The countdown to the start of world championship racing in the International Melges 24 Class next spring has started at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club with a significant note: make it the Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship for 2007.
Fullpower Technologies, a new wireless nanotechnology biotech company based in Santa Cruz, is fully onboard as title sponsor for the competition scheduled May 3-12 and can even offer up its founder and CEO, Philippe Kahn, as a hometown favorite — or his son Samuel (a.k.a. Shark), 17, who won this crown on San Francisco Bay in 2003 when he was only 13. Nicola Celon of Italy also is expected to defend the title he won in a fleet of 119 boats at Hyeres, France last summer.
Santa Cruz YC Commodore Skip Ely said, ‘As a part of our charter, the Santa Cruz Yacht Club is dedicated to hosting world class sailing events. In the past few years the SCYC has hosted the 2004 Lightsurf 505 World Championships, the 2006 Melges 24 North American Championships and the 2006 Moore 24 National Championships, all to much acclaim.
‘The entire club is looking forward to the opportunity to host the 2007 Fullpower Melges 24 World Championship. We are very fortunate to have been able to partner with Fullpower, an innovative and local company, as the title sponsor of this world class event.
‘The SCYC mission for this regatta is to provide an on-the-water racing experience second to none. In May the Monterey Bay off Santa Cruz should provide an exceptional and challenging ocean racing experience for the large fleet we expect. We are proud of the pristine waters of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in which we race, and welcome the opportunity to show them off to the host of international world class yachtsmen and women who will participate.’
Even on his home waters, against the best in the world, Philippe Kahn has no illusions, despite his successes for himself and his Pegasus Racing team in several other classes, including two personal Barn Door victories in the Transpacific Yacht Race.
‘The Melges 24 class is the pinnacle of sailing for non-Olympic classes,’ Kahn said. ‘It’s an honor and privilege to drive a boat and race against the best in the world. The journey is the reward. I’d rather play with the best and learn.’
Kahn also is the inventor of the camera cell phone whose ramifications have surpassed imagination.
‘The Fullpower technology is not aimed at the sailing community,’ Kahn said. ‘When we invented the camera-phone in 1997 the focus was everyone, so now it’s fun when you see coaches using their camera-phones to take pictures and videos and share them instantly.’
There are few better inshore ocean racing venues than Monterey Bay south of San Francisco on the edge of the high tech heartland known as Silicon Valley.
‘Santa Cruz is a fantastic place for sailing,’ Kahn said. ‘It’s an ideal tourist destination for sailors and families. You’re out in the open ocean in three minutes and the wind is consistent and predictable with nice rolling waves. It’s easy to just go out for an hour or two and yet have a complete day at work and spend time with the family.’
His daughter Sophie, 9, also sails. ‘She sails her Opti four days a week out of the harbor, so we all go out on the water. Many times these days she’s in the Opti and I’m in the Finn.’
Kahn has competed with his son Shark in several classes, but more as competitors than father and son. Once, when they were running 1-2 in a race late in the Mumm 30 Worlds at Toronto in 2004, son fouled dad at the weather mark—and dad protested, opting not to play favorites with blood kin.
Especially with blood kin. It knocked Shark out of first place in the regatta. ‘Shark is a great sailor,’ Kahn said. ‘He doesn’t give an inch. He’s a teenager finishing high school, so he is very busy this year and sailing is less on his mind than getting into a good college. He makes me proud.’
For people who wonder how someone can find time to invent the camera-phone, raise a family, run a succession of high tech companies and manage to sail at all, Kahn says, ‘I sleep only four hours at night but take a 35-minute catnap every day. I learned that from single-handed sailing.’
The event starts with registration on May 3. Four pre-Worlds races will be run on May 5 and 6, and five days of championship racing, with two races a day, are scheduled May 8-12.
Full information, including Notice of Race, entry form and media info and registration, will be available at www.melges24worlds2007.com . Further information about the International Melges 24 Class is available from www.melges24.com.
Information on Melges 24 events in the U.S., including the weekend’s U.S. Nationals, is available at http://www.usmelges24.com/.
by Rich Roberts