Friday, October 17, 2008

Let There Be Light

It's release day for Morning Light, time to gather up friends and neighbors and kids—and nonsailors—and take Roy Disney's Transpac movie for a test tide.

I saw the premiere last week, at the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard, where Roy and Leslie Disney introduced the film with a waving Mickey Mouse ("the family crest") beside them onstage. People see the start of an ocean race, Roy said, and they see the finish: "We wanted to fill in the gap in between."

Try it. You'll like it. So will your friends who don't sail. It's a well-told tale of young people on a great adventure, racing from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and it is filmed as no sailing movie was filmed before. Will the movie draw a crossover audience? Those who see it will like it, and sailors will be coming back to Morning Light for years to come.

A confident prediction, and it's mine. Even curmudgeonly officers of Transpac Anonymous were caught up.

And what do I mean when I say that it was filmed as no sailing movie was filmed before? Heed this outtake from the October issue of SAIL Magazine:

Naturally the young crew of a 52-foot boat needed training to sail a Transpacific Race as the stars of a Disney movie. Less obvious is the prep needed for the film crew. Midway through listing the methods tested ("fixed cameras, high-wide views, infrared") producer Morgan Sackett interrupts himself to say, "Without 10 weeks of training and 10 months to plan, we'd never have been ready."

Plan A envisioned "a bulletproof system" of remote cameras on the raceboat, but a few [cough] thousand dollars into watersoaked electronics, Sackett saw, "It wasn't going to work. We had to put a cameraman on board."

Good call. Enter the uniquely-qualified Rick Deppe, a Transpac and Volvo veteran who also has filmed for The Deadliest Catch. It's a digital world. Sackett says, "We could never have shot with film cameras." Even so, Morning Light sailed hundreds of pounds heavy, including extra battery power and supporting fuel.

The key to the movie, however, was a cameraboat pacing for 2,500 miles. Forced to replace that chase boat two weeks before race time, executive producer Roy Disney hired Steve Fossett's round-the-world maxi catamaran. Cheyenne's mast was already removed in anticipation of new uses, and a tripod was mounted, but suddenly Cheyenne's crew was racing to go to sea in 2 weeks, not 6.

And there's Mark Monroe, the director, chosen in part because he is not a sailor: "They didn't want an insider point of view." In his race to the race, however, Monroe "was so caught up in devising how to film that I never gave a thought to crossing an ocean for the first time in my life. The day we left, I threw a couple of t-shirts in a bag and the next thing I knew I was getting a safety briefing. I can tell you, it was an adventure, but no pleasure cruise.

"Two days out I realized we could have brought along a supermarket. Instead, we had ourselves a former race boat stocked with oatmeal and freeze-drieds. One of our guys freaked and raided the galley, and he was coming up with all these numbered packets and that's when we realized the packets were numbered for days at sea. Leftovers from the boat's circumnavigation record in 2004."

Welcome to the life, Mark. The director's highlight? "No question," he says: "When Samba Pa Ti popped up, and we filmed a match race in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It galvanized the film crew; it galvanized the sailors."

The European multihull scene has changed. The 60-foot tris that served as sex symbols for so many years are has-beens, and 2010 Route du Rhum organizer Pierre Bojic (his organization, Pen Duick, also handles Transat Jacques Vabre, and Transat AG2R) says it's time to move to bigger boats.

"Over the last two years, nothing has happened within ORMA", Bojic says. "There are no new projects, no architects doing research, and no sailors trying to raise funds."

So bring on the maxis. Orange, Kingfisher, etcetera, and expect a circumnavigation race in 2011.

Volvo: Good, but no longer boxy
I hope you're following leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race, Alicante to Cape Town. The competition is keen, and I'm fully invested as editor to Matt Gregory, who is blogging from the nav station of Delta Lloyd.

Delta Lloyd is an older-generation 70 (modified; the winner of the last race). It came into this race at the last minute, and it was running last getting out of the Med so I suppose it's only natural that the Volvo promotions people sort-of ignored it for a while. That changed when Delta Lloyd started making smart moves and passing boats, working down the Saharan coast of Africa. Now the fleet is setting up for transiting the doldrums, which is the subject of the newest of Matt's missives to land in my email. About 12 hours after the last one. The man's a worker.

Volvo Race rules seal the crews off from the internet, so I have to post for Matt. What he hasn't mentioned yet at Volvo Hotseat is that Saturday the 18th is his 32nd birthday. Sister Caroline writes:

The big question for Matthew Gregory on October 18th is: What flavor birthday cake will you have on board? Can they make that in freeze dried form? If not, will anything else take the place of your favorite Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream cake??

Inquiring minds want to know....and wish you a very

Caroline, Mom and Dad