Monday, July 23, 2007
The 289-foot Maltese Falcon, launched in spring 2006, is that engineering dream come to life.
Under sail, the square-rigged Falcon evokes the magnificent clipper ships that raced across the oceans in the late 19th century. But Perkins' creation is more New Old Thing than mere tribute to the past. The heart of the boat's technology is a novel rigging system called the DynaRig, designed by Dutch naval architect Gerald Dijkstra and based on a half-century-old German concept. The genius — and risk — of the DynaRig is its use of freestanding masts that rotate to adjust sail trim and tack the boat. There are practically no external ropes or wires, no traditional rigging of any sort to brace the spars or control the nearly 26,000 square feet of sail. The 15 sails deploy at the push of a button, rolling out from inside each hollow mast along recessed tracks on stationary horizontal yardarms. When Dijkstra's drawings first came in, the CEO of Perini Navi, the Italian company that built the ship, muttered, "Whatever that is, it's not going to sail." Fellow mega yacht owner and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch looked at them and asked Perkins, "Is it going to look so frightening that people won't go on the boat?"