‘Eat My Wake’

-Forbes Life

The preferred sport of father-son team Philippe and Samuel Kahn isn’t sailing. It’s beating each other’s brains out.

It was the moment every parent dreads. Philippe Kahn watched, crestfallen, as his son committed a transgression so grave, so obvious, that he had no choice but to administer drastic punishment.

So Kahn flew a red protest flag from the stern of his racing yacht and forced his son Samuel (Shark) Kahn to forfeit a first-place position in the Mumm 30 World Championship in Toronto last September. Shark, all of 15, was helming his own $100,000 yacht with a crew of five. He had tried to sneak in front of his dad but fouled him instead.

Kahn thought about letting the offense pass–what father wouldn’t?–but under the strict rules of yacht racing he was obliged to require his son to perform two 360-degree turns as a penalty. Shark went from the front of the fleet to the back and finished fourth. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” says Kahn, 52, a beefy French-born software magnate who in January sold LightSurf, his latest company, to VeriSign for $270 million in stock. “But everybody else was watching. What could I do?”

The snarling, hypercompetitive dad who seeks to realize his own frustrated ambitions through his kid is a cliché. But that’s not Kahn. Yes, he foots the bill for an outrageously expensive sailing program that has helped transform Shark into one of the world’s best racing skippers. But what he wants isn’t a surrogate. It’s a sparring partner.

At the Mumm 30 regatta, as in other top-level races around the world, the Kahns compete first against each other, then against the fleet. “Dad won’t give me a break,” says the shaggy-haired teenager. “I’m sure he didn’t want to protest me, but it’s about racing, and it wouldn’t have been fair for anybody else.”

Shark could hardly expect less from someone of his dad’s background. Kahn’s mother survived a Nazi death camp, his father the French Foreign Legion. Kahn himself became a karate champion at age 16. In the early 1980s he abandoned a career as a high school math teacher to strike it rich in Silicon Valley. His first big success, software house Borland International, grew to more than $480 million in revenues in the early 1990s before withering from bad management and bitter competition from Microsoft.

Undeterred, Kahn started Starfish Software, whose products synchronized data between mobile devices. He sold the company to Motorola for $258 million in 1998 (his share was 50%). Motorola and other cell phone companies backed his next idea–software to transmit photos between cellular phones. That was LightSurf (his take: VeriSign shares worth $125 million).

Kahn spends $1 million to $2 million a year hiring sailors to coach himself and Shark, while also bankrolling those sailors’ Olympic campaigns. Racing with Kahn & son these days are: Kevin Burnham, gold medalist in the 2004 Olympics; Jeff Madrigali, two-time Olympic medalist and 1990 world champion in the Soling (a 24-foot keelboat) class; Fredrik (Freddy) Looff, Swedish champion in the Finn and Star classes; and William Hardesty, 1998 College Sailor of the Year and an Olympic hopeful.

Aided by such talent, in 2003 Shark became world champion at 14 in the Melges 24, a five-person hot rod of a sailboat that can do 20 knots-plus with a stiff wind behind it. But hired talent didn’t explain his victory. Says yachtsman and sailmaker David Ullman, who lost to Shark that day: “It’s absolutely insulting to the rest of us to say, ‘Daddy bought him the best crew and he won.’ I had two Olympic medalists on my own boat.” Kahn Sr. himself has felt the sting of losing to Shark. “I’m not pushing him–he’s pushing me!” he complains in French-accented English.

Shark seems completely unfazed by his success, yawning and looking bored as his father holds a team meeting in a rented bungalow at the tony Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, after a recent regatta. Discussion shifts to conflicts between Shark’s school calendar and a regatta in Europe. “He’s a pro sailor now, isn’t he?” Dad asks, only half-jokingly. “You’re dropping out of school, right?”

