Race Archives

2009 Honolulu

Kahn and Christensen Smash Doublehanded Transpac Record

Honolulu, HI (July 13, 2009) – The record for double-handing the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu has been broken. At 4:38:35 am HST today, Philippe Kahn and Mark “Crusty” Christensen, crossed the Diamond Head finish line in the Open 50, Pegasus 50, in a record time of 7 days, 19 hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds. They shaved over two and a half days off of the previous record set by Howard Gordon and Jay Crum in 2001 also with an Open 50, Etranger in the most enduring and greatest ocean race in the world covering 2,225 nautical miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu. 

It seemed unusual to be taking photos of Kahn and Christensen as they backed Pegasus 50 into the slip at Waikiki Yacht Club after having spent days viewing their blog. They used their Motion X GPS application for their iPhone to get instantaneous performance feedback and to communicate to the rest of the world and share their story with AV blog postings.

“Double-handing the Open 50 to Hawaii is one of the highlights of my year,” stated Kahn, a noted technologist and the creator of the camera phone. “I love being out in the open Ocean, once we're out there, that's all that matters – we had our sights on the record and we beat it. Mark and I are a perfect team. We work together at MotionX and we race together as partners on Pegasus across the Pacific. Mark's experience as one of the greatest offshore sailors in the world is invaluable. Transpac is a navigator's race and that plays into our strength ” 

As race day approached the skippers scoured the weather information, and see that the weather is shaping up nicely. The team would get a fast and windy race, just what they needed for a shot at the double-handed record. Now they are ready to set sail with equipment that includes two iPhones 3GS loaded with MotionX-GPS to navigate from start to finish and to allow them to document their journey via Philippe's blog on www.pegasus.com/log.htm, Facebook and YouTube.

In the two years since Philippe’s first double-handed Transpac record attempt in 2007 on the Pegasus Open 50, the Pegasus Racing team has spent countless hours training, racing and preparing the boat for this week in July 2009. Training was based in Santa Cruz, CA where there is immediate access to the Pacific Ocean. Going into the 2009 Transpac Philippe and Mark were prepared for the most difficult challenges that lay ahead of them on their adventure from Los Angeles to Honolulu. 

Philippe and Mark were immediately tested from before the start of Transpac 09 when their hydraulics to cant the keel failed on the way to the starting line. The well-prepared Pegasus team managed to partially fix the hydraulics in the 50 minutes remaining prior to the start which enabled the use of one of the two hydraulic rams for the keel. Though not ideal, it was enough to start the race just in time!

Going into the first cloud covered night they prepared for a wet and wild night. Winds steadily build into the night with winds building to 22-24 knots. As the seas and wind built, Pegasus accelerated up to 17-20 knots of boat speed into the deep black of the night. At about 1:00 AM, Philippe on the helm and Mark sleeping down below, Philippe was suddenly hit directly in the chest by a flying fish and it landed on the deck down to leeward. Philippe made a leap to save the fish just as the sea jerks the boat violently right. The fish is successfully rescued, but the sailor is a bit battered and a little bloody. Philippe’s learned to avoid going to the rescue of strange large flying fish!

The second day brought on a few sail changes to take advantage of the wind velocity and direction. With MotionX-GPS running on their iPhone 3GS they could instantly know their VMG (Velocity Made Good) or rate at which they were moving towards the finish line Hawaii. They knew if they could keep up their current VMG of 12.6 knots over the next seven days they would smash the double-handed record and achieve one of their biggest goals for the race.

On the morning of the third day the conditions were perfect. The next 24 hours would see the Open 50 Class 24 hour distance record broken. Philippe and Mark sailed 339.3 nautical miles (390 miles) between 6:00 AM on July 8 and 6:00 AM on July 9.

The days and nights on the 4th, 5th and 6th day were filled with periodic heavy squalls with a mixture of strong winds and rain. Riding the puffs from these squalls was extremely important to keep their boat speed high and push for the double-handed record.

As the sun set on the 6th day they knew it was decision time. Philippe looked at MotionX-GPS in combination with other instruments and weather patterns to determine when to jibe onto port to take advantage of the veering tradewinds on their approach to Honolulu.

The 7th day began with a series of 30-knot squalls and lots of fast and wet sailing. As the day went on Philippe and Mark made great progress but at around 8:00PM PST they lost all electrical power and communications. 

“There was a smell of an electrical fire, so we got the extinguishers out…. Nothing worst than a fire on a boat.” - Philippe

They continued to sail full steam to Honolulu and began troubleshooting to find the source of the electrical issue.

“One emergency sat phone working. Sailing fast. Using the brail method!” - Philippe

As the night set in, Pegasus sailed on through the squalls and the darkness. By midnight they were down to flashlights, the analog compass and MotionX-GPS on their iPhone to guide them to Honolulu. 

Finally, at about 5:15AM PST, Philippe and Mark were able to partially charge the batteries with a temporary fix. They continued to hand steer and managed to gain just enough power throughout the final day to jibe the keel three more times to finish the race in record double-handed time.

Kahn and Christensen carried their speed right down Molokai Channel in high winds to finish just before dawn on Monday.

Rather than read this recount, view it all by clicking on www.Pegasus.com and follow the captivating blog. You'll realize that doublehanded sailing has its challenges. Sleep depraviation is just a small part of it.
Photo of Christensen, Kahn and their familes following their Transpacific Yacht Race doublehanded record setting performance taken by Lynn Fitzpatrick.