Morning Light follows 15 young sailors as they endure six months worth of training in order to qualify for a shot at being one of the 11 crew members selected to race a 52-foot high-performance sloop in the Transpac. The 2,500 mile race is considered to be the most revered of all open-ocean sailing competitions, and fielding a team of young adults to compete was the brainchild of Morning Light executive producers Roy E Disney and Leslie DeMeuse. But both Disney and DeMeuse, long-time avid racing enthusiasts, are quick to point out Morning Light is much more than a film about a sailing competition. It's really all about character development and teamwork, and showcasing what a group of hard-working 18-22 year olds can do when they fully commit themselves to a project.
Roy E Disney, Leslie DeMeuse and Crew Member Piet van Os Interview:
I knew nothing about this race whatsoever until I saw this movie and now I can't believe it's been going on for all these years and I'd never heard of it. Why is that people who aren't into boating probably haven't heard of this race?
Leslie DeMeuse: "There's something about boating in the US. People just are not as boat-savvy and sailing-savvy as other countries around the world."
Why do you think that is?
Leslie DeMeuse: "I don't know. I really don't know. I think there's a misconception that it's the rich man's sport and it’s a sport that's boring, that it's like watching grass grow but, you know, it's totally the opposite. It is the most athletic, most challenging sport that you can ever do. It takes all of your senses, your mental capabilities, mental endurance, physical endurance, and stamina. It's like a chessboard game, you know? It takes a lot of strategy and thinking, and there's just this misconception that it's a beer drinking, partying type of sport and it's not really a sport. So we're trying to change that. The purpose of doing this film was to really bring the general public in to this sport and really see what it really is like."
It looks like you went through incredible training to do this. Was that the toughest part, just preparing for it rather than being on the boat itself?
Piet van Os: "It was tough, but it was all so much fun. I mean that's what we were all there for. We wanted to do the race. I don't look at that as tough at all. We were so excited to learn all those things and be prepared for it. That was great."
Why did you decide to give the young guys a chance?
Roy Disney: "Well, because we both got shots when we were young, and Leslie was 16 when she went across the ocean the first time. I was a little older, but I had my 17 year old son with me and another 17 year old on the boat that first time, and I kind of watched a lot of it through my terror, through my, 'Oh nos!' and through theirs. And things happen to you on a trip like that that you can't explain to people when you get in. You sort of leave it out there and you want to communicate it and you want the other people who can't do it or won't do it or never will for whatever reason, you want them to know what this is about and why we do what we do. There's so much you can learn out there, in so many ways, about yourself and your teammates in the bigger world that you sail across. I mean it's a big, big ocean."
I personally could never do this because I think I would just freak out in the middle of the ocean when there is nothing to see around you. How do you get over that fear?
Piet van Os: "Well, you know, it's really funny because nothing changes out there. You go just far enough offshore that the land disappears and it's always like that from that point on. It's not like, 'Oh now it's a thousand miles to the beach.' You can only see about five/six miles from the deck of a boat. So there's this little circle of five miles of water which you're inside of and that's all you actually see."
Roy Disney: "So it kind of leaves you with that notion of being so far away."
Leslie DeMeuse: "It really is a great exercise in learning how to get over your fears and fear is the thing that gets in the way of most of us of living life to the fullest. And if you're prepared enough, there shouldn't be really any fear at all."
Piet van Os: "Kind of the way I personally I got over the fear, and have gotten over the fear, is trusting the people you're with. Because if you trust everybody in that 50 feet of boat that you're sailing, then you know if things do go wrong you'll make the best out of whatever happens. You can't control beyond that."
Is it more difficult the first couple of days out or when you actually know that you're close to getting into port?
Piet van Os: "It's the last because at first you're really excited. You're pumped. And then the middle is you're really tired and you're trying to keep yourself going. You can see a couple of miles and you know you're racing towards Hawaii, or in some cases because of the wind you're sailing not right towards it, and you want to get going towards the wire. You want to be there. But then you get down to the end and it's really exciting. You're almost there and you start pushing yourself even harder."
Leslie DeMeuse: "That's when the mistakes happen, really, when you're too tired."
Piet Van Os: "You push yourself too hard."
Is it just the love of the sport that makes you push yourself that hard?
Piet van Os: "Yes. It's like Leslie said, it's a full body sport. You use your whole body, you use your mind, it's very tactical and people think you just sail straight, in straight lines towards where you're going. If it was only that easy, everybody could be winning races."
Roy Disney: "And we were using just the forces of nature, you know? There's no cheating by running a motor or something. You get the sea and the wind."