Shark doesn’t bother to reply. His self-confidence and self-possession come in part from the fact that he enjoys a life outside the world of sailing. He likes math and hockey and attends a private school in Santa Cruz, California. His stepmother, Sonia, makes sure Kahn doesn’t push the boy too hard.

The software entrepreneur and his wife were each the first in their families to finish high school, let alone go to college, so they don’t have outsize academic dreams for Shark. Kahn says sailing can teach Shark about teamwork, performance and having a positive attitude. “It sure beats watching television.”

When asked what he enjoys most about thrashing around in high-performance sailboats, Shark says, “I like going fast. I’m 15.”

Forbes Life
Eat My Wake
Daniel Fisher, 02.28.05

The original article can be found here
http://www.forbes.com/global/2005/0228/060.html

Tough Love in the Kahn-test; Sherratt’s Steadfast in First

Sailing News _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/)

Sept. 22, 2004

Bell Mumm 30 World Championship

Royal Canadian Yacht Club / Sept. 21-24, 2004

*** Photo information below ***

Thursday’s weather: Wind SE 0-7 knots.
Friday’s forecast: Wind S 8-10 knots.

Tough Love in the Kahn-test; Sherratt’s Steadfast in First Place

TORONTO, Canada—The only race Thursday in the Bell Mumm 30 World Championship almost didn’t happen, and Philippe Kahn almost wished it hadn’t.

But there it was: his own son fouled him, he protested and the standings went inside out going into the fourth and final day Friday. The new leader, replacing 15-year-old Samuel (Shark) Kahn, is Fred Sherratt, a local sailor representing the host Royal Canadian Yacht Club, who finished third.

Nelson Stephenson, the class president from Southport, Conn., sailed TeamBOLD to its first win of the week, two boat lengths in front of Australia’s Richard Perini on Foreign Affair.

The younger Kahn, who led by six points after the first two days, flamed out after the incident at the first windward mark when he and his father, sailing Pegasus 20 and Pegasus 591, were fighting for the lead. After doing a double penalty turn—a “720” in racing jargon—he rejoined the parade in seventh, briefly appeared to be making a comeback but went all the wrong ways as the wind died on the last downwind drift and straggled in 18th, beating only two boats.

Principal race officer Mike Milner hoped to sail four races Friday to complete the 11-race schedule. The event rules say none can start after 5 o’clock, so Milner moved the day’s starting time up an hour to 10:30 a.m.

Ironically, Thursday’s race didn’t start until 5:34 p.m. after four general recalls following a day of card-playing and lawn bowling before Milner, two miles out on Lake Ontario, decided there was finally enough wind to race—not more than 6 or 7 knots but just enough to race twice around a one-mile windward-leeward course.

Sherratt, sailing Steadfast, has 36 points. Tom Ritter’s Tramp from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., slipped into second place (44), followed by the Shark (45), Philippe Kahn (47) and Perini (49).

The course of the regatta turned as Shark Kahn approached the first windward mark on port tack as his father came in on starboard, slightly behind but with the right of way. Instead of crossing in front or ducking behind, Shark tacked on the other Pegasus’ lee bow and forced his father to luff up to avoid a collision.

Shark’s tactician, Richard Clarke, a veteran Finn and big boat sailor from Toronto, blamed himself for suggesting the fatal move.

“That’s about the stupidest thing I could have done,” he said.

And it put Philippe Kahn on the spot. Neither he nor his son had ever protested the other while racing Melges 24s against each other in recent years.

“So much for people who say we team-race,” Philippe said as darkness descended on the docks. “If it costs him the Worlds, it costs him.”

A nephew, Brian Lee, also is a member of the crew.

“It broke my concentration on the run,” Philippe said, still in emotional agony. “But what dad and uncle couldn’t do it? It may be a loss for Shark and Brian, but it’s a lesson in life.”

Shark understood. “It proves we’re not on the same team,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised. He had every right to protest us. I fouled him.”

Stephenson won the race on the last run by playing the middle of the course while most boats tried one side or the other.

