September 26, 2022


The home veterans

For Tech Pioneer, Sailing Is Simplified

8 min read


Entrepreneur Philippe Kahn (­second from remaining) constructed the Pegasus sailing crew into a powerhouse that won the 2007 Melges 24 Worlds in Santa Cruz.
Paul Todd/ Outside Photos

Philippe Kahn started off late, but in a number of shorter several years of likely tricky he won extra races than most folks take care of in a life span. Then he declared, “I have to study how to sail prior to I die.”

If someone told you the male now sails only tiny boats—after 15 large-boat races from California to Hawaii, a few of them doublehanded, two with doublehanded records—you could possibly question if a spark had burned out. The way Kahn sees it, no. A light flashed on.

But in advance of we get to that, let’s make guaranteed we know who we’re conversing about. The short course on Kahn is that he invented the digicam phone—and it wasn’t his only rating in tech—and it is been a journey, and now he does his sailing out of the very small harbor at Santa Cruz, an hour’s push south of San Francisco. Reliable and thoroughly in shape, but heavy-set, and lately with a COVID beard, these days he’s focused on biosensing. “I really do not need to have to get the job done any longer,” he states, “but I appreciate what I do. I simply cannot assistance it.” And even the biosensing has ties to sailing. So, how did Philippe Kahn become 

Philippe Kahn?

It began with getting French, and that really should tell us a ton. His single mother was an Auschwitz survivor, a live performance violinist and, at one time, an officer in the French Resistance. There is nothing at all one particular-dimensional in that, and Kahn’s education provided a master’s in arithmetic and a master’s in musicology and flute performance. By that time, he was previously dreaming of crossing oceans below blue skies. “Growing up,” he says, “I experienced no notion what a sailboat was, but like all the French, I was in awe of Tabarly and the other sailing legends. Every person in France follows their stories. So, when my very first company went general public, I went out and talked to a welcoming salesman and wound up making a Baltic 43. That was 1986, a extended time back. He taught me how to get it off the dock, and each and every weekend I would achieve throughout Monterey Bay and back. I did not know what I was carrying out, but I often manufactured it. My helpful salesman was Chris Boome, 1 of those men who grew up but never grew out of racing Lasers, and Chris ­convinced me to do a Mexico race on the boat and to bring along a 14-calendar year-previous child. Which is how I achieved Morgan Larson. Morgan is now 50, which is a scary point, but it matters how in this match you satisfy these characters, and they are all linked, and then it is ‘we’ who are all linked.”

Kahn is at any time-ready to explain to ­anyone who will listen about the splendor of the sailing lifetime and the relationships it builds, and it is not hard to get him heading on Santa Cruz both. He states: “All the very best persons like to arrive to Santa Cruz. Mark Reynolds, Olympic gold medalist in the Star. Mike Martin, 5-time 505 earth winner, and I want to say suitable right here that I enjoy the 505. I do not know how lots of Worlds I have accomplished in that course, and I can by no means be aggressive since I’m not 180 lbs . and 6-foot-3. I’m 250 lbs at 6 ft. But I really like the boat. I like racing a 505 because it provides me a purpose to go sailing.”

And that brings us back again to what makes Philippe Kahn tick.

Of his 15 Pacific crossings, he states: “I was most interested in the doublehanded races, and the last one I did with Crusty Christensen, the place we crushed the report, that was exciting—much extra thrilling than ’01 or ’03 when we conquer Pyewacket two times with comprehensive crew [in the Reichel-Pugh Pegasus 77]. All excellent, but how many instances would I want to do that? Doublehanding added journey alternatively than logistics. I do loads of logistics management at my corporation, Fullpower-AI. In sailing, I’m not interested anymore in assembling a crew, scheduling airplane tickets, booking lodge rooms, placing shipping and delivery dates, juggling improvements, running personalities. Which is a lot of logistics for really very little sailing. Here in Santa Cruz, we’ve crafted a property up coming to the yacht club, throughout from the dinghy ramp. With two dinghies sitting down in my garden, I can roll out possibly boat and be on the water in 5 minutes. The magnificence of Santa Cruz is that nearshore you get 8 knots of breeze, and out at Mile Buoy you get 25 knots and rollers. Additional days than not, you can decide your disorders. It was immediately after we created this house that I started to talk to myself, why would I want to journey, probably change planes twice and go through a checklist of logistics, to sail possibly 7 races when I can keep below and sail each and every working day with no hassles? I inform men and women, if you adore sailing, you’ll really like Santa Cruz.

