Transpac film sails across the century

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (10/28/00)
By Ray Pendleton

The Trans-Pacific Yacht Race, or Transpac, as it is commonly known, won't begin for another eight months. But there is a good reason for broaching the subject right now.

Veteran Transpac sailors and film makers Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse have recently announced the release of their new two-hour documentary film, "Transpac - A Century Across the Pacific."

Now, for any of you sailing historians thinking, "Wait a minute, it hasn't been 100 years, the first Transpac was in 1906," remember that Hawaii's King David Kalakaua first proposed the race in 1886.

In September of that year Kalakaua sent an invitation to San Francisco's Pacific Yacht Club to conduct a yacht race from California to Honolulu to coincide with the celebration of his 50th birthday on November 16.

But for reasons now clouded in history, the club's members declined the invitation.

So, although it was left up to Honolulu businessman and promoter Clarence W. Macfarlane to create the first Transpac 20 years later, there's no question that the race concept truly covered the 20th century from beginning to end.

Transpac is, in fact, the oldest, ongoing long-distance yacht race in the world. And with a race course that spans 2,200 miles of open ocean - and most of that "down-hill" with the tradewinds - it is one of the premiere events for blue-water sailors.

Both Disney and DeMeuse are exceptionally qualified to produce this film that covers Transpac from its inception, through world wars and economic depressions, to last year's record-breaking finish by Disney's own 72-foot sloop Pyewacket.

Disney - nephew of the late Walt Disney - is vice chairman of the board at the Walt Disney Company and recently was executive producer of "Fantasia 2000," the highest grossing film in the history of IMAX theaters.

DeMeuse sailed her first Transpac aboard her father's maxi-yacht Blackfin in 1973. Ten years later, with partner Phil Uhl, she created Channel Sea Television and began specializing in television coverage of yachting.

Along with producing shows on yacht racing for ESPN, DeMeuse has been awarded a television Emmy for her production of "White on Water," a video film focusing on sailing as a sport for everyone.

In producing "Transpac - A Century Across the Pacific," over 400 hours of footage and numerous photos were used from maritime museum archives, personal collections and Channel Sea Television film.

More than 150 Transpac competitors were interviewed to capture the "real" and personal stories, and to reveal the true drama of this spectacular race, whether in defeat, in victory, or in just the thrill of participation. For example, there's one sailor's tale of falling overboard during the 1951 race and finally being rescued 30 hours later.

As something of an early Christmas gift to Hawaii's sailors, Disney and DeMeuse will be presenting a 40-minute video highlight of their film on November 15 at the Hawaii Yacht Club, and on November 17 at the Kaneohe Yacht Club.

Both showings are free will begin at 6 p.m. The evening will feature an informal talk by Disney about Transpac, as well as a question and answer period.

There will also be a limited number of full-length (2 1/4-hour) videos available for purchase and free 2001 Transpac posters, signed by Disney.

Both showings will be open to the public Since space is sure to be limited, it is advised to come early for good seating.

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