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IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge 2023

Les Voiles de St Barth-Richard Mille concluded yesterday with a regatta of straight bullets for Roy Pat Disney’s modified VO70 Pyewacket 70 on her first visit to the Caribbean.

Following this and her line honours and overall IRC victory in February’s RORC Caribbean 600, Pyewacket 70 has won the second edition of the International Maxi Association’s Caribbean Maxi Challenge. Roy P Disney and the Pyewacket 70 crew, including navigator Peter Isler, was congratulated on their victory by IMA President Benoît de Froidmont at Les Voiles de St Barth-Richard Mille’s prize-giving at the event race village in Gustavia on Saturday evening.

Pyewacket 70's Roy P Disney (left) with IMA President Benoît de Froidmont - photo © Theo Questel Photography
Pyewacket 70’s Roy P Disney (left) with IMA President Benoît de Froidmont – photo © Theo Questel Photography

De Froidmont said: “We are very proud this year that our IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge has been won by a fantastic boat and a legendary family, known for their movies, but also an incredible sailing family. Roy and the Pyewacket crew did a fantastic job in winning the RORC Caribbean 600 and also here. I am very pleased to announce you as the winner.”

The IMA, which is officially tasked by World Sailing to look after the interests of maxi owners and maxi racing internationally, established its Caribbean Maxi Challenge in 2022, following on from its equivalent Inshore and Offshore series which have run for several seasons in the Mediterranean. For 2023 the series comprised the RORC Caribbean 600, St Maarten Heineken Regatta and Les Voiles de St Barth-Richard Mille with competitors obliged to compete in at least two. Winner of the first Caribbean Maxi Challenge in 2022 was another former VO70, I Love Poland.

Pyewacket 70’s owner Roy P Disney, is from the famous Hollywood animation and film dynasty and great grand-nephew of Walt Disney. The Disney passion for sailing began with his father Roy E Disney whose Pyewacket sailing program was launched in the 1980s (named after the witches’ cat from the film Bell, Book and Candle). Over the years various Disney maxis, notably a Reichel-Pugh 75 and a canting keel maxZ86, have won line and handicap honours and set records in all of the major offshore races in the USA and further afield. Ashore, Roy E Disney was highly influential in the development of the US west coast ULDB sleds, synonymous with California’s top offshore race – the Transpac.

 The modified Volvo 70 Pyewacket 70 off St Barth last week en route to IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge victory © Christophe Jouany

Following the death of Roy E Disney in 2009, his son has continued his family’s strong sailing tradition which culminated in 2021 in the acquisition of the latest VO70 Pyewacket (originally Telefonica in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, subsequently raced in Australia as Black Jack.) In 2021 Pyewacket 70 won line honours (the ‘Barn Door Trophy’) and was second in class in the Transpac.

According to Roy P, he previously raced with his father three times in the Caribbean but this year was the first visit on his own. While Pyewacket 70 won the RORC Caribbean 600 in style, Disney was forced to sit that race out: “I had a very bad knee injury in November and I am still recovering.” However he was able to compete last week at Les Voiles de St Barth-Richard Mille – his first time visiting the exotic French Caribbean island and its excellent regatta.

Of sailing in St Barths Disney said: “It is amazing sailing out here – even in the rain squalls around these islands. They couldn’t be more picturesque and the sailing is fantastic. We had good wind from 9 to 20 knots and the same guys on board – they are amazing, they don’t make mistakes.”

The Pyewacket 70 crew scored the line and IRC overall honours in this year's RORC Caribbean 600 - photo © Arthur Daniel / RORC
The Pyewacket 70 crew scored the line and IRC overall honours in this year’s RORC Caribbean 600 – photo © Arthur Daniel / RORC

From here the intention is to deliver Pyewacket 70 to the Mediterranean where the program may include the Rolex Middle Sea Race, before heading back in the RORC-IMA Transatlantic Race for the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600. While this gives the impression that Disney may be breaking with his family’s tradition of having competed in every Transpac since 1987 (save one where they joined forces with another team) this is not the case. The Disney family still own their 1998 vintage Andrews 68 which will be Hawaii-bound this July.

The official presentation to the Caribbean Maxi Challenge winner will take place at the IMA Members’ Dinner during the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo in September.

IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine observed: “Despite these difficult times with the war in Ukraine and the high cost and irregularity in shipping, it was still encouraging to see a total of 14 maxis taking part in the IMA’s Caribbean Maxi Challenge this year. We hope that the situation soon eases allowing us to return to more substantial maxi fleets, from both the Mediterranean and USA, as we have seen in past seasons. I congratulate the Pyewacket crew on their success and look forward to seeing them in Europe.”

Pyewacket 70's crew receives their RORC Caribbean 600 silverware - photo © Tim Wright /
Pyewacket 70’s crew receives their RORC Caribbean 600 silverware – photo © Tim Wright /

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association

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