the boat from Australia’s Peter Harbourgh, Disney and his team took two years during the pandemic to optimize the already turbo-charged vessel. “Now it is a magical boat that goes really fast in all directions,” Disney says.

Bill Whitney, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America and Les Crane, Commodore of the Royal Bermuda YC, pass beer and champagne to Roy Disney's 'Pyewacket' after they broke the Newport/Bermuda Race Record with a time of 53hrs: 39mins: 22secs. on June 16, 2022.
PHOTO CREDIT: Barry Pickthall/PPL.

With the right conditions, Pyewacket 70 has a good chance of beating the Disney family’s breakneck 2002 time in this year’s Bermuda Race. Disney has confidence in the boat’s penchant for reaching—or sailing at an angle to the wind—which he believes to be a strong trait of the race’s course.

Pyewacket 70 also benefits from a close-knit and experienced crew, who work well together and look out for one another. Praising his team, Disney commented, “our crew are all great friends first. We all have a great deal of experience. We don’t panic in a situation. We work for the safety of each other and the boat. We can disagree about things but the most important thing is our mates and the boat. Ego has no place on a boat.”

Pyewacket in the Middle Sea Race / Pyewacket ROLEX / Kurt Arrigo

What stands in the way of success then? According to Disney the weather is the biggest obstacle. Not to mention ensuring his whole crew’s flights get them to Newport on time! “As a boat owner, everything keeps me up at night.”

As a veteran of the Bermuda Race, Disney has a few words of wisdom for newcomers and those thinking about trying their hand in the world of sailing. “My advice for first timers is to have plans and good safety protocols… Have default crew positions for every maneuver so that you don’t have novices doing a new job for the first time in the dark or in a critical situation. Bring more food than you expect the race to take. Make sure everyone has a water bottle. And uses it.”

“Finishing is as important as anything and the journey is the lesson,” says Disney.

Like other Bermuda Race sailors, Disney knows the race’s excitement extends onto shore. “I love all of Newport and its history and I certainly won’t mind some beach and down time in Bermuda!”

You can watch Disney and the Pyewacket 70 crew, as well as almost 165 other boats, take off for Bermuda at the Bermuda Race Starting Line Party and Live Show Powered by Ørsted on June 21 at Fort Adams in Newport. The race start will also be live streamed at bermudarace.com

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