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#royalcork – ISAF Youth Silver Medallist Séafra Guifoyle has won the Pyewacket Cup for the fourth time at Royal Cork Yacht Club writes Claire Bateman. Royal Cork's Guilfoyle has topped off a magnificent period of sailing and received the well deserved accolade of being awarded the Pyewacket Perpetual Cup. His silver medal achievement at the ISAF Youth world Championships at Tavira, Portugal in July was well recognised by the Munster club's adjudicating Committee. He showed true grit in producing a final race win in the series, his seventh top ten placing resulting in the silver medal, Ireland's second in as many years.

He had got off to a great start in the light wind series and scored an opening race win plus a fifth in race two and held this lead until the half way stage. "I nearly had gold but at the last minute Joel Rodriquez moved to finish fourth." This was enough for Rodriquez to take the gold and, to quote Séafra again, "I tried my best and am still thrilled with the result."

At Optimist level Séafra was National Champion in 2008 and 2009 and in 2011 he moved to a Laser 4.7 and became Class National Champion in that year.

In October 2001 the late Roy Disney, widely known American Sailing Enthusiast who had a home in West Cork, had strong ties with the Royal Cork Yacht Club, and participated in many Ford Cork Week Regattas, presented the club with the Pyewacket Perpetual Cup at a dinner in the club hosted by the then Admiral, Anthony O'Leary.

The Pyewacket Trophy is presented each year to the youth sailor, who in the opinion of the Adjudicating Committee , has achieved the best results overall in his or her class. and took place on November 14th at the highly successful and enjoyable Junior Laying Supper at the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Published in Royal Cork YC

Cork Week and Roy Disney 

By David O'Brien

Reproduced from Afloat Magazine, July 2006.

If sailing faster than the wind sounds like something out a Disney fantasy, then that’s because it was. And now, as Roy Disney - the 73-year-old nephew of the legendary Walt - prepares to hit the water in Cork today, (July 10) that fantasy has become reality for the first time in Europe.

Disney has temporarily left boardroom battles behind him to pitch his stunning yacht against the competition around Cork harbour. His 86-foot, space-age boat, Pyewacket, was fast tracked across the Atlantic on top of a cargo ship directly from Bermuda just to be here in time for the first race of Cork Week, an Irish regatta with a global reputation for fun and great racing, and one which Disney claims he wouldn’t miss for the world.

Depending on how you look at it, the international regatta circuit that has taken him to St Maarten, Tortola, Antiqua and Bermuda this year is either a logistical nightmare or a gorgeous extravagance.

Whichever it is - and Disney reckons it’s probably a bit of both - it's an infatuation that keeps him burning with enthusiasm when sailing is at the top of the agenda. For 50 years he has followed a fantasy to see his boats go faster than all the others - and now he’s living that dream.

This year he has come in for international acclaim, not for his company's movie work, but in yachting circles, for bringing racing to a new level by creating the Maxi big Z86, a yacht that’s capable of sailing faster than the speed of the wind.

Already nicknamed 'the rocketship' by jealous competitors, Pyewacket is one of two such designs built to demolish the world's sailing speed records for monohull boats.

And if they’re untouchable when it comes to straight line racing, the new designs are proving equally superior in around-the-buoys events too. At Antigua Race Week this spring, they left their competition behind in showers of spray and they threaten to repeat that feat at Cork today.

The secret to the success of these high-tech speedsters is a weight-saving, super-strong, carbon fibre construction and radical underwater keel designs.

“Sailing in just 3.5 knots of true wind, we were slipping effortlessly through the water at almost three times that speed during the race to Bermuda. There are not many times when we can't sail faster than the wind,” Disney enthuses. “If we get 15 knots winds, we can sail at 20 knots easily thanks to this design.”

But all these things come at a price and no one is forthcoming - not event the two billionaires owners - on the total development costs thus far.

Ted Heath once said that sailing was like standing in the shower tearing up £5 notes. It's an oft-used quotation but it still draws a giggle from Disney who adds "yeah...and most of the time it’s in the dark too!"

According to insiders, sailing campaigns at this cutting-edge level cost up to $5m a year - and this excludes the capital cost of the boat.

"It's like Rockefeller said: "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it. And I can afford it," says Disney.

He readily admits that some people ask him if he's mad, to which he replies "We're all crazy, so why not have some fun? When it stops being fun, then that will be my last race."

Joking aside, Disney reckons that he’s now sailing at a level where he can't afford to do it badly.

