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Philippe Kahn Featured in WIRED!


  • Philippe Kahn Featured in WIRED!

    It was an hour before the start of the race, and Philippe Kahn was in a state of panic. He was sailing straight for the starting line off Point Fermin, just south of Los Angeles, and the hydraulic system on Pegasus, his 50-foot open-format yacht, had just failed.

    Kahn was about to embark on the 2009 Transpac, the infamous, century-old sailing race that takes the bold and well-fixed from the Californian coast to the shores of Honolulu. It’s a voyage through more than 2,500 miles of unsettled seas and gusting winds. And without hydraulics to control the boat’s stabilizing canting keel, Kahn didn’t have a chance in hell of keeping her upright.

    Fifty minutes later, one of the boat’s two hydraulic rams was back up. It would have to do. And with just a few more hiccups along the way, the light-handed Pegasus was triumphant. Kahn and his lone crewmate, Mark “Crusty” Christensen, shattered the transpacific double-handed record with a time of 7 days, 19 hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds.

    The previous record-setters had taken more than 10 days to make the trip in 2001. So how did Kahn do it, with a partially crippled boat, no less? By being singularly obsessed with optimization — finding the right crew and the right technology to survive and prosper on the high seas.

    By day, 61-year-old Kahn is the CEO of Fullpower Technologies, which builds the motion-sensing technology inside personal trackers like Jawbone Up and Nike FuelBand. Sailing permeates life at the company, where about a fifth of the staff — including an Olympic competitor — has a background in the sport.

    “The ocean lifestyle is my meditation, where I find myself,” says Kahn.

    He tries to get on the water for a couple of hours each day, immersing himself in a marine sanctuary he shares with sea otters and whales. Kahn recruited Christensen, an engineer and decorated offshore sailor, after the 2009 Transpac, and they regularly take a break from the office in the middle of the day to catch the wind at its freshest.

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    above photo © Talia Herman/Wired
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