It turned out to be every bit the spectacle that we expected. Shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, Tom Perkins sailed his magnificent 289-ft Dyna-Rig Maltese Falcon — by most standards the largest privately-owned yacht in the world — beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and into a San Francisco Bay that was packed with more sailboats than we’ve ever seen before.
For Perkins, 75, who resides in Belvedere, it had to be a moment of triumph, because when he first arrived in the Bay Area many years ago, he had no real money, and did his sailing on a 17-ft Teak Lady. Thanks to his skills in science and business, he moved up. Way up.
For everyone lining the shores of San Francisco Bay, and particularly sailors, she was simply a jaw-dropping sight. As many commented, photos of the dark blue and silver yacht in magazines just don’t do justice to the football-field-length yacht.
Falcon passed beneath the Golden Gate, which was skirted by a few wisps of fog, sailing dead downwind, and continued along the San Francisco Cityfront to about Pier 39. Along her route she was accompanied by hoards of boats, most of them sail. In the vicinity of Blossom Rock, she demonstrated how you jibe a Dyna-Rig yacht, by going onto a tight reach that would take her to the lee of Alcatraz, across the breezy center of the Bay, and behind Angel Island. We have no idea how fast she was going — certainly close to 20 knots — but she was putting all of her waterline to work. Even from the far distant deck of the Golden Gate Bridge, she was a breath-taking sight as she streaked across the Bay.
After rounding the lee of Angel Island, Falcon sailed up through Racoon Strait in very light air, giving the many thousands of people on boats and ashore both a long eyeful and a demonstration of how her unstayed masts rotate so she can sail to windward. It was mostly slow going in the light air, giving everyone a chance to evaluate her somewhat Darth Vader-like appearance.
Picking up the breeze again, Falcon headed back out into the Central Bay, leaving all her pursuers in the dust. It must have been blowing about 20 knots, and on a close reach once again, she flew. By this time we were at Yellow Bluff on the Sausalito shore, where hundreds of people continue to stand silently marveling at the yacht. Most didn’t know exactly what they were looking at, but there was no doubt in their minds they were seeing something really special. About halfway to the center of the Bay, Falcon jibed again, sailed back in the direction of Raccoon Strait, then rolled up her 15 sails in the unique Dyna-Rig fashion.
With the sails put away, she motored back out toward Yellow Bluff, then slowly cruised the shore back toward Sausalito. Thanks to her very wide and curved yards, she’s almost as impressive a sight when she’s not carrying sail as when she is.
Thanks to the great yacht and perfect weather, it was as memorable a sailing day as we can recall on the Bay. Falcon is currently anchored in Marin, and it’s our understanding she’s to sail again next Sunday in support of the Leukemia Cup being hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere.
If you saw Falcon doing her stuff on the Bay, we’d love to hear your reaction and thoughts. Please email them to us.