"I need skilled people to crew this yacht, he explains. “When you sail at 27 knots, the loads involved are huge. I need to sign on the bottom line to have it sailed professionally. Otherwise people could get hurt or lost overboard."

Today's Cork Week race follows Disney's defeat by Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory, Pyewacket's sistership, in a race from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda in the last week of June. Plattner, who took a 30-mile lead on Disney in a race the Hollywood giant previously called his own, smashed the elapsed time record previously held by Disney since 2001.

Cork Week therefore represents the first opportunity to avenge this defeat. Royal Cork, not surprisingly, is trying its best to facilitate a pitched battle between the two space-age craft, designing courses that are sure to set the two pitching against one another until the finishing line.

"They could have chosen Cowes or Sardinia to unveil this next generation of racing yacht but they didn't, says Donal McClement of the host yacht club, the Royal Cork. “They chose Cork and that's a big honour for us. McClement has sailed with Disney in previous Cork weeks and will sail again as a local tactician this time.

The fact the world’s big guns are coming to Cork is, of course, a compliment to the organisation for the Crosshaven event, but in Disney’s case it also has something to do with the fact that he’s a member at Royal Cork, and a patron of its junior sailors. He’s had a second home in Ireland - in Kilbrittain in West Cork - for the past 15 years, where he spends up to three months of the year.

Neither Roy's father nor his uncle - the company’s founder, Walt - were sailors, yet they always encouraged his sporting passion for diving and swimming as a teenager.

It's sounds twee to describe Roy’s sailing career as a 'race into paradise' but it’s still an accurate description of the movie-maker's 50-year journey from weekend family sailor of the Fifties to globe-trotting regatta racer of the new millennium.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, aged just 16, he flew a prototype aircraft - with the full support of his family. It was the unrestrained joy of playing tag in the clouds with like-minded Californian surfer kids that gave him a life-long love of freedom, and speed.

It's more than likely, he concludes, that this later translated into a love of the sea, a passion he was able to share with wife Patty and four young children on weekend trips.

That buzz still drives him on but as his business pressures have increased over the years, the Disney director, listed by Forbes as the 552nd richest man in the world, finds it increasingly difficult to make a complete break from the office.

The introduction of the on-board satellite phone has, ironically, not helped matters, leading instead to a further diminution of his precious freedom.

On more than one occasion on Pacific yacht races he has been interrupted - a thousand miles from land - by the Disney corporation who want him back for a meeting

"Sorry you can’t have me, I'm half way to Honolou," he recalls telling executives who were insisting on his return recently.

As a nephew of Walt, he worked at Mouse Factory for 24 years as a film editor, writer and producer. He left in 1977 but returned seven years later as vice chairman. Credited with rekindling Disney’s love of the animated film - scoring huge success with The Lion King and Little Mermaid - he became chairman of the Feature Animation Division.

However, it hasn’t been his yachting exploits that have raised his public profile so dramatically in the past year. Instead, Disney has become better known - at least among land-lubbers - for his bitter and very public battle with Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner.

On 30 November last year, he resigned from the company, denouncing Eisner for (among other things) the loss of company morale through micro-management, building newer theme parks "on the cheap", changing the company's public image as "always looking for the 'quick buck'", the defection of creative talent to other companies, failure to establish lasting relationships with creative partners and not establishing a management succession plan. Eisner was then stripped of his role as chairman by the Disney board in March - being replaced by Northern Ireland peacemaker George Mitchell - but survived as CEO. It was a half victory for Roy Disney, then, and he has vowed to continue the fight. “ I’m competitive of the water too, you know” he says.

Sailing, he says, releases him from this tension and provides the breaks he needs from the bruising and protracted battle for the right to control Disney’s future.

"Pretty soon you'll be able to read about my success over Eisner,‰ he says, „but in the meantime you might like to have a look at‰ The comment may look innocent enough on paper, but the way in which it is delivered provides an insight into his gritty determination both on and off the water.

"The guy who is running the company for us for the past 20 years is trying to get me out and I'm not taking that lying down," he vows.

Next week the corporate battle stops for Disney. Satellite phone or no, he’ll need to have all hands on deck to fight off the challenge from Morning Glory. If you want to see the technological marvels at first hand, before the circus moves on to Sardinia, head down to Roche's Point and look out over Cork harbour to see an American billionaire sailing faster than the wind. For once in his life, Disney won’t be steering a Mickey Mouse operation.

Published in Cork Week

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