Barn door recipient voices his concerns

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (7/14/01)
By Ray Pendleton

Perhaps the most coveted prize presented at the 41st Transpacific Yacht Race's awards banquet at the Ilikai Hotel last night was a trophy called the "Barn Door."

That coffee-table-sized slab of koa wood - awarded to the boat with the fastest elapsed time finish - is now inscribed with the name of Philippe Kahn's 74-foot sloop Pegasus.

It's no surprise that the name Kahn isn't a familiar one like Dennis Conner of America's Cup fame, because this computer software developer has only been sailing competitively for something over two years.

Nevertheless, he has been intense in his devotion to the sport, astute in his crew selections and has had the deep pockets needed to finance his campaign.

So, now that his boat (named after a mythical winged horse) has succeeded in beating the Transpac record-holder, Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket (named after a fictional magical cat), Kahn's views on the race and its future may carry additional weight.

Kahn believes that, nationwide, sailing regattas are dying due to the lack of sponsorship money. And part of the reason is due to the efforts of organizers in working too hard to attract the wrong boats.

"If (Transpac) starts pushing for the 40-foot cruiser/racer - like Key West and North Sails Race Week - the media is not very interested in those 40-foot boats and without their coverage, sponsors won't come," Kahn said.

Kahn believes the big boats like Pegasus and Pyewacket create a halo effect of media interest that helps everyone and certainly doesn't hinder the smaller boats from participating.

And Kahn doesn't believe Transpac should tinker around with the rules governing the big, Division 1 boats either.

"Before (Transpac) changes the rules and hopes people will build new boats, they've got to be careful not to loose the guys they already have," Kahn said. "They already did that with the Santa Cruz 70s.

"And, what's the point of slightly changing the rules? The sailmakers love it because they sell more sails. There are $300,000 dollars of sails on this boat that will never be used again."

This year "we obviously had essentially one-design offshore sailing across the Pacific in the Volvo Cup style," Kahn recently editorialized on his Internet web site

And aboard his boat, after the race, he continued the thought:
"Three evenly matched boats are in existence," Kahn said. "It would make a lot of sense to formalize this class and encourage more owners to develop new boats to the class.

"My fundamental point here is that we have a rule right now ... keep the rule. Pegasus is a masthead rig, it's a narrower boat. Pyewacket is wider and fractional, but we were matched. (The Transpacific Yacht Club) should just decide that this is the Transpac 75 design.

"$3.5 million is what it costs to build a boat like Pegasus, and I'm not going to do it twice," Kahn said. "So I hope this boat will be competitive for a long time."

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