Disney donates Pyewacket to school - Soundings Online

Disney donates Pyewacket to school

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$7M racing yacht will be the star of the sailing school at California’s Orange Coast College

$7M racing yacht will be the star of the sailing school at California’s Orange Coast College

Renowned sailor Roy E. Disney, the former Walt Disney Co. board member who retired from ocean racing after this year’s Transpac Race, has donated his 86-foot CBTF MaxZ86, Pyewacket, to Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship.

“I’ve been familiar with OCC’s program for many years and they are the best in the country,” says Disney, 75. “Obviously we donated the boat partly for tax reasons, but also to keep her close to home and to give a lot of people the chance to sail an amazing yacht. If you ask me, it was the natural thing to do.”

Officials at the Costa Mesa, Calif., school say they’re thrilled to have been given a racing yacht of this caliber. “This is an exciting development for the school,” says Brad Avery, director of Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship. “Unless you’re an exceptionally talented professional sailor or are very wealthy, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sail on a boat like Pyewacket. This donation gives us another chance to offer our students a fantastic sailing experience.”

The college’s School of Sailing and Seamanship, which Avery says attracts 4,000 students annually (most of whom are adults), is in the process of creating a 40-member sailing team and a crew of 15 to 20 that will sail Pyewacket. “We’re looking for experienced big-boat sailors who are really interested in sailing a cutting-edge boat like this,” Avery says. “Once the team is set, we’ll sail her about once a month as practice to get ready to compete in a number of local races.”

In addition to the sailing team, school officials are planning to use Pyewacket for a class called Pyewacket Magic. “We’re taking applications for this class, so it’ll be open to our students as well as to anyone else who’s interested,” Avery explains. “The class will be for the intermediate sailor, teaching him or her about the boat and how to handle her.”

The school also will offer day sails aboard Pyewacket. The cruises will be free and open to the general public, according to Avery. “I’m looking forward to sharing this boat with sailors and other interested people,” he says. “I’m looking forward to teaching them what big-boat sailing is all about.”

The School of Sailing and Seamanship (www.occsailing.com), unlike other community college programs, is solely funded by class fees and private donations. It has a fleet of more than 50 boats — including six sailboats bigger than 50 feet, a dozen 30-foot sloops and about three-dozen dinghies. Pyewacket, however, tops all of those. “[It is] the largest, fastest and most technologically advanced sailboat ever donated to the school,” Avery says.

Pyewacket was first launched in 2004 at a reported cost of about $7 million. The “turbo-sled” racing yacht features a 120-foot mast, and was said to be the largest boat at the time to have a canting keel. It is the fourth of Disney’s yachts to be named Pyewacket — the name of the witch’s cat in the 1958 film, “Bell, Book and Candle.”

Although Disney, who has sailed competitively for nearly 40 years, admits he’ll miss Pyewacket, he says he’s looking forward to someday sailing her again. “I will miss the boat a little, but will miss all the friendships and camaraderie of Pyewacket’s amazing crew the most. I think the thing I’m proudest of is the consistency of performance; of the boat, the crew, of our competitiveness and of all the records we set over the many years.

“I’ll be pretty close to the boat in the future, though, as she’ll be quite nearby,” he adds. “I might even get to go sailing on her once in a while!”