“It doesn’t work very often, but [tactician] Anthony [Katoun] called a good tactical race,” Stephenson said. “Everybody on the boat contributed. I just steered.”

Sherratt has sailed a steady regatta with no wins but only one double-digit finish. Tactician Scott Collinson said, “We don’t usually race this time of day, unless it’s beer can [races] in the harbor. We tried to focus where the pressure was, not play the angles.”

Earlier, the only wave was the local heat wave attributed to a broad high-pressure area across the northeast that smothered the breeze and threatened to break temperature local records for the first week of autumn at the western end of Lake Ontario.

Thursday’s high was 28 degrees C. (82.4 F.), down a bit from Wednesday. Friday’s forecast was cautiously promising that the class’s eighth world title would be settled on the water: 8-10 knots from the south.

Appropriately, with the weather foremost in everyone’s mind, the day was dedicated to supporting sponsor North Sails, which is providing daily forecast for the sailors.

While waiting out the shoreside postponement, the sailors played cards and were introduced to lawn bowling, without some of the refinements.

“I’m not sure we were dressed properly,” one said. “Aren’t you supposed to wear all white?”

Bell, Canada’s national leader in communications provides connectivity to residential and business customers through wired and wireless voice and data communications, local and long distance phone services, high speed and wireless Internet access, IP-broadband services, e-business solutions and satellite television services. Bell Canada is wholly owned by BCE Inc. For more information please visit www.bell.ca.

Joining Bell in support of the event are contributing sponsors Champagne Mumm, CHUM Limited, Lewmar, McMillan Binch LLP, Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, Stella Artois and Sorgentone.

North Sails continues as the worldwide leader in sailmaking through an ongoing commitment to making sails lighter, stronger and faster. North’s 3DL thermo-molded sails dominate grand prix sailing worldwide and have been the sail technology of choice for every team in the last America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race events. For more information, visit www.northsails.com .

Standings (after 7 of 11 races):

1. Steadfast, Fred Sheratt, Toronto, 8-2-4-6-2-11-3, 36 points.
2. Tramp, Tom Ritter, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., 1-7-7-15-4-5-5, 44.
3. Pegasus 20, Samuel Kahn, Honolulu, 3-1-17-3-1-2-18, 45.
4. Pegasus 591, Philippe Kahn, Honolulu, 5-3-5-1-5-19-9, 47.

5. Foreign Affair, Richard Perini, Sydney, Australia, 2-12-13-2-17-1-2, 49.
6. Team Intermac, Dan Cheresh, Holland, Mich., 6-10-9-10-7-6-6, 54.
7. TeamBOLD, Nelson Stephenson, Southport, Conn., 15-11-14-9-3-4-1, 57.
8. ,Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Calif., 4-18-2-14-6-14-4, 62.
9. Calvi, Carlo Alberini, Pesaro, Italy, 16-5-11-7-13-7-10, 69.
10. Cygnet, Richard Swann, Fairfield, Conn., 13-8-1-12-10-8-19, 71.
11. USA 65, David Pyles, Easton, Md., 7-16-6-18-8-10-7, 72.
12. Team Traffic, Philip Werheim, USA, 14-13-21-4-9-3-132, 77.
13. Notorious, Kevin Brown, Toronto, 9-9-12-8-16-16-8, 78.
14. Three Niner, David Gonzalez, Lambertville, Mich., 12-15-10-5-11-13-15, 81.
15. it, Jim Sminchak, Euclid, Ohio, 11-4-16-16-18-15-16, 96.
16. Dark’n Stormy, Kevin Young, Novelty, Ohio, 10-14-19-11-12-17-17, 100.
17. Surprise, David Irish, Harbour Springs, Mich., 18-17-15-13-15-12-11, 101.
18. Champosa, Jonathan McDonagh, Minneapolis, Minn., 20-6-3-19-19-20-20, 107.
19. War Pony, Art Guerrera, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 19-10-8-20-20-9-12, 108.
20. Hammer, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., 17-19-18-17-14-18-DSQ, 125.
21. Wildthing, Jeff Fogarty, Fonthill, Ontario, 21-21-20-21-21-21-14, 139.