“I can sail for an hour or two on an attention-grabbing boat and enhance my expertise and go head-to-head in opposition to the young children. It can happen on a foiling catamaran, a Laser, a Moore 24, just about just about anything. I’m too major for some of the boats, but that doesn’t make any difference due to the fact I appreciate undertaking it.” And it is not as although Kahn’s ambitious Pegasus Racing application is mothballed. He stories: “We have a warehouse where by we make our very own sails and our personal carbon areas, but now we leverage Pegasus Racing by sailing every day as opposed to chasing an arms race all over the entire world. We also have a slip and a few of ­keelboats, and when there’s a massive function in Moore 24s, it appeals to the likes of Steve Bourdow and Morgan. The Moore racing is a ton of entertaining and much more aggressive in several methods than the major-boat things.”

Philippe Kahn’s sailing escapism these days generally includes solo head-cleaning classes in his Finn or foiling catamaran.
Courtesy Philippe Kahn

The Moore 24, generated from 1974 to 1982, rests on the altar of a regional cult of downwind flyers, and Larson has been a thread in Kahn’s sailing existence given that his race to Mexico as a 14-calendar year-previous. Larson crewed often for Kahn in the huge-boat days, Pacific crossings bundled. In the spring of 2021 in Santa Cruz, Larson finished second in the Moore 24 Nationals to Kahn, whose thoughts came in a rush as he spoke to your reporter. Photo the man inquiring himself: “Would I do a further doublehanded Transpac, but with a foiling boat? Perhaps we’re taking into consideration that. Because that would be serious. That would be new. But there’s another detail I want to talk about. When my son, Samuel, was escalating up, I seemed for a little something we could do with each other, and I mentioned, ‘Let’s do a two-boat software in Melges 24s rather than an moi-stroking big boat, and let’s practice with each other and get a father-son issue going.’ The very first calendar year [that] Shark came to Crucial West, he was, I believe, 11 or 12, and I asked Kevin Burnham, ‘Can he generate?’ Kevin said, ‘Let him drive.’ And he did amazingly well.”

For the Melges marketing campaign, Kahn introduced in specialist crew for both equally boats (to go against other professional crews), so group setting up was not an difficulty. Kahn remembers: “When we went on the Melges circuit, in education, I always beat Shark. In racing, he usually beat me. He gained the 2003 Worlds at 15, and he drove each little bit of it. When he went off to school, I recognized I didn’t want to do the Melges circuit on my individual. We had lived via a superb time jointly, but you can not carry that back again. Shark took a master’s degree in knowledge science, and now he lives in Mammoth Lakes due to the fact he’s all about mountain climbing. When he arrives down in this article, he’s primarily interested in kiting or windsurf foiling. That instructed me it was time to question, what do I definitely want to do for myself? And that is what we’ve been conversing about.”

Santa Cruz is a surfing town. A laid-back angle is built in, and Kahn surfs, but he life his have large-vitality ­version of laid again. Only a narrow extend of coastal mountains separates Santa Cruz from the hustling speed of Silicon Valley, and only winding, nerve-complicated Freeway 17 carries website traffic by the gap amongst the Sierra Morena and Sierra Azul to Freewayville, a location that Kahn no more time wants to check out frequently. His doublehanded racing lover, Christensen, is also a business associate but no for a longer time lives in Santa Cruz. As COVID-19 came on, biosensing get the job done was shut down in the US, but not in New Zealand. Christensen moved his spouse and children in December 2020 to set up operations there and continue to keep the organization shifting at complete electric power.

It is now been a 10 years due to the fact these two ended up studying the calls for of doublehanding major boats across an ocean and looking to improve energy naps. They established prototype slumber trackers utilizing biosensors and triple-axis accelerometers to detect micromovements that would present clues, and you cannot argue with the race outcomes. Their 2009 Transpac lopped two times off the doublehanded report.

In the long run, Kahn is all about the enthusiasms that he rides like 50 percent-damaged broncos—for sailing, for technologies. And then there is really like of loved ones. Daughter Sophie is all grown up currently and dwelling in New York, a good sailor but focused somewhere else. In 1997, her approaching start established Kahn on hearth to complete a challenge more than a yr in the creating. He experienced currently built a photo-messaging infrastructure in his dwelling, and with spouse Sonia in labor, he jury-rigged a are living connection among a digital digicam and a mobile phone—still experimenting, head you—and succeeded in sending out shots of his newborn. With that, a worldwide photograph-sharing lifestyle was also born. In 2016, Time incorporated Sophie’s start photograph in its checklist of the 100 most influential photographs of all time. And talking of time, let us conclude this on Kahn’s broadly quoted observation about inventing the digicam cellular phone, relevant to so a lot of lifetime: “Without the past moment, ­nothing would at any time get finished.”

In case you’re questioning when you are going to be completely ready for that future massive race.


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