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All Things Falcon

There was a nice front page story in The Chronicle today announcing that Tom Perkins’ 289-ft mega sailing yacht Maltese Falcon will come under the Gate Saturday at 2 p.m. Reporter Carl Nolte got some of the information from us, and we feel it’s important to make one clarification.

According to the article, the publisher of Latitude was "invited aboard the Maltese Falcon by Perkins for a cruise on the Mediterranean not long ago. . ." Not quite. We were among the many people that Perkins invited to the launch festivities and party in Italy. We were only able to justify such a trip because we also needed to travel Europe to take photos, see some boats, and speak with members of the sailing industry. We coordinated the end of that trip with the launch of Falcon, and greatly enjoyed the festivities. Although we were invited to sail on Falcon the next day, along with many other people, it wasn’t possible because we had to return home to a deadline. So for the record, we’ve not only not "cruised the Med" with Perkins, we’ve not even sailed on the boat. But we’ve been invited to do just that a week from Sunday, and will not miss it.

For what it’s worth, while we admire mega sailing yachts for the incredible artistry and engineering they embody, and Falcon in particular for its daringly innovative DynaRig, we’re personally not crazy about them. We think along the lines of Ron Holland who, despite designing many mega sailing yachts, says anything over 60 feet is more than he’d want. Once you get much larger than that, it seems to us that you start to remove yourself from the elements you want to enjoy. In a typical year, we sail on a mega sailing yacht once, at the St. Barth Around the Island Regatta. Being the simple sort, we don’t feel any great desire to do it again until the next year.

There’s also the issue of how tasteful such mega yachts are in today’s world, what with the world economy in the condition it’s in, and with the importance of reducing one’s carbon footprint. With regard to the former, we’ll remind everyone that the design, building and running of yachts such as Falcon created and continues to create countless jobs which contributes lots to the economy. That’s a good thing. As is the fact that Perkins made most of his money providing the seed money for companies that ultimately came up with products that have made your life and ours so much better and less expensive. Can you say ‘Google’.

As for how megayachts, even mega sailing yachts, fit into today’s world of shrinking resources and perhaps climate change, the answer is not very well. As we’ve written previously, we’ve given Perkins’ Falcon, Joe Vittoria’s 247-ft Mirabella, and Jim Clark’s nearly 300-ft Athena passes, because they were all begun seven or eight years ago when the world was a very different place. In fact, the last megayacht we’re giving — for what it’s worth — our seal of approval to is Bill Joy’s 190-ft Ron Holland designed Ethereal, to be launched this fall. Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has gone to great lengths and expense to make his boat as ecologically friendly as possible. But still, it seems to us it’s like trying to make a diet version of a Double Whopper with cheese and bacon. Despite the weakening world economy, the megayacht business is still booming. This is something we’re not at all happy about, nor do we think it’s in good taste. As time goes on and resources become more dear, we suspect that the people who launch such yachts aren’t going to be looked on with envy, but rather with growing disapproval.

But for now, we suggest everyone check out Falcon when she comes beneath the Gate tomorrow afternoon, as it’s really going to be something to see. Once again, we recommend the pedestrian path on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge as perhaps the best viewing site. That’s where we’ll be.

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