Roy Disney once took part in the TransPac race, which takes you 2275 nautical miles on a yacht, from California to Hawaii, over the course of some ten days (or more). It results in "one of the most coveted trophies in the world of competitive sailing," which sounded about as exciting to me as saying that broccoli was "one of the most beloved of all green vegetables." Apparently it changed Disney's life, to the point that he wanted to share his life-changing experience with everyone else, via this documentary. But rather than race again himself, he spends his considerable money and influence to put together a kind of reality show in which eleven amateur twenty-somethings race against seasoned veterans. "It's really about the journey," says Disney at one point early in the film, which is his insurance against the movie's ending. If they win, he's got a great, exuberant, happy ending. If they lose he can just say, "It's really about the journey" again.
The first half of Morning Light consists of the reality-show setup. The racers get several months to train, and we get a tense countdown on the screen, along with a truly awful music score by a group called "Matter." They practice and fail. One girl goes snowboarding and breaks her arm, which provides at least ten minutes of drama. The racers contribute some of those from-the-heart testimonials, in which they talk about how meaningful all this is (they use phrases like "everything hinges on..." and "...decides our fate"). We also have to wait while the racers watch surprise videos sent by their family members, wishing them good luck and whatnot. But worst of all is the scene in which the fifteen chosen contestants must choose which eleven of them actually get to go on the boat. (The other four are alternates.) It's not unlike those annoying, "suspenseful" pauses before some "American Idol" or "Next Top Model" contestant gets kicked off the show. Out of the fifteen, there are only two girls and one black guy, and only one of these gets to go on the boat with 10 white guys.