The Maltese Falcon, a $100 million yacht that the designers claim is the largest and fastest personal sailboat in the world, formally set sail in Italy on July 14.
Built for venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the 87.5-meter yacht sports three 57-meter tall masts and each mast has six yards from which hang sails. This design gives it a slight resemblance to a clipper ship.
The masts, though, function in a far different manner than they did on the Cutty Sark. The masts themselves rotate to maximize speed and make the boat more aerodynamically efficient. The rotating mast concept was first conceived in the 1960s by German hydraulics engineer Wilhelm Prolls, but only became feasible later on with the advent of new composites, such as carbon fiber.
Insensys, which specializes in sensors for wind turbines and fiber optic cables, embedded its technology into the masts to provide the crew with data on the structural forces and other strain placed on the mast to ensure that they are not pushed to the breaking point.
The company, in fact, oversaw the construction of the masts. As part of its building sensors for wind turbines and oil companies, the company has gained expertise in extreme engineering projects, according to the company.