THE END OF A LEGEND | Record-breaking Gentry Eagle dismantling at Port Ventura – VC Reporter

IN THE PICTURE: After the glory days of racing were over, the Gentry Eagle was converted into a luxury yacht. photo sent

by Alex Wilson
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For years, Bob Oedy has enjoyed spending time with his family at Ventura Harbor Village, eating fish and chips on the nearby windy shoreline, and flying kites.

But Oedy’s main attraction—one could even call it an obsession—was a sleek 112-foot boat with a strikingly pointed prow that had clearly seen better days, and on her mind, hosting celebrities seemed more at home. Rather than rot in a Ventura shipyard on the French Riviera.

Bob Oedy poses in front of the ship he loves from afar. photo sent

“It was like, ‘Wow, that’s so neat. It stuck in my mind and I fell in love the moment I saw it. “This is the most magnificent watercraft I’ve ever seen,” said Oedy of the navy and white ship, which had an ornate coat of arms with the Gentry Eagle on it.

Oedy was not alone, wondering about the history of the Gentry Eagle, which is moored in a prominent location near the pedestrian promenade on the Ventura Harbor Boatyard. The Gentry Eagle has caught the attention of many people over the past eight years, when it has sat still and is increasingly in disrepair, frequented more by seagulls than by sailors.

Fans of the ship were upset to see the ship being pulled out of the water in March, before meeting its fate with a demolition crew last month.

When the Gentry Eagle was smashed by heavy machinery, the people walking along the promenade stopped and gasped in disbelief. They were witnessing a piece of maritime history fade away at sunset.

“I actually went to bed very depressed,” Oedy said. “One of my dreams was to restore that thing. I didn’t know how to do this. “I said to my wife many times, ‘If I hit the lottery, I’ll buy that boat,'” he said.

A record-breaking racer. . . and legendary owner

While many admired the ship that had stood on a pier in Ventura Harbor for years, few knew the true story behind the Gentry Eagle. But Oedy was determined to find out. His research uncovered some fascinating information that inspired him to start fan pages for Gentry Eagle on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

One of the most fascinating facts is that this rotting ship broke the world record for transatlantic crossing in its heyday.

The Gentry Eagle legend began with the dream of three-time world champion Tom Gentry, one of the most talked about offshore speedboat racers in history.

Gentry Eagle in its glory days. photo sent

Gentry had made a fortune developing homes, marinas, and malls in Northern California cities, including Concord and San Ramon, before shifting gear to building homes in Hawaii. But he is most remembered for his love of building and racing speedboats. According to his 1998 obituary published in the New York Times, he was the International Motorboat Association’s world champion in 1976 and 1987 and received the organization’s gold medal of honor in 1993. John Carbonell, then president of Super Boat International, praised Gentry’s “innovations”. in engines and external drives.”

Gentry set out to win the Blue Riband, one of the world’s toughest maritime awards, the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. It was an honor held by powerful ocean liners like the legendary SS United States. According to Wikipedia, the flamboyant British music and airline tycoon Richard Branson took the record in 1986 with the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, a specially built ship from the SS United States.

Gentry aimed to bring the honor back to America and had success with the Gentry Eagle. While it may look luxurious from the outside, the Gentry Eagle’s real secret was in the engine room, where two turbodiesels, once capable of producing a total of 11,500 horsepower, were combined with a 4,500 horsepower turbine engine. These engines powered the ship on a record-breaking voyage, winning the Gentry Eagle the Blue Riband in 1989.

Unfortunately, Gentry was seriously injured when his catamaran overturned during the Key West World Offshore Championships in 1994. The accident hospitalized him and he fell into a coma from which he never fully recovered. He died about four years later in Honolulu at the age of 67.

Father and son broke records together

Gentry Eagle passed on to Gentry’s son Norman, who still runs the family business from Hawaii and spoke with the Ventura County Reporter about his years of efforts to sell the unique boat to someone who can afford and appreciate it.

Gentry Eagle held a special place in Gentry’s heart as he and his father assisted the ship’s crew on the record-breaking voyage. He said Gentry also has a storied career in offshore speedboat racing and, like his father, has won three world titles.

“I was there in England when the spine was laid, so it’s a little more special to me,” Gentry said.

Gentry Eagle was built with an ambitious goal in mind. Returning the Blue Riband to the USA photo sent

He announced that Gentry Eagle’s parts were procured from all over the world, with diesel engines shipped from Germany, turbine engine in the USA and electronics from Japan.

The ship’s crew first attempted to break the transatlantic crossing record in 1988, but a severe storm damaged the Gentry Eagle and forced it to take a detour for repairs. A year later they tried again and were successful.

Gentry recalled that he made the trip at 62 hours and seven minutes, averaging 73 miles per hour, about 23% faster than Branson’s record-breaking effort.

The adventure of breaking the world record was something Gentry would never forget. With fog, rain and turbulent seas, it was certainly not an enjoyable journey.

“One of the definitions I’ve come up with is if you can imagine putting yourself in a box at the top of a set of stairs, throwing a gallon of diesel and a jukebox high, and throwing yourself down the stairs for hours to the end. This type occasionally describes it,” he said.

According to Gentry, the Gentry Eagle broke several more records, including traveling the furthest distance in 24 hours.

“Needs a special type of receiver”

After Gentry Eagle broke the transatlantic transit record, it was converted into a luxury yacht and the family sailed to destinations like the Mediterranean and Alaska. But finding a permanent home proved difficult.

Norman Gentry said the ship required repairs at several shipyards due to its size and unique configuration. Finally, Port Ventura Shipyard was willing to help and said it had been serviced here several times, starting around 15 years ago.

After taking over the ship, Gentry launched it for around $3 million.

But the ship’s historical background could not overcome the difficulties of owning such a ship, including outdated electrical systems, so it was impossible to find a buyer. Gentry said he finally knocked out the ship at the Port of Ventura docks in 2014.

“For comparison, imagine owning a Formula 1 race car. It’s not for everyone,” he said. “It can be scary. A custom recipient type is required.”

“Nothing lasts forever”

Gentry Eagle meets his sad death. Photo: Gonzalo Alva

Last year, Gentry learned that the Ventura dock was no longer available as there were new plans for the space, and tried to find a way to find someone who could take the challenge of owning the Gentry Eagle.

Gentry explained that there was interest from a reality TV producer who had a vision to make a show about restoring Gentry Eagle to its former glory, but the plan fell through. Efforts to donate the boat to various museums also attracted attention, but failed for various reasons.

“I spent a lot of time and effort finding him a home, but it didn’t work out,” Gentry said.

Praising the people at Ventura Harbor Shipyard who have helped maintain the Gentry Eagle for years, Gentry said the only practical way turned out to be to dismantle the boat. The shipyard hired Ventura-based Standard Demolition to safely dismantle the ship.

As for seeing Gentry Eagle meet his demise, Gentry said it was sad, but there were no other viable options.

“As a sailor, boats have a special place in your heart, if you like. So is it difficult? Yes. But nothing lasts forever,” Gentry said. “Sometimes it’s time.”

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