When venture capitalist and tech wizard Tom Perkins wished “Doom and unmitigated failure” on our Editor back in 2006 for calling out the obscene level of money spent on the bizarre Maltese Falcon square rigger, little did anyone know it would become one of the most well-known phrases in the meme-filled history of Sailing Anarchy. Over the years, as we got to know Tom and his projects better, the relationship softened considerably. Did we all become great friends? No way, but just as Tom became a fairly frequent reader of SA, our staff gained respect for the ‘fuck it’ attitude Perkins brought to all things as well as his innovations in and passion for sailing and the sea.
Perkins died two days ago in his home in Belvedere, California, and we salute his life as one that was particularly well lived. It’s not our place to say whether he was a wonderful human, but one cannot argue with the mark he left on the entire planet. Through his VC firm – Kleiner Perkins – Tom’s investments and deep involvement in hundreds of companies was one of the largest forces behind the creation of Silicon Valley. Firms like Netscape, Genentech, Google, and Amazon owe their existence to Tom’s funding and mentoring chops. His resignation from the Hewlett-Packard board triggered the revelation of a spying scandal that dominated the front pages, and he somehow managed to get himself convicted of manslaughter in France and become Danielle Steel’s Husband No. 5.
In the maritime world, the Falcon was only one of Tom’s big boats; he expressed his love of classic yachts through his restoration and loving ownership of two true legends: Atlantide and Mariette. Perkins also showed he could exhibit remarkably bad taste as the owner of ugly Perinis – Adromeda de Dea and then the hand-me-down hull that became the Falcon.
Two things turned us into Perkins fans more than anything else. First, MF’s ‘sparmaster’ – an old friend of SA’s staff – told us why Perkins spent thousands of hours creating the software and hardware for the square rig ‘Dynarig’ concept: Because he hated motoring his big yachts unless he had to. The rig allowed the massive, gold-and-granite laden Falcon to sail nearly 90% of her miles at sea. And then when he commissioned the refit of an oil rig tender to become Dr. No, the mothership for the ultra-advanced Super Falcon submarine – a two-man underwater fighter jet designed to explore and record the world’s endangered reefs and underwater habitats.
Perkins story is a fascinating one, with countless articles and several excellent biographies available if you’re interested. Start with Newsweek’s David Kaplan and Mine’s Bigger, and move on from there. Head over to the Falcon’s charter site, where the current owners have eulogized Perkins well. And if you’ve got the cash, Dr. No and her toys are on sale at a tiny fraction of her refit cost.