Disney raced yachts, owned TV station in isles


POSTED: Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roy Disney was well-known in Hawaii for decades as a Transpac yacht racer and, for a time, he also owned KITV when it was on Ala Moana Boulevard near Auahi Street.

“;He was a very important, key person to the Waikiki Yacht Club and particularly Transpac,”; said Bobbie Jennings, club chairwoman of public relations and the voice of the Transpac.

Disney was a club member and “;he was so personable and friendly with everyone,”; she said.

Disney was instrumental in improving the slips at “;Transpac Row, the 500 row over in the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor,”; which had fallen into disrepair, she said. “;It was such an important event, an international event, and he was responsible for getting (the repairs) to happen.”;

He broke several Transpac records and although he did not race this year because of his battle with stomach cancer, “;his Pyewacket raced. His son raced it and he was here to welcome his son and be part of Transpac,”; she said. He took the name Pyewacket from the cat in “;Bell, Book and Candle.”;

Separately, Disney was chairman of Shamrock Broadcasting, named after his first Transpac yacht, recalled Dick Grimm, now president of Hawaii Foodbank Inc.

Grimm ran the company's three-station television division that included KITV, of which he was general manager, WTVQ-TV in Lexington, Ky., and KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“;We owned it from 1979 and sold it in 1987,”; Grimm said.

Shamrock exists now as an investment firm with five portfolios and Grimm is a director.

Disney owned a unit in Discovery Bay and had “;just built a house here, on Diamond Head,”; Grimm said.

“;He loved to make movies. He was responsible for bringing the animation department into the computerized era, into this century ... and he was always looking forward,”; Grimm said. His film “;Morning Light,”; about Transpac, debuted a year ago, he said.

He would tell stories of his late uncle, Walt Disney, and his father, Roy O. Disney, mortgaging their homes to get the money to make movies, including “;Fantasia.”;

“;He was probably one of the nicest, kindest men I have ever met in my life,”; Grimm said. Despite vast net worth, “;he was never ostentatious, never flashed his wealth.”;

A “;great raconteur, he had wonderful, wonderful stories. He could talk about almost anything, and was an extremely learned man, but his passion was sailing. He loved to sail, loved to race. That was his really one true passion,”; Grimm recalled.