More information and photos: www.mumm30rcyc.com and www.mumm30.org

ROYAL CANADIAN YACHT CLUB

Julie Burgess
Sailing Coordinator
(416) 934-4435
sailing@rcyc.ca

MUMM 30 CLASS

Renee Mehl
Secretary
(410) 268-1001
info@farr-int.com

PRESS OFFICER

Rich Roberts
prior to Sept. 19 (310) 835-2526
mobile (310) 766-6547
richsail@earthlink.net

PHOTOS

High-resolution digital images are available free to print publications.
Please contact the press officer.

Shark Makes It Unsafe for Mumm 30s on the Water

Sailing News _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/) _/)

Sept. 22, 2004

Bell Mumm 30 World Championship

Royal Canadian Yacht Club / Sept. 21-24, 2004

*** Photo information below ***

Wednesday’s weather: Wind 10-12-7 knots, SW-S.
Thursday’s forecast: Wind 5-10 knots.

Shark Makes It Unsafe for Mumm 30s on the Water

TORONTO, Canada—One doesn’t hear about many shark attacks on Lake Ontario, but there aren’t many 15-year-olds devouring major international one-design classes the way Samuel Kahn is sailing the Bell Mumm 30 World Championship.

Kahn, a.k.a. “Shark,” and his world-class crew of Mumm 30 neophytes finished third, first and second in Wednesday’s second day of racing—Lewmar Day around the historic Royal Canadian Yacht Club—to seize a six-point lead after six of 11 races.

“Awesome stuff,” said a rival, Richard Perini of Sydney, Australia, who had a fair day himself by wrapping a second and first around a 17th to climb into fifth place in the feisty 21-boat fleet.

The younger Kahn took over the lead from his father Philippe, the California software developer who opened the day with a win, followed by a fifth and a wind-dying 19th, settling into third place 11 points off his son’s pace and five points behind second-place Fred Sheratt, the local hope from the host club.

The Shark’s stunning performance is an even larger surprise than the weather. On the first day of autumn, when the resident Canada geese should be flying south and citizens donning winter woolies, the region remained in the grip of a high-pressure system with a peak temperature Wednesday of 29 (C.), which converts to 85 (F.)—probably warmer than it was in the Kahns’ second home in Hawaii.

The conditions meant light to moderate winds fading to very light and swinging 45 degrees left through the afternoon.

“It was hot,” Kahn said—his only complaint.

When he and several of the same crew won the Melges 24 worlds last year a fair share of credit was given to the other guys in the boat, particularly professionals Richard Clarke and Mark (Crusty) Christensen. But when a quiet lad of 14 and now 15 steps into an authentic international one-design class like the Melges 24s and Mumm 30s and outperforms veterans as Kahn is doing, some extraordinary forces must be at work.

At least he raced the Melges 24 a couple of years before reaching the top. Here, he and each of his six crew members are racing a Mumm 30 for the first time in their lives.

Clarke, the tactician, said, “His improvement over a year is just amazing. He’s giving us a little feedback now. He used to be a mute back there, but now when we’re sailing a target speed of 6.2 knots he says, ‘I could be going 6.3; the windward telltales aren’t flowing.’ ”

Clarke also notes Christensen’s contribution for “setting the boat up so well” by tuning the rig and trimming the sails.

Christensen said, “None of us has ever raced a Mumm 30 before this week, so we’re all still learning. Shark has always listened and done everything we said, but now he’s saying how it feels. The nice thing is he’s really unfazed by it all.”

The unassuming skipper said, “Mainly, if I give any feedback it’s to see if I’m doing the right thing. Pretty much all I do is look at the telltales and the speedo.”

