"Did you see the Maserati at the guest dock?" a friend asked shortly after we arrived at Shelter Bay Marina last month. Huh? Why would a fancy sports car be on the docks of a remote marina at the edge of the Panamanian jungle? But when we glanced over and saw a tall, four-spreader carbon rig, we got it: "Oh, that Maserati!" Sure enough, there she was, the famous VOR70 that we’d last seen in San Francisco Bay in February 2013 when Giovanni Soldini and an international crew shattered the 14,000-mile New York-to-San Francisco record, originally established by the 225-ft clipper ship Flying Cloud, and most recently held by Frenchman Yves Parlier of Aquitaine Innovations.
Turned out Maserati had been competing in February’s Caribbean 600 Race, but had to drop out when a hydraulic failure jammed the sleek 70-footer’s canting keel. So it was on to the next adventure: an attempt at breaking the San Francisco-to-Shanghai record, traveling along the route of the majestic China clippers of the mid-1800s. The current record of 32 days, 9 hours was set by the clipper Swordfish in 1853 — 162 years ago.
Why the sudden fascination with this relatively obscure record? Needless to say, the attempt will bring publicity to Soldini’s generous title sponsor, but we suspect that this 7,000-mile North Pacific passage has been in the back of his mind for years. When we met the renowned ocean racer in 2013, he explained that he’s been fascinated by clipper ships and the NY-to-SF record since he read about Flying Cloud as a kid. In fact, he admitted to "falling in love" with the ship’s female navigator, Eleanor Creesy: "She chose a nearly perfect route, with no information, no satellites, no anything."
Maserati arrived in the Los Angeles area Wednesday and will soon pass beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Once in the Bay, she’ll prep for the voyage and wait for an ideal weather window before jumping off for Shanghai — most likely in early May.
Perini Navi, the Italian company that built the 289-ft Maltese Falcon for Belvedere’s Tom Perkins, is the leader in large sailing yachts. Having built 56 of them, nobody else comes close.
This month, the company launched hull #2 of their 60-Meter — 196 feet — series. Unlike hull #1, Seahawk, which has been at the St. Barth Bucket for the last two years, the new boat, Perseus 3, is a sloop. If we’re not mistaken, her 246-ft mast is the tallest in the world. It certainly precludes the boat from passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. And unlike all previous Perinis, she’s equipped with a carbon bowsprit and twin rudders.
But here are the numbers that really got us. She can set close to 10,000 meters of sail. (Our Olson 30 La Gamelle sets just over 100 square meters of sail, spinnaker included.) Perseus 3 is equipped with newly-developed Perini captive winches. The winches for the jib have a capacity of 30 tons! Furthermore, they operate at 40 meters per minute, which will supposedly reduce tacking time by 75%.
During the sea trials, Perseus hit 16 knots beam reaching in 21 knots of wind. In the case of the Perini Navis, it’s not how fast you go, but how you go fast.