Monitoring for structural failure

The sails on the new gargantuan $100 million luxury sailboat look awkward and inefficient to me, like wagon wheels on a modern sports car:

The Maltese sets sail

Built for venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the 87.5-meter yacht sports three 57-meter tall masts and each mast has 6 yards from which the sails hang. This design gives it a slight resemblance to a clipper ship.

A clipper ship? No. On second glance, I can see the wing-like properties of the sails perhaps equivalent to two modern sails laid opposite one another and connected together at the mast. Wonder what these hanging sails are made from and how long they are designed to last. Does each one furl into the boom above? This ship might be the largest, but I can’t believe it is the fastest, unless the term “personal yacht” somehow excludes the big trimarans and catamarans…or maybe just the word “yacht” excludes all the performance vessels. If you can’t beat ’em, build a new category?

Anyway, the masts have no stays and so I thought‘s note about monitoring for failures is interesting:

The company inserted sensors into the composite mast to give the crew information on the forces on the mast and prevent the structures from being pushed to the breaking point.

This reminds me of the prediction that sailboats will lose their rigging just like the wires of airplanes gave way to the clean lines of modern wings. Composites are a critical part of this development. Everything large that tries to be efficient now depends so much on carbon fiber that information about its use must be one of the most important resources for the future.

Wait, I know why those sails look antiquated to me. Isn’t that a modern version of Admiral Zheng’s giant fleet in the 1400s? I bet the bazillionare owner read a book about Zheng and said “Oooh, I want one”:


Ming dynasty records show that each treasure ship was 400 feet (122 metres) long and 160 feet (50 metres) wide. Bigger, in other words, than a football pitch.

Ok, the living space is obviously different, but that’s still a lot of monitoring for structural failure for over 500 years ago on many boats all significantly larger than this luxury yacht.

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