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UK Company Engineer Rig for $100 Million Superyacht

  • Thursday, 6th July 2006
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Insensys has been part of the multi million pound 87.5 m superyacht Maltese Falcon project, integrating their fibre optic sensing technology with the composite and engineering expertise required for the project.

The Maltese Falcon has three free standing masts, each one 57 metres high and weighing 13 tons. Each mast has six curved carbon fibre yards, which are the horizontal arms along which the five individual sails per mast are set. Because the masts are free standing and without lines holding them up, they can be rotated to suit the wind direction. To maximise speed, the sails are trimmed to the wind by rotating the mast – thus making the boat more aerodynamically efficient.

In order to understand the exact forces being experienced by the mast, and to work within safety limits, each mast can ‘talk’ to the crew, thanks to the innovative technology developed by Insensys. The company designed the masts from a composite material which contains an embedded mesh of fibre optic sensors.

These sensors change their light transmission characteristics in response to stress and strain, and report the data received to the bridge. An illustrated control panel shows not only the speed and wind forces on the masts, but also displays graphically the stress and strain to ensure the masts are not overpowered to breaking point.

Headed by company directors Martin Jones and Damon Roberts, Insensys was completely responsible for the design and manufacture of the unique rig for this modern ultra-fast superyacht, which looks like a traditional clipper.

“The project was unique,” explains Insensys’ Director of Engineering Damon Roberts. “It was a combination of our proven fibre optic sensing technology, together with a specialist knowledge of composites. We already use this technology in the wind turbine industry, as well as for monitoring pipeline movements in the oil and gas sectors, but this was the first time this technology had been an integral part of the design for a superyacht rig. We handled the whole thing – from the initial design, through to setting up a mast manufacturing facility in Turkey, staffed by a number of our own Hamble based engineers.”

At 1200 tonnes and 87m length overall, the Maltese Falcon is claimed to be the world’s largest private yacht. She is clipper rigged, based on the Dynarig, a concept developed in the 1960s by German hydraulics engineer Wilhelm Prolls. It was intended that the concept would provide a viable means of reducing fuel usage on vessels during the oil crisis. The official presentation of The Maltese Falcon takes place next Friday, 14th July in Italy, following a delivery trip from Turkey where the boat was built.


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