USA. Morning Light sailors meets the boat and learns the ropes

Thursday, 04 January 2007

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The Morning Light sailors who plan to be the youngest crew ever to sail the Transpacific Yacht Race in July will be introduced this week to a key element of their quest: the boat.

In the first of four monthly training sessions in Hawaii, the 13 young men and two young women will spend the next 10 days getting familiar with the Transpac 52 they'll race 2,225 nautical miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu to culminate Roy Disney's documentary film production.

The team has received the full aloha treatment in the 50th state. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said, “We welcome the Morning Light sailors back for training and we wish them all good luck and god speed in this summer’s biennial Transpac race. Honolulu welcomes Transpac every two years, but the presence of the all-star team of young sailors who make up the Morning Light crew---including Mark Towill of Kaneohe---makes this one special."

One of the team's first outings will be to see the Polynesian sailing canoe Hokule'a off on its momentous 7,000-mile cruise to Micronesia early Thursday morning. Master navigator Nainoa Thompson schooled the team in the ancient techniques of navigation during two days of sailing in November. Photos of that Thanksgiving weekend experience are available for download at www.pâpahui.com

“I was impressed by their eagerness to learn about Polynesian sailing traditions and the many similarities with what they’re doing today," Hannemann said. "We’re glad that this project is being documented in a film that’s an integral part of the project. Thanks to Roy Disney and the production crew, this will help inform the rest of the world about not only Hawaii, but also Polynesia, past and present.” 

At race time, the average age of the 15 sailors will be 21.2 years, a full year under the record.

But they'll be doing it alone with no ocean racing veterans on board, and Disney---who simultaneously will be sailing the maxZ86 Pyewacket in his 16th Transpac---is going to make sure they are ready.

"Part of what we want to accomplish in this first session is the safety-at-sea business of handling life rafts, man-overboard drills, CPR and emergency medical procedure," Disney said. "They're going to be internationally certified safety-at-sea experts by the time they get through."

Only four days of sailing are scheduled this time, starting Saturday. Otherwise, they'll be occupied learning the less glamorous but critical procedures from a team led by Chuck Hawley of West Marine, who has been conducting pre-race seminars for Transpac and other ocean races for years.

Also, Stan Honey, who charted ABN AMRO's victorious course in the recent Volvo Ocean Race, will be drilling them on navigation, and Fuzz Foster of North Sails will teach them how to patch up torn sails at sea. 

Determination of crew positions will come later.

Disney said, "That's going to be an ongoing process. A few of the kids kind of know where they're going to be [on the boat], and there's a bunch who don’t who are pretty good at many things. A lot of it is going to be determined by them as much as by us." 

Versatility was a consideration in the selection process at Long Beach last August when the 30 candidates culled from 538 applicants were reduced to the 15 now in Hawaii.

"Absolutely," Disney said. "You want everybody to be able to do be able to do everything, if possible. We've always worked like that on my boats. But there's always going to be a bow guy and a sewer guy. You hope everybody can steer and everybody can trim and you hope half of them can navigate."

As Disney spoke on the phone from the Morning Light office atop the Hawaii Prince, he interrupted himself to make a sudden observation: "We have an incredible double rainbow outside the window right now . . . just beautiful. It comes right down to here. I hope it's a good omen."

The Morning Light team (Ages at time of race)

CHRIS BRANNING, 21, Sarasota, Fla., junior, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 
GRAHAM BRANT-ZAWADZKI, 22, Newport Beach, Calif., senior, Stanford Univ. 
CHRIS CLARK, 21, Old Greenwich, Conn., sailmaker. 
CHARLIE ENRIGHT, 22, Providence, R.I., racing coach, senior, Brown Univ.
JESSE FIELDING, 20, North Kingstown, R.I., boat worker, sailing teacher, student Univ. of Rhode Island. 
ROBBIE KANE, 22, Fairfield, Conn., racing sailboat captain.
STEVE MANSON, 22, Baltimore, Md., sailing instructor. 
CHRIS SCHUBERT, 22, Rye, N.Y., Midshipman First Class, U.S. Naval Academy. 
KATE THEISEN, 20, Socorro, N.M., planetary scientist student, New Mexico Tech. 
MARK TOWILL, 18, Kaneohe, Hawaii, senior, Punahou High School. 
GENNY TULLOCH, 22, Houston, Texas, sailor. 
PIET VAN OS, 23, La Jolla, Calif., senior, California Maritime Academy. 
CHRIS WELCH, 19, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., boat prep and deliveries, soph.,  Michigan State Univ.  
KIT WILL, 22, Milton, Mass., senior, Connecticut College. 
JEREMY WILMOT, 21, Sydney, Australia, sophomore, St. Mary's College of Maryland. 
More information: www.pacifichighproductions.com and www.transpacificyc.org 

Rich Roberts

Image. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 January 2007 )