But he’s also having fun. “Light air is all about concentration,” he said, showing a subtle sense of humor. “I had an extra cup of coffee this morning that may have helped.”

Nelson Stephenson, the Mumm 30 World Council president from Connecticut, said Kahn’s performance midway of the regatta is “a big surprise” that defies conventional wisdom. “Everyone that knows these boats knows it takes a lot of time to learn them.”

Perini said, “Sure, he has a great crew, but you still have to steer the boat, and, sure, he’s had the opportunity to sail at this level with family support, but he still has to get on the boat and do the job.”

And he’s doing it better than anyone so far. Three races are scheduled Thursday and the last two Friday.

Bell, Canada’s national leader in communications provides connectivity to residential and business customers through wired and wireless voice and data communications, local and long distance phone services, high speed and wireless Internet access, IP-broadband services, e-business solutions and satellite television services. Bell Canada is wholly owned by BCE Inc. For more information please visit www.bel.ca.

Joining Bell in support of the event are contributing sponsors Champagne Mumm, CHUM Limited, Lewmar, McMillan Binch LLP, Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, Stella Artois and Sorgentone.

Standings (after 6 of 11 races):

1. Pegasus 20, Samuel Kahn, Honolulu, 3-1-17-3-1-2, 27 points.
2. Steadfast, Fred Sheratt, Toronto, 8-2-4-6-2-11, 33.
3. Pegasus 591, Philippe Kahn, Honolulu, 5-3-5-1-5-9, 38.
4. Tramp, Tom Ritter, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., 1-7-7-15-4-5, 29.
5. Foreign Affair, Richard Perini, Sydney, Australia, 2-12-13-2-17-1, 47.
6. Team Intermac, Dan Cheresh, Holland, Mich., 6-10-9-10-7-6, 48.
7. Cygnet, Richard Swann, Fairfield, Conn., 13-8-1-12-10-8, 52.
8. TeamBOLD, Nelson Stephenson, Southport, Conn., 15-11-14-9-3-4, 56.
9. Groovederci, Deneen Demourkas, Santa Barbara, Calif., 4-18-2-14-6-14, 58.
10. Calvi, Carlo Alberini, Pesaro, Italy, 16-5-11-7-13-7, 59.
11. Team Traffic, Philip Werheim, USA, 14-13-21-4-9-3, 64.
12. USA 65, David Pyles, Easton, Md., 7-16-6-18-8-10, 65.
13. Three Niner, David Gonzalez, Lambertville, Mich., 12-15-10-5-11-13, 66.
14. Notorious, Kevin Brown, Toronto, 9-9-12-8-16-16, 70.
15. it, Jim Sminchak, Euclid, Ohio, 11-4-16-16-18-15, 80.
16. Dark’n Stormy, Kevin Young, Novelty, Ohio, 10-14-19-11-12-17, 83.
17. Champosa, Jonathan McDonagh, Minneapolis, Minn., 20-6-3-19-19-20, 87.
18. Surprise, David Irish, Harbour Springs, Mich., 18-17-15-13-15-12, 90.
19. War Pony, Art Guerrera, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 19-10-8-20-20-9, 96.
20. Hammer, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., 17-19-18-17-14-18, 103.
21. Wildthing, Jeff Fogarty, Fonthill, Ontario, 21-21-20-21-21-21, 125.

More information and photos: www.mumm30rcyc.com and www.mumm30.org

ROYAL CANADIAN YACHT CLUB

Julie Burgess
Sailing Coordinator
(416) 934-4435
sailing@rcyc.ca

MUMM 30 CLASS

Renee Mehl
Secretary
(410) 268-1001
info@farr-int.com

PRESS OFFICER

Rich Roberts
prior to Sept. 19 (310) 835-2526
mobile (310) 766-6547
richsail@earthlink.net

PHOTOS

High-resolution digital images are available free to print publications.
Please contact the press officer.