Roy Disney, standing at center, is producing a documentary about the Morning Light team and the Transpacific Yacht Race taking place this summer. CLICK FOR LARGE
Cameras follow teens training for Transpac
Kate Theisen grew up on a boat, and was home-schooled on the ocean and in ports up and down the East Coast. But the 20-year-old astrophysics student at New Mexico Tech never realized how little she knew about sailing until she arrived in Honolulu to prepare for the 2,225 nautical mile Transpacific Yacht Race, which will take place this summer.
"There is so much to learn, so much to do," she said. "I feel like a complete baby."
Theisen and her 14 teammates gathered at the Hawaii Prince Hotel yesterday with their coaches and Roy Disney to announce the launch of their official training to become the youngest team to compete in the century-old event. The saga will result in a feature-length documentary film, which began shooting 10 days ago.
Produced by Roy Disney's Pacific High Productions in association with Disney Studios, the documentary is tentatively scheduled for theatrical release in spring 2008. Other producers and the film's director also were on hand to talk about the multi-faceted endeavor.
"This is not another one of those reality shows," said Disney, a two-time winner of the Transpac event, which travels from Los Angeles to Hawaii. "It's not one of those shows where people get kicked off half way through it."
Director Mark Monroe added, "This is a documentary about a group of young people who are going to come into their own over the next six months."
Race readiness started last week with an extensive safety at sea seminar, with help from the Coast Guard. And there will be plenty of time spent in the gym.
Personal trainer and Ironman Triathlon finisher Janell Petalver is working with the crew, ages 17 to 22, at 24-Hour Fitness. She has them building endurance for the grueling eight- or nine-day journey, and lifting weights to help them manage the heavy maneuvering on the 52-foot racing boat. They also will focus on core strength and balance, as well as exercises "designed to bring them closer together as a team," she said.
Having the power and knowledge to manage the sleek craft as it rolls down swells between 10 and 30 feet in the middle of the night will be a matter of survival.
"It's a whole different story," said Piet van Os, a 22-year-old California Maritime Academy student who has raced sailboats his whole life. "The loads on these types of boats are so extreme compared to what we're used to. You definitely have to be stronger."
Right now, however, "they're just building their foundation," said Petalver, who is prepping the young athletes to run the approximately three miles from the home they share in the Diamond Head area to the 24-Hour fitness location on Kapiolani Boulevard to warm up before their sessions. "They're motivated to complete the race, and they're hard working."
BECAUSE CREW MEMBERS live and train in Hawaii for two weeks each month, then return to their homes in various parts of the country for the other two weeks, they'll be responsible for maintaining their fitness.
"They'll have homework to do," confirmed Petalver.
One glance at the eager young group indicated that a bit of homework wouldn't be a problem.
"It's not just that they're the youngest sailors, it's that they're extraordinary people," said Leslie Demeuse, a producer on the film.
Indeed, in the four weeks following the announcement of the project, Disney and his staff received 538 applications for these roles. With the help of Olympic sailing gold medalist Robbie Haines and the film's producers, they looked for experience, enthusiasm and people who would work well together. They managed to whittle the group to 30 individuals who were invited to Long Beach for one week.
"All of them were so amazing," said Theisen. "Everyone should have made it."
With difficulty, the selection committee chose the top 15. From there, 11 or 12 will actually race. The others will be alternates.
Mark Towill, a 17-year-old Punahou student who made the cut admitted the selection process was "pretty nerve-wracking," but added that the entire experience is "an awesome learning opportunity."
"This is really a special race because the finish line is in Hawaii. It just sounds like a really magical experience to sail home."