Two islanders set sail on world’s largest privately owned sailboat
One morning in May, a most unusual sailboat appeared in Narragansett Bay, headed for a berth at the Newport Shipyard. The majestic 289-foot, 1,100-ton threemasted square rigger was the world-famous Maltese Falcon. The Perini Navi-designed yacht is thought to be the largest privately owned sailboat in the world.
The Falcon was in the area to prepare for the Transatlantic Race 2011. It was part of a contingent of 26 boats that would set sail in three starts over the course of one week.
The field included some of the world’s most highly regarding racing sailboats including Rambler 100, ICAP Leopard, Volvo Ocean Racing 70, and Puma Ocean Racing’s Mar Mostro.
Despite the heady company, there was little doubt that the Maltese Falcon was the star of the show, the boat everyone wanted to see. That was made abundantly clear when a huge spectator fleet turned out to see the giant yacht start on June 29. And when the Maltese Falcon started that day, there were two Jamestown residents in key positions on board.
Patti Young and Paul Hamilton have been living in Jamestown since 2004, and split their time between here and Philadelphia. They are experienced offshore sailors, winning last year’s Newport Bermuda Race. Young, who has done the Bermuda race five times and is the first woman to win the George W. Mixter Trophy for that race, is serving as navigator on the Maltese Falcon.
“I’ve been in charge of participation for the Transatlantic Race for the New York Yacht Club,” Young said. “So I had a relationship with all the boats that are entered. I met the owner and she asked if I was going. I said that I hadn’t been invited yet. She said that I was invited to be the navigator on the Maltese Falcon.”
Hamilton has done the Newport Bermuda Race five times and is serving as the tactician on the Maltese Falcon. He will be part of a five-member brain trust who will be making critical decisions aboard the vessel. “I’ve been racing since I was in my late teens,” Hamilton said. “The offshore experience is pretty paramount.”
The couple has spent some time racing on Carina, the boat that is currently the overall leader in Transatlantic Race 2011, and have their own Freres 41 which they keep in Dutch Harbor.
Young thinks that people are going to be surprised by the competitive performance of the Maltese Falcon. “We did the St. Bart’s Bucket Regatta and I did the New York to Newport race,” she said. “It’s incredible. Everybody says that it can’t point upwind. For a square-rigged boat it’s going pretty well upwind. When you’re sailing it actually feels like a normal boat.”
There are some clear differences though. “It’s a little bit bigger. It’s also a little harder to call the starting line,” Hamilton said.
The original starting line for Transatlantic Race 2011 was off Fort Adams, but the line was changed to a point off of the Castle Hill area of Newport. “With a flooding tide and a southwest wind it would be really hard for the Falcon to get out,” Young said. “Because it takes time to tack and it takes a lot of room to tack.” It takes seven minutes for the Maltese Falcon to set the sail, and eight minutes to furl the 15 sails. Unlike a traditional sailboat, the sails are trimmed by turning the three masts hydraulically.
The 2,975-mile course will take the field of 26 to Lizard Point, off South Cornwall in the United Kingdom. The passage for the Maltese Falcon is expected to take 10 to 14 days. The Falcon’s main interest is in establishing an elapsed time record. “Can we beat Rambler?” Young asked. “It is possible. If we can go a steady 20 [knots], and she can’t go a steady 30, it’s possible.”
Despite the uncertainties of sailing in the open ocean, Young, who has never done a transatlantic, expressed no apprehension. “Only about how well we do, and do we pick the right course. We couldn’t be on a safer boat,” she said.
“I cannot wait until we’re way offshore in the big open ocean. That will be very exciting,” Young added.
Hamilton shared the excitement. “This a very unique opportunity [and] a very unusual way to cross the Atlantic. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Transatlantic Race 2011 is coorganized by the New York Yacht Club, Royal Yacht Squadron, Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club.
On June 30, Patti Young sent the following message from the Atlantic: “We had a six-hour period this afternoon of little wind with very low boat speeds. We had been expecting that we would hit light air for a period, but it was still frustrating. Then almost like clockwork, the winds picked up just before 6 p.m., and we have been steadily making our way towards Point Alpha. Once we pass Point Alpha, we truly will be in the open ocean.”
She continued: “The weather and sea state have been extremely benign. It has been sunny and the seas have been stable. Each day we have had whale sightings and today we saw lots of dolphins as well.”