Maltese Falcon keeps spouting useful data

AMSTERDAM _ The 88m Maltese Falcon (right) was launched in 2006, bearing the radical Dynarig designed by Dykstra Naval Architects of Amsterdam. The studio still monitors the rig’s performance through data harvested by 60 fiber optic sensors embedded in its masts.

The main beneficiary is Magma Global, the UK builder of the 2 Dynarigs _ the Maltese Falcon and the 106m Oceanco-built Black Pearl. Magma and Dykstra also get data readouts of the Dykstra-designed Aerorig on ‘A’, at 142m, the world’s largest sailing yacht designed to withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

Magma mines the data for overall performance. “We use it to compare our load calculations to real life conditions,” Dykstra Managing Director Thys Nikkels tells this newsletter. “Often, we overstate load cases because there are so many variables.”That’s why Lloyds uses a 3.5 safety norm: i.e. rigs must be able to handle 3.5 times the maximum calculated loads. To date, the Maltese Falcon and its 3 free-standing, 57m carbon fiber masts has done 100,000 sea miles. From 2006 to 2014 alone, its 15 square sails were set 11,803 times and were up for 60,696 hours.

The yacht’s load monitoring shows actual stress loads. “If these are, say, only 10% of maximum calculated loads, you can talk to Lloyds about not removing a mast,” says Nikkels. That way owners see costs drop through less maintenance. They’ll see safety rise and risk of damage, insurance premiums, downtime, labor and material costs drop.

In all, 60 fiber optic sensors measure torsion and bending on the Maltese Falcon’s masts. They record loads, strains, performance metrics, apparent wind speed and direction. Data is captured for tacks, jibes, steady and rough state sailing at all wind angles.

The sensors are fiber optic threads baked into the laminate. Tiny scratches in those threads are shown when a light beam is sent down the thread. Long story short: the delay in the light’s reflection shows the lengthening of the tread, i.e. the wear and tear on a rig.