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Roy Disney passes away at 79

by Rich Roberts, Transpacific Yacht Club 18 Dec 2009 09:00 GMT

The Transpacific Yacht Club membership joins the rest of the sailing world in expressing our deepest sorrow at the passing of Roy E. Disney. Our condolences especially go to his wife and family who will most miss Roy. We understand the loss of a family member and friend and extend our greatest sympathy.

Roy Disney passed away the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 16, after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. He has become an icon for the Transpac Race and a true friend of Transpacific Yacht Club. His many years of service on our board and his generous support helped us time and time again to run this great race. His time and his spirit were always shared with us.

At the same time, Roy was a terrific competitor who relished every opportunity to build a new boat, buy some new sails and put together a team to sail the race to Honolulu. When we saw him as he sailed past Diamond Head, his smile was ear to ear. He, as much as any of us, felt the thrill of driving one’s boat across the Pacific Ocean to the warm waters and Aloha welcome in Hawaii.

Bill Lee, commodore of the Transpacific Yacht Club, said, “I first met Roy Disney before the start of the 1975 Transpac when he was skippering his lovely dark green yawl Shamrock. My first opportunity to work with him was in 1987 when the California sled group was formed and Roy was elected as the first president and I was secretary. He got the sled group off to a great start and what followed was some of the most competitive big boat racing California has seen. Roy went on to be both an exceptional Transpac skipper and an exceptional director of the Transpacific Yacht Club. He has done a great deal to make Transpac the best possible race.”

Between 1975 and 2009, Roy skippered 15 Transpac races and sent his yacht on three more. Roy's interest was always in getting there first. He didn't win overall honors on corrected handicap time but, with his series of Pyewacket boats, was a fierce competitor for the Barn Door for the fastest elapsed time.

His first Barn Door win, and course record, was in 1997 when Pyewacket II was actually skippered by his son Roy Pat while Roy was out with a broken leg. But Roy came back stronger than ever in 1999 to win the Barn Door again and take another four hours off the record.

His donation of our Elapsed Time Record Trophy was symbolic of the quest he enjoyed with many us. The drive to be the fastest to sail from California to Hawaii kept him coming back again and again. But his love of our sport and his willingness to share his thoughts and his smiles with so many other sailors was really what Roy was all about.

Transpac does not yet have a “Roy E. Disney Trophy” but one will need to be announced soon. His gifts to Transpac the race, the club and the people are so many that he will sail on in our thoughts forever.

Aloha, Roy

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