'Morning Light': Speed Racers On The Ocean Blue

Morning Light at sunrise i i

After six months of intense training, a crew of collegiate sailors fling themselves across the Pacific in a 52-foot sloop christened the Morning Light. Abner Kingman/Disney Enterprises hide caption

itoggle caption Abner Kingman/Disney Enterprises
Morning Light at sunrise

After six months of intense training, a crew of collegiate sailors fling themselves across the Pacific in a 52-foot sloop christened the Morning Light.

Abner Kingman/Disney Enterprises

Morning Light

  • Director: Paul Crowder,                  Mark Monroe
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Rated PG: Mild language

Fifteen sailors — collegiate nonprofessionals all — compete in one of the world's most celebrated yacht races in the attractive if underwhelming Disney documentary Morning Light.

Through six months of what looks to be arduous but thoroughly enjoyable training in the Pacific, the crew prepares for the 2007 Transpac, a 2,225-mile race from California to Hawaii.

The back story: A decade earlier, Roy E. Disney's 73-foot maxi-ultralight, the Pyewacket, had won the race in a record seven days, 11 hours, 41 minutes.

So this time, the Disney corporate president sent cameras along to watch a 15-member team of 18-to-23-year-olds sail a newer boat, the even ultralighter 52-foot sloop Morning Light. They jointly whittle their number down to a crew of 11 (without noticeable acrimony), overcome fears (one of them can barely swim) and bond with one another in the manner of college students forced into close company in a dorm.

Whether that's enough to cause audiences to bond, too, is an open question. Bronzed and athletic, the crew doesn't qualify as Mousekesailors, exactly, but they're so squeaky-clean (there's no swearing like sailors on a Disney boat) that it's hard to even imagine the sort of flare-ups that lend reality TV its typical frisson.

The mild tribulations (the onboard food's not tasty) never lead anyone to mutiny, and the race itself, while hard-fought and wearing, takes place on the open seas. So for much of their weeklong voyage, our heroes' competitors are nowhere on the horizon.

Canvas billows, sunsets glow and there's eye-filling spectacle aplenty in the majesty of the swells. But the race gets off to an awkward start — the wind dies shortly after the teams lose sight of land, leaving everyone becalmed for the better part of a day — and co-directors Paul Crowder and Mark Monroe seem as relieved as the crew when the breeze picks up again. A day or two later, they manage to whip up some much-needed mid-voyage tension when a rival crew finally draws within camera range.

Mostly though, the film is more appealing for its scenery, which is as breathtakingly blue as you'd expect, than for its drama.

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