When he was chosen an alternate, Steve Manson lost the chance to sail from California to Hawaii in the Transpacific Yacht Race aboard the Morning Light, the subject of a Disney documentary.
But he didn't miss the boat.
Instead, the West Baltimore native who learned to sail just four years ago got to crew on the boss' boat - the famous 94-foot racing rocket Pyewacket - and was greeted by Roy Disney at the dock.
Blasting across the finish line Sunday at Honolulu's Diamond Head at 26 knots (30 mph), the boat covered 2,225 miles in 7 days, 1 hour, 11 minutes, 56 seconds, the fastest elapsed time of this year's race.
But Pyewacket failed by a little more than nine hours to reclaim the overall record from Morning Glory, which in 2005 eclipsed Pyewacket's old mark.
That footnote might have escaped Manson, 22, who worked alongside some America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans: Dean Barker, Stan Honey and Jerry Kirby.
"He's gotten an amazing sailing education unlike any he could have gotten anywhere," said Peter Hegel, deputy director of the Downtown Sailing Center, where Manson learned to sail and teach sailing as part of the Sailing Instructor Trainee (SIT) program.
Under the guidance of Kirby and Rick Brent, Manson improved his bowman technique, which involves a lot of hoisting and dropping sails and above-deck climbing, and labored side by side with the grinders, who supply power to the winches.
In an e-mail to race officials, Honey, the navigator aboard Pyewacket, praised Manson's work: "Steve is a natural athlete and he only needs to see somebody do something exactly right once or twice and then Steve can nail it. Steve also keeps his eyes open the way that many good sailors do and sees rigging problems early when working on the bow."
For the Walbrook graduate, the past year has been a whirlwind. Just months after his mother died, he was persuaded by his employers at the Downtown Sailing Center to apply as a crew member for Morning Light.
Disney financed the 52-foot sloop and training of its crew, all under the age of 23, to make an adventure movie on the high seas. Manson made the cut from 538 to 15 and trained for months until the final 11 crew members and four alternates were chosen.
Manson's struggles and triumphs will be part of the film, which is expected to premiere next spring, Disney said.
The yachtsman and filmmaker said he and other selection committee members were struck by Manson's "personality and inner fortitude. Despite his lack of experience, there was something about Steve that we all fell in love with."
And that, apparently, was enough for the nephew of Walt Disney to pull Manson from the Morning Light dock to the Pyewacket deck.
This fall, the young sailor will begin classes at State University of New York Maritime College in Throggs Neck, N.Y., where he hopes to study naval architecture.
Hegel says he doubts Manson's story will result in "thousands of inner city kids" signing up for sailing lessons, but that it might strike a chord with some youngsters.
"The message is that things you don't think can ever happen can happen," Hegel said.