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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all." -- Michelangelo Buonarroti

293--California: Racing with Roy Disney on "Pyewacket"
@ CherieSpotting     May 24 2005 - 03:21 PST
cherie writes: I remember the first time I tried to get a position as crew for a sailing race. It was October 2001. I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to sail off in a direction I had never anticipated. In 2001 I had no sailing experience and I showed up at a "Baja Ha Ha" crew party trying to hitch a free ride to Mexico, and learn how to sail in the process.

On May 20-22, I sailed with Olympian Robbie Haines on Roy Disney’s “Pyewacket” for the First Team Real Estate Regatta.

“Pyewacket” is equipped to scream across the water with: a 120-ft mast stabilized with 5 sets of spreaders, winches the size of barstools, fenders as big as mattresses, kelp-cutters on the leading edge of both the rudder and keel, and a prop that folds back seamlessly into the hull. I did the Baja Ha Ha on a Swan 65, so I thought I knew what it was like to be on a big boat. “Pyewacket” may only be 22-ft longer, but she sails in another dimension.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to sail at 12 knots with only 9 knots of true breeze. How is it possible to sail faster than the wind? What actually happens is the yacht creates her own wind, and then sails off the apparent wind. If that is confusing, don’t even try to get your head around the new canting keel technology that propels yachts faster than racers ever dreamed of sailing.

On the first day of racing, I stood on the dock and looked up at “Pyewacket” and thought: How am I ever going to climb aboard her? I should have brought a pole and then I could vault onto her, I thought. I was the only woman on the dock and I felt silly asking how to board the massive yacht.

I realized getting onto the boat was going to call for some acrobatics on my part. Fuzz, the yacht’s mainsheet trimmer, offered his hand. I regretted eating a full breakfast as I put my full weight into his grip. Then I thought of him handling the load a 3000 square-foot mainsail puts on a line and I decided he could handle my load. Still—I’ll bet Fuzz wished I weighed what my driver’s license says.

When the underwater diver finished wiping the hull slick, we shoved off the dock and coiled up the dock-lines (that are the width of my wrist). “Pyewacket’s” chase-boat motored up to get rid of the yacht’s extra weight. I was glad I wasn’t considered “extra weight” and hucked into the inflatable tender with the dock lines, unneeded sails, and the yacht’s monstrous fenders.

Then Robbie Haines looked at me and told me to “hold on” while we did the “canting keel exercise.” The 23 crew members of “Pyewacket” held on to their hats and glasses while Doug Rastello, the team’s canter, tested the canting keel. Perhaps Disney should consider making it a new ride at the amusement park and call it the “crazy keel,” because it provides one heck of a ride. My face was flushed red before it even had a chance to get sunburned!
It’s an absurd sight for a sailor to see a yacht’s rail in the water with no sails up.

Even more strange is sailing an entire race with the engine on. (Caning keel boats keep the engine running—out of gear—to power the new technology.) Another interesting fact about canting keels is that their use does not significantly change the draft of the boat. In other words, “Pyewacket” still draws 16-feet which explains why the First Team Regatta had to construct temporary docks for the visiting mammoths whose deep draft requirements couldn’t make it through Newport Beach’s channel.

Having a massive movable appendage under the hull comes with its own set of problems. If you press the wrong button on an ocean crossing, the canting keel can launch the crew out of their bunks.

Luckily I managed to stay onboard for all three days of racing. Disney even let me drive the boat with the kite up (of course it was after the race!) It was a weekend of Disney magic for me—which is fitting for “Pyewacket” since the word means: a magical witch’s cat. “Pyewacket” has been the name of Disney’s last 4 yachts. “My 2-year old grandson said Pyewacket before he said grandpa,” Roy told me.

I’ll never forget racing on “Pyewacket.” Life is an adventure, sometimes you have to throw off the dock-lines and see where the wind takes you.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Cherie at the helm with sailing icon Roy Disney, on his Reichel-Pugh MaxZ86 "Pyewacket."

Cherie at the helm with sailing icon Roy Disney, on his Reichel-Pugh MaxZ86 "Pyewacket."

Roy Disney and Olympian Robbie Haines, a team that has sailed together for 17 years.

Roy Disney and Olympian Robbie Haines, a team that has sailed together for 17 years.

Robbie Haines ready to start the 3 days of buoy-racing off the coast of Newport Beach.

Robbie Haines ready to start the 3 days of buoy-racing off the coast of Newport Beach.

Helmsman Robbie Haines talks with "Genuine Risk" owner Randall Pittman before the race.  (Look at the size of those fenders!)

Helmsman Robbie Haines talks with "Genuine Risk" owner Randall Pittman before the race. (Look at the size of those fenders!)

The crew loads massive fenders on "Pyewacket's" tender.

The crew loads massive fenders on "Pyewacket's" tender.

Marcus helps raise the main.

Marcus helps raise the main.

It takes two crew hoisted up the rig to get this 3,000 sq-ft. main up.

It takes two crew hoisted up the rig to get this 3,000 sq-ft. main up.

Now is the time to flex and grind.

Now is the time to flex and grind.

Bulked up grinders like Joe can crank with amazing speed.

Bulked up grinders like Joe can crank with amazing speed.

That's a lot of boats at the start line.

That's a lot of boats at the start line.

Full speed ahead.

Full speed ahead.

Scout Spirit and Taxi Dancer are neck and neck.

Scout Spirit and Taxi Dancer are neck and neck.

With 16 yachts charging the starting line at once, the traffic in California wasn't just on the freeway.

With 16 yachts charging the starting line at once, the traffic in California wasn't just on the freeway.

The 90-ft "Genuine Risk" makes 50-foot yachts look like toys.

