Hokule‘a in upcoming ‘Disney’ film
It's hard to imagine, but there is soon to be a direct connection between Hawaii's historic voyaging canoe Hokule'a and the 100-year-old Transpacific Yacht Race.
No, Hokule'a will not be an entry in next year's 2,225-mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, but it will soon be sailed by a crew from an entry in the upcoming Transpac.
This arrangement is an offshoot of a film venture that began earlier this year by race veteran Roy E. Disney's Pacific High Productions, dubbed the Morning Light Project.
Its objective is to create a feature film documenting the recruitment, training and performance of "the youngest crew ever to sail Transpac." As such, there will be no script or preconceived outcome.
A nationwide crew search provided the project with an initial list of 538 applicants, none of whom could be younger than 18 by race day. Their numbers were eventually pared down to 30 that included two from Oahu, 21-year-old Lindsey Austin of Honolulu and 17-year-old Mark Towill of Kaneohe.
The 30 aspirants then began a comprehensive tryout procedure aboard four identical Catalina 37s to determine who would become the final crew of 12, plus three alternates. The criteria would be mostly about team spirit and trainability.
The 15 finalists -- including Towill, a Punahou School senior -- hail from 11 states and one foreign country, Australia. And at race time they will average 21.2 years old, a Transpac record.
Now, with the crew list complete, the next step in the project will be the training of the crew aboard the boat they will be racing, a Transpac 52 appropriately named "Morning Light."
To enhance their training, Morning Light is being shipped to Hawaii late this month to allow the crew to undergo the tradewind conditions they will find during the race. Then they will also have the opportunity to crew aboard Hokule'a.
The Hokule'a connection came about when Towill introduced Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson to the Morning Light project leaders.
"He was taken with our project," Disney said, "since a lot of what he does is to take young people out and try to teach them the ancient ways of the sea and navigation. He saw a parallel with what we're doing and volunteered to take our young sailors on this amazing voyage."
When Disney asked for volunteers for this special passage, it's reported he immediately got 15 hands in the air.
Morning Light's youthful crew will sail Hokule'a from Maui to Oahu, via Molokai, over the Thanksgiving Day weekend and the voyage will be included in the project's documentary film.
"I love the almost mystical experience this is going to be," Disney said.
"It is our link to the past and is the roots of all ocean crossings, especially Transpac."