KINGSTON, R.I. – March 27, 2007 – University of Rhode Island students Robbie Kane and Jesse Fielding are among 15 students selected from 500 applicants nationwide by yacht racer Roy Disney to comprise one of the youngest teams to ever enter the TransPac Yacht Race.
The nephew of legendary animator Walt Disney and a longtime executive for the Walt Disney Co., Roy Disney is also producing a feature-length documentary film of the student selection process, training and race to be released nationwide in 2008.
The 8- to 10-day race aboard a 52-foot yacht begins in Los Angeles and ends in Honolulu.
“I’m excited about this race,” said Fielding, a 20-year-old URI sophomore from North Kingstown. “This is one of the oldest running long distance ocean races in the world, and we’re going to compete against some of the best sailors in the world on the Porsche of race boats. Our boat speed can exceed speeds of 25 knots while sailing with the trade winds and planing down the Pacific Ocean swells.”
Fielding and Kane were selected for the team after submitting a series of essays and background information and then participating in a 14-day tryout in Long Beach, Calif., last August.
“The hardest part of the tryout was sailing with a bunch of people you’ve never sailed with before, and having people continuously watching over you,” said Kane, 21, a junior landscape architecture major at URI from Fairfield, Conn. “Having cameras and microphones around the whole time was also really hard. All my friends are going to be watching this, and they’ll be critiquing me and see every single error that I make.”
Kane fell in love with sailing at age 11, initially racing small sailboats called Optimists before graduating to larger and larger boats. He has traveled the world and competed on the professional racing circuit for two years.
Fielding had never sailed before moving from California to Rhode Island while in middle school. After winning a scholarship to a sailing program at a local yacht club, he entered his first sailing race, and was immediately hooked. A golfing prodigy who came in fifth place in the high school state championship as a freshman, he dropped competitive golf as a junior to concentrate on sailing.
The URI students have taken the semester off to train for the TransPac race. Every month from January through June they spend two weeks in Hawaii or California training. Returning home after the first training session, Fielding said, “We’ve got every piece of equipment you could possibly need to train for this race, and we’ve got four steady coaches and other guest coaches to come to help. We get up and go work out with personal trainers, get to the boat, prep the boat, and go sailing. A great feature of this whole program is that the cameras are unobtrusive throughout.”
Between training sessions, Fielding and Kane compete in other regattas around the world, including races in Mexico, Australia and Florida.
The students aren’t sure yet what role each will have on the racing team, but as Fielding said, “A sailing team can be very role specific. You have your equivalent of a quarterback and point guard and all the skill sets.”
“We each specialize, so we’ll all have our own positions,” said Kane. “Foredeck is the most fun and the most crazy extreme position on the boat, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, so I hope to be on the foredeck. You get to wear a harness and do all the sail changes. On the bow you feel like you’re surfing, and during sail changes you go out to the end of the spinnaker pole.”
When the race is over, both students plan to return to URI to complete their education. “All this sailing is really cool and an unbelievable opportunity, but it’s a short term guarantee. I can’t put all my eggs in one basket,” said Kane, who hopes to eventually become a college professor.
Fielding is considering political science among other career paths. “I might even go into engineering when I get back,” he said, “because there’s so much technical knowledge we’re learning during the training. Sailing is a developing science and I want to be a part of that development.”
Regardless of their chosen careers, both intend to continue sailing. “This movie is going to open a lot of doors for us,” Kane said. “It has already hooked us up with a lot of fast boats, so after the movie is over I hope to sail professionally for a while.”
A third Rhode Island student, Charlie Enright, a senior at Brown University, is also on the Disney team. Additional details about the race and the Morning Light production can be found at www.pacifichighproductions.com.