The 90-ft "Genuine Risk" makes 50-foot yachts look like toys.

Robbie, Roy and Doug.  On "Pyewacket", the crew is like family.

Robbie, Roy and Doug. On "Pyewacket", the crew is like family.

Fuzz checks the trim the main.

Fuzz checks the trim the main.

Roy Disney with the fleet of 16 sleds in persuit.

Roy Disney with the fleet of 16 sleds in persuit.

A chopper gets close to the action.

A chopper gets close to the action.

Tactician Ben Mitchell points out the lay line.

Tactician Ben Mitchell points out the lay line.

Cherie at the helm of "Pyewacket".  (I only drove after the race!)

Cherie at the helm of "Pyewacket". (I only drove after the race!)

There's the navigation center.

There's the navigation center.

The ID 48 "Chayah", took 1st place in Div. C.

The ID 48 "Chayah", took 1st place in Div. C.

There's the canting keel hovering below the water.

There's the canting keel hovering below the water.

The Dubois 90 "Genuine Risk" with her chute up.

The Dubois 90 "Genuine Risk" with her chute up.

How do you get 23-guys to wear matching cat-shirts?

How do you get 23-guys to wear matching cat-shirts?

In this race, the 50-foot yachts are the little guys.

In this race, the 50-foot yachts are the little guys.

Cherie hanging out with the "Pyewacket" crew.

Cherie hanging out with the "Pyewacket" crew.

"Skylark", the Santa Cruz 70 was formerly "Pyewacket 2."

"Skylark", the Santa Cruz 70 was formerly "Pyewacket 2."

Even with the canting keel, you still need human balast.

Even with the canting keel, you still need human balast.

"No hands!"  Tactician Ben Mitchell with "Genuine Risk" in the background.

"No hands!" Tactician Ben Mitchell with "Genuine Risk" in the background.

"Tack!"

"Tack!"

At 75-years old, Roy Disney still drives the downwind legs.

At 75-years old, Roy Disney still drives the downwind legs.

Those winches are the size of bar-stools.

Those winches are the size of bar-stools.

The Mull 68 "Taxi Dancer" won Div B.

The Mull 68 "Taxi Dancer" won Div B.

Sail away, sail away, sail away.

Sail away, sail away, sail away.

Doug on the traveler.

Doug on the traveler.

Who has the right-of-way?

Who has the right-of-way?

How did Roger Sturgeon get his crew to wear rose buds on their shirts?

How did Roger Sturgeon get his crew to wear rose buds on their shirts?

The Reichel-Pugh 78 "Scout Spirit" crosses "Pyewacket's" bow.

The Reichel-Pugh 78 "Scout Spirit" crosses "Pyewacket's" bow.

Notice that "Pyewacket's" boat speed (top) is faster than the true wind (bottom.)

Notice that "Pyewacket's" boat speed (top) is faster than the true wind (bottom.)

Dave is dangling like a Christmas tree ornament.

Dave is dangling like a Christmas tree ornament.

The Andrews 80 "Magnitude 80."

The Andrews 80 "Magnitude 80."

"Genuine Risk" pulls away from the pack.

"Genuine Risk" pulls away from the pack.

He's got the best seat in the house.

He's got the best seat in the house.

Every crewmember has a specific job on "Pyewacket."

Every crewmember has a specific job on "Pyewacket."

Racing.

Racing.

"Scout Spirit" with her star-studded kite.

"Scout Spirit" with her star-studded kite.

"Pyewacket's main costs about $125,000 (and that doesn't include the guy on the rig.)

"Pyewacket's main costs about $125,000 (and that doesn't include the guy on the rig.)

You need a lot of electronics just to communicate with the bowmen.

You need a lot of electronics just to communicate with the bowmen.

There's the canting keel mechanism.

There's the canting keel mechanism.

Five sets of spreaders hold up the 120-ft mast.

Five sets of spreaders hold up the 120-ft mast.

Roy smiles, the last day of racing he wears a lucky lei.

Roy smiles, the last day of racing he wears a lucky lei.

"Chayah."

"Chayah."

Paul and Laura Sharp's "Taxi Dancer" slides by.

Paul and Laura Sharp's "Taxi Dancer" slides by.

Robbie at the helm.

Robbie at the helm.

The massive "Genuine Risk" dwarfs most of her competitors.

The massive "Genuine Risk" dwarfs most of her competitors.

How'd they get up there?

How'd they get up there?

Joe takes a break and relaxes his muscles.

Joe takes a break and relaxes his muscles.

Let's make this boat sail fast!

Let's make this boat sail fast!

Nose to nose.

Nose to nose.

You can never have enough rail meat.

You can never have enough rail meat.

"Tack!"

"Tack!"

"Scout Spirit".

"Scout Spirit".

"It's OK!", an ID 48.

"It's OK!", an ID 48.

"Genuine Risk" and the chopper square off.

"Genuine Risk" and the chopper square off.

The bulb on the canting keel weighs 6 tons.

The bulb on the canting keel weighs 6 tons.

Marcus at the helm.

Marcus at the helm.

Coffee grinders everywhere.

Coffee grinders everywhere.

Grinding away.

Grinding away.

Disney on film.

Disney on film.

How many people are on that rail?

How many people are on that rail?

The yachts give the spectators on the pier something to talk about.

The yachts give the spectators on the pier something to talk about.

What's wrong with this picture?  "Pyewacket" tests the canting keel with no sails up.

What's wrong with this picture? "Pyewacket" tests the canting keel with no sails up.

Rick is ready to hoist the sail.

Rick is ready to hoist the sail.

Thar she goes!

Thar she goes!