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COURTESY PERINI NAVI

or Perkins, who is passionate about cutting edge technology, the decision about whether to go ahead with the Falcon project hinged largely on the feasibility of the Dynarig. For if successful, it would not only allow push button mast and sail control, but would also eliminate the need for any lines, winches, or cleats on deck. The problem was that the Dynarig, conceived to help German commercial shipping save fuel in the '70s, had never gone beyond the theoretical stage. With Perkins putting up the money, he, Perini, and renowned Amsterdam naval architect Gerard Dijkstra began doing extensive research on the concept. Once Perkins became convinced that the system would ultimately work, he made the decision to go ahead with the entire project. But even after the initial research on the Dynarig, there was no money-back guarantee that it would be a success. In fact, two associates in the Dijkstra office spent three more years perfecting the basics of the system. And there was still a lot of work that had to be done after both small and full scale models had been built.

The next hurdle was actually building the three gigantic masts. As Perkins told us, the original Dynarig concept could not have worked on Falcon because of limitations of the materials available in the '70s. "If these masts had been made of aluminum," he said gesturing to Falcon's masts, "they would have failed within a week." Fortunately, carbon fiber is now a proven product and has the qualities necessary for Falcon's masts. For example, the tops of the unstayed masts are designed to fall off more than 10 feet. Perini didn't want to have anything to do with building the unusual masts and yard arms, which have three radii and had to include countless sensors. So it was left to Perkins to hire Insensys of England and create a major mastbuilding facility at the yard in Istanbul. Before work could be started, however, Perkins had to place the largest order ever — other than from manufacturers of military aircraft — for carbon fiber. Overseeing the development of the mast-making as well as the construction of Falcon was no small task. According to Kathy Jewett, Perkin's assistant, in the 5.5 years it took to complete the yacht from the existing hull, he flew to Turkey at least 100 times. Fortunately, it wasn't always from California, as Perkins also maintains Plumpton Place, an estate south of London that once belonged to Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page. One of the most amazing aspects about the creation of Falcon is how much risk Perkins was willing to assume to build such an innovative yacht. After all, it was entirely possible that after spending tens of millions of dollars, the Dynarig wouldn't work. Indeed, it's still unproven to the extent that it's not been tested in the kinds of heavy winds and seas that might cause the kind of mast torquing that would threaten to tear the hull apart — such as happened to Team Phillips. And it's not as though Falcon could be rerigged as a staysail schooner or a ketch. As such, investing in Falcon was, like investing in a high tech start up, a calculated risk.

T

his is not to suggest

The view of the sitting area on the front part of the aft deck. The deck support base for the aft mast was cleverly designed.

that Falcon is a mere technological wonder, because she's also beautifully styled and opulent. The exterior and interior styling were done by Ken Freivokh of London, and are smashing in a very contemporary way. When people go to the christening of a boat, they're always complimentary in order to be polite. But this is one case where the guests were sincere in their compliments — even if their personal tastes ran more toward the classic interior of a gaff schooner such as Mariette. The entertaining Freivokh, who was born in L.A. but grew up in Peru, explained that absolutely everything on the boat was custom designed and built — right down to the toilet bowl brushes with carbon fiber handles! It was an immense amount of work that occupied him and several of his staff almost full time for the better part of several years. "We did about 200 CAD drawings, each one having about 150 designed items in them." Freivokh's work has to be seen to be When her masts and yard arms are illuminated at night, the beautiful 'Falcon' has a monumental presence. LATITUDE/RICHARD

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LATITUDE/RICHARD

WORLD'S LARGEST SAILING YACHT

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Latitude 38 August 2006  

The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.

Latitude 38 August 2006  

The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.