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15 February 2007, 03:52 pm
Morning Light Crew Get Taste Of Night Racing
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Transpacific Yacht Race 2007

The fledgling Morning Light team needed to get a taste of what the Transpacific Yacht Race would be like this summer, and they got it with their first of two 138 nautical mile trips around the island of Molokai and back.
Starting at 18:08 HST at dusk off Diamond Head on Oahu on Tuesday and finishing at 10:45 on Wednesday, for the most part it was hard work in the dark with little time to rest, but the 15 young men and women might have had the times of their lives in the 16½ hours they spent sailing their Transpac 52.

Jeremy WILMOT (AUS), 21, a watch captain and the lone Australian member of the team, said, 'It was great, 20 knots downwind with gusts to 25, jibing down the Molokai [Channel], some really good sail changes - it was fun!'

Sailing manager Robbie HAINES (USA) said, 'Almost everybody steered at some time. Jeremy was at the helm when we first put the kite up, and he was terrific. All of these kids were spectacular.'

Taking Responsibility

HAINES, navigation coach Stan HONEY (USA) and instructor Dave TANK (USA) were on board, 'But we were all down below most of the time, on purpose,' HAINES said. 'We wanted the kids to do it all themselves. They'd ask questions, but they made all the calls about sail changes, when to jibe and when to tack, and they were right on in their decisions. I couldn't be happier.'

WILMOT comes from a long line of Australian offshore racers but had not had much experience sailing a high -performance boat in big breeze on a moonless night, especially through the notorious Molokai Channel between Molokai and Oahu that has crushed many Transpac hopes. 'We did four jibes in the Molokai,' WILMOT said, smiling. 'Steering at night, you find out if you have a feel for the boat. Everybody was awesome.'

Chris BRANNING (USA), 21, the navigator for this initial offshore outing, said, '[WILMOT] is a major asset to this team.'

HONEY, who charted ABN AMRO ONE's victorious course in the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race, mostly left the navigation up to BRANNING, a junior at the US Merchant Marine Academy. BRANNING, holed up at the nav station below decks, worked from GPS to guide Morning Star on a tacking route along Molokai's lee south shore before turning the east end of the island and heading back.

'I'd come up once in awhile to help on sail changes,'

BRANNING said. 'Working with those guys out on the bow was a lot of fun.'

Normal Conditions

Mark TOWILL (USA), 18, the Hawaiian member of the team, said, 'It was pretty normal conditions. People cycled through a lot of positions on the boat, and all the changes went well.'

The only break in the action came at 08:00 on Wednesday when the wind dropped to 5 knots near Koko Head at the southeastern approach to Oahu. The crew dropped the jib and motored for a while before enough wind returned to allow them to pass Diamond Head under spinnaker.

Otherwise, Charlie ENRIGHT (USA), 22, of Brown University, said, 'Nobody got more than two hours sleep.'

And the food?

'We had freeze-dried beef stroganoff . . . for breakfast,'

For Graham BRANT-ZAWADZKI (USA), 22, of Newport Beach, who has been sailing for only two years, it was the first time to sail at night.

The Morning Light

'The stars are incredible,'

he said, 'And then we were sitting on deck this morning [saying], 'Where's the sun?' '

Soon, there it was, the morning light.

This second of four monthly training sessions will wind up Tuesday at the end of another run around Molokai, with no instructors on board. Meanwhile, the team will do its first race as part of the host Waikiki Yacht Club's Opening Day ceremonies Saturday and its second with the Hawaii YC's Opening Day on Sunday.

The twin goals of the Morning Light project are to prepare and send a youthful team from diverse backgrounds in a major ocean race and to produce a documentary film of the entire experience. The film is being produced by Roy E. DISNEY and Leslie DEMEUSE of Pacific High Productions in association with Disney Studios and is scheduled for theatre release early next year.

Genny TULLOCH (USA), 22, of Houston, said. 'But it was neat, especially trimming the kite and surfing the waves. It's cool to know when you're in the groove.'
Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The sun sets behind Morning Light:© Morning Light Project
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