Roy Disney, Seahorse Sailor of the Month

Published on August 28th, 2019

The Seahorse International Sailing Sailor of the Month Hall of Fame for September 2019 was announced, the honor going to Roy P. Disney. He and the team on his Andrews 68 Pyewacket were recognized for the rescue of the crew off John Sangmeister’s Santa Cruz 70 OEX on the 50th edition of the Transpacific YC’s 2225-mile race from LA to Honolulu.

On July 15, 2019 at 0200 Pacific Daylight Time the YB tracking system had activated an emergency signal from OEX, followed one hour later by a message from Pyewacket contacting the Transpacific YC’s race headquarters that they had picked up the crew of OEX and all were safe.

Email communications indicated the trouble experienced by OEX and their cause to abandon ship was due to water ingress due to damage to their rudder post. Pyewacket reported the position of OEX at the time of the rescue, which at 0300 was at the position 031° 38.652N, 121° 52.644W, and this was reported to the US Coast Guard, subsequently the regatta team learned that OEX had sunk.

“I was just waking up when the radio had messages that you could hear sounded urgent, we heard it was OEX, so Benny [Mitchell] and I looked at each other and leaned in to figure out what’s going on,” said Disney.

“The next part was figuring out where we were relative to them. We assumed others were closer until our navigator said they were right in front of us. It was easy to turn a little left and we were right on top of them relatively quickly. We were all powered up going 14-15 knots, so slowing down was not that easy.”

Disney went on to say “Then we came across the eerie sight of a mainsail up on a boat that was going under the waves, it is a pretty tragic thing to see, and these two lifeboats tied together with flashing lights on them.”

The sight was John Sangmeister’s Santa Cruz 70 OEX foundering from water rushing into the boat through a hole in the stern where the rudder post used to be. Despite valiant attempts by his team to stop the flow and keep up with the ingress with pumps and buckets, the boat was filling fast with water. Liferafts were deployed.

“When I saw Pyewacket’s running lights nearby and we were 4-5 feet of water inside the boat and I was sitting on deck I had waist-deep water in the cockpit, I said ‘Alright boats, its time to go.’ We have a watertight bulkhead on the bow and I feared the boat might go down by the stern and the mast would land on top of the raft.

“I felt really confident that Roy and his remarkable crew would look after us once we got into the boats.”

“Which we did, we had ribs and wine!” said Disney. “And dinner and fellowship, all 19 of us,” retorted Sangmeister. “They were more than gracious hosts.”

“I am fortunate to have a group of guys that are really good at what they do, I really appreciate that, and John also has a group of guys that are really good at what they do too,” said Disney.

“There was no panic, no distress, other than just guys getting into a lifeboat in the dark in the middle of the night in the middle of the Pacific! But everyone handled it perfectly. This is a tribute to sailors in general and our groups that it worked out the way it did.”

Fortunately there were no reports of injuries, and all 9 crewmembers from OEX and 10 on Pyewacket were on Pyewacket on their return home to Marina del Rey, CA. On July 16, at about 2 AM PDT, a small crowd gathered at the docks of Windward Yacht Center to great the arrival of the 68-foot sailboat with 19 people aboard.

Seahorse reports that Roy Disney and his crew were nominated because compared to many, this rescue was not all that dramatic, especially with the almost ridiculous level of ocean racing experience Disney pulled together for the 50th Transpac.

But that is why Pyewacket’s rescue of the crew of the sinking OEX should be recognized, there were other less fancied yachts a similar distance from the stricken boat but it was an instant call to abandon his own race and do the right thing, sadly not everyone is always quite so selfless.

Sources: Seahorse International, TPYC

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