END OF A LEGEND | Record-setting Gentry Eagle gets dismantled at Ventura Harbor – VC Reporter

PICTURED: After it’s glory racing days were over Gentry Eagle was converted into a luxury yacht. Photo submitted

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

But the main attraction for Oedy — one might even say an obsession — was a sleek, 12-foot vessel with a hosting pointed bow that had clearly seen better days, and in his mind looked like it looked it would be more at home celebrities on the French Riviera than languishing at a Ventura boatyard.

Bob Oedy poses in front of the vessel he loved from afar. Photo submitted

“It was like ‘Whoa, that’s so neat.’ It just stuck out in my mind, and I just fell in love with it the second I saw it. That is the most amazing watercraft I’ve ever seen,” Oedy said about the navy blue and white ship with an ornate crest emblazoned with the name Gentry Eagle.

Oedy was not alone in wondering about the history of Gentry Eagle, which was docked in a prominent location at Ventura Harbor Boatyard near the pedestrian promenade. Many people were intrigued by the mystery over the last eight years as Gentry Eagle sat stationary and appeared to fall farther and farther into disrepair, frequented mostly by seagulls rather than seafarers.

The vessel’s admirers were saddened to see it hauled out of the water in March before meeting its fate with a wrecking crew last month.

As Gentry Eagle was torn to shreds by heavy machinery, people walking along the promenade stopped in their tracks and gasped with disbelief. They were witnessing a piece of maritime history fade into the sunset.

“I actually went to bed just so depressed,” Oedy said. “One of my dreams was to restore that thing. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I told my wife many times, ‘If I hit the lottery, I’m buying that boat.’”

A record-setting racer . . . and its legendary owner

While many admired the vessel that sat for years at a dock at Ventura Harbor, few knew the real story behind Gentry Eagle. But Oedy was determined to find out. His research turned up some fascinating information, which inspired him to launch fan pages for Gentry Eagle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

One of the most fascinating facts was that this decaying vessel had, in its Heyday, broken the transatlantic crossing world record.

The legend of Gentry Eagle started with a dream of one of the most storied offshore powerboat racers in history, three-time world champion Tom Gentry.

Gentry Eagle in it’s glory days. Photo submitted

Gentry had earned a fortune developing homes, marinas and shopping centers in Northern California cities including Concord and San Ramon before switching gears to build homes in Hawaii. But he was best remembered for his love of building and racing powerboats. According to his 1998 obituary in the New York Times, he was the Union of International Motorboating’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 outdrives.”

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

Gentry aimed to bring the honor back to America, and succeeded with Gentry Eagle. While it looked luxurious from the outside, Gentry Eagle’s real secret was in the engine room, where two turbo-diesel engines coupled with a 4,500-horsepower turbine engine were once capable of generating a total of 11,500 horsepower. Those engines powered the vessel on a record-setting trip, earning the Gentry Eagle the Blue Riband in 1989.

Sadly, Gentry was critically injured when his catamaran flipped over during the Key West World Offshore Championships in 1994. The accident left him hospitalized and in a coma, from which he never fully recovered. He died in Honolulu about four years later at age 67.

Father and son set a record together

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

Gentry Eagle held a special place in Gentry’s heart because he helped crew the ship with his dad on the record-setting voyage. Gentry also had a storied career in offshore powerboat racing and holds three world championships just like his dad, he said.

“I was there when the keel was laid in England, 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 US Photo submitted

He explained that parts of the Gentry Eagle were sourced from around the world, with the diesel engines shipped from Germany, the turbine engine built in the US and electronics from Japan.

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

Gentry recalled making the voyage in 62 hours and seven minutes, with an average speed of 73 miles per hour, about 23% faster than Branson’s record-setting effort.

The adventure of setting the world record was something Gentry will never forget. It was certainly no pleasure cruise, with fog, rain and churning seas.

“One of the descriptions I came up with is if you can imagine putting yourself into a box at the top of a set of stairs, throw in a gallon of diesel and a boom box on high, and throw yourself down the stairs for hours on end. That kind of would describe it at times,” he said.

According to Gentry, the Gentry Eagle set several more records, including one for traveling the farthest in 24 hours.

“It would take a special kind of buyer”

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

Norman Gentry said the ship required repairs few boatyards were able to perform, due to its size and unique configuration. Eventually Ventura Harbor Boatyard was willing to help, and it was serviced there a few times starting about 15 years ago, he said.

After he inherited the ship, Gentry put it on the market for around $3 million.

But the ship’s storied past could not overcome the challenges of owning such a vessel, which included outdated electrical systems, so it proved impossible to find a buyer. Gentry said he finally mothballed the ship at the Ventura Harbor dock in 2014.

For comparison, just imagine owning a Formula One race car. It’s not for everyone,” he said. “It can be intimidating. It would take a special kind of buyer.”

“Nothing lasts forever”

Gentry Eagle meets its sad demise. Photo by Gonzalo Alva

Last year, Gentry learned the Ventura dock would no longer be available because there were new plans for the space, and he scrambled to find a way to find someone able to take on the challenge of owning Gentry Eagle.

Gentry related that there was interest from a reality TV producer with a vision for making a show about restoring Gentry Eagle to its former glory, but that the plan fell through. Efforts to donate the boat to various museums also received some interest but also failed for what he called a variety of reasons.

“I put a lot of time and effort into trying to find her a home but it just didn’t come to be,” said Gentry.

It turned out that the only practical course was to dismantle the boat, said Gentry, who only had praise for the people at the Ventura Harbor Boatyard who helped care for Gentry Eagle over the years. The boatyard hired Ventura-based Standard Demolition to take the ship apart safely.

As for seeing Gentry Eagle meet its demise, Gentry said it’s sad, but there were no other viable options.

“As a mariner, boats just hold a special place in your heart if you will. So is it tough? Yes. But nothing lasts forever,” Gentry said. “Sometimes it’s just time.”

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