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Maltese Falcon Yacht: The Story Behind a Sailing Icon

Maltese Falcon transformed the world of superyachts forever.

By Elite Traveler

The superyacht world moves quicky, but Maltese Falcon is one sailing yacht that has stood the test of time. Looking like a modern-day pirate ship, the 288-ft motor sailing yacht is thought to be the most photographed yacht in existence. Well into its third decade on the open sea, Maltese Falcon’s iconic design remains as relevant today as it did when she first launched.

When the Maltese Falcon – the brainchild of the late Tom Perkins, her first owner – launched in 1990, it had been six years in the making. After a staggering amount of research, development, design work and innovation, the Maltese Falcon remains a bastion of the industry nearly over three decades later.

Upon first debut, it was clear she was one of the most significant yachts of the past century. Pushing all the capabilities of superyacht design, the Maltese Falcon transformed the world of superyachts forever.

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Maltese Falcon yacht
The Maltese Falcon yacht / ©SuperYachtsMonaco


Construction work was undertaken at Perini Navi’s Turkish facility in Tuzla, with the core project team made up of Perkins, naval architect Gerard Dijkstra of Dykstra Naval Architects (DNA) and Ken Freivokh of Ken Freivokh Design, who designed the interior and exterior. The yacht began life as the steel hull of an abandoned yacht project before being identified as a suitable platform for Maltese Falcon. This was the third time that Perkins had built a yacht with Perini Navi, but it would be his biggest and boldest build by far.

One of the Maltese Falcon’s most distinctive traits is her masts and sails, and the design for the entire yacht was centered around them. Powered by square-sailed “Dynarig” technology, which was suggested and developed for the yacht by Dijkstra, she features three carbon fiber masts with a computer-run sail and mast control system that allows push button sailing.

In a nutshell, her huge 25,791-sq-ft sail area is spread out over 15 sails – five for each mast – that are fixed to the mast’s curved yards and set and furled using an electrical control system. The freestanding masts are then rotated as desired to adjust the sails.

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This complex, yet extremely simple, system makes sailing the Maltese Falcon almost effortless for sailors of all skillsets – it takes just six minutes to set the sails and only 90 seconds to tack the yacht. The entire system can be run by just one person.

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In addition to its reliability and ease of use, the Dynarig system allows the yacht to sail fast and efficiently, delivering significant economic and environmental savings.

Her ease of use means she regularly travels under sail, vastly reducing her reliance on and consumption of fuel. She doesn’t shirk on performance either. Able to reach top speeds of 18 knots, the Maltese Falcon has more than proved herself out on the water, having won many sailing regattas including The Superyacht Cup 2010 and the Perini Cup several times.

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Freivokh describes the design of the yacht as being “form follows function,” while still upholding essential design principles, balanced proportions, and uncluttered and purposeful shapes. For the interior, Freivokh created an elegant aesthetic with an industrial edge. This effect was achieved using a combination of materials including walnut, Macassar ebony, glass, leather, carbon fiber and aluminum, complemented by beautiful artworks and sculptures.

The Maltese Falcon accommodates 12 guests in six cabins – the full beam master is positioned on the lower deck, with highlights including a full width dressing room and a private gym. The equally impressive VIP suite is located on the upper deck with direct access to the bridge and its own deck space. Four large doubles, all with ensuites, complete the picture.

The Maltese Falcon is a very social yacht that is well suited to entertaining. Her spacious layout allows for six different dining and entertainment spaces. The main deck is the focal point for guests to gather and enjoy. The large main saloon leads directly out to a circular bar that includes a full formal dining table – picture world-class dining under the stars.

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The Maltese Falcon bedroom interior
The Maltese Falcon accommodates 12 guests in six cabins / ©SuperYachtsMonaco
The Maltese Falcon dining room
The spacious layout allows for six different dining and entertainment spaces

Inside are two lounges and another formal dining set up, with the dining area bearing Japanese influences. The main deck is also home to a cards and games room, and modern office facilities that make it easy to work on board. All the key spaces are linked by a striking central staircase.

The exterior spaces are home to some of the Maltese Falcon’s most popular features. The central bar has played host to a wide variety of events and parties in its time. When it’s time to stop partying, there are plenty of options to sunbathe, dine or relax. Jacuzzis can be found inside and out, and recent additions to the yacht include a new spa facility with a hair salon and massage room (a qualified beauty and massage therapist sits among the 19-strong crew). There are numerous private spaces to escape to and enjoy the experience of life on the water.

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Yacht outdoor cinema
The huge outdoor cinema can project movies onto one of the yacht’s sails

Chartering Maltese Falcon

Over the years her travels have taken her all over the world, clocking close to 200,000 nm with a decent proportion under sail.

Plenty of thought has been put into her charter offering, which gives a thrilling taste of all the ingredients that make superyachts so exciting including speed, high luxury and gourmet delights. As a charter favorite, it is no surprise that the Maltese Falcon also carries a rich selection of toys and tenders, and she has been set up to appeal to every kind of guest.

The Maltese Falcon is a yacht that needs to be seen to be believed, and once seen will not be forgotten. Its late creator, Perkins, summed it up beautifully when he opined: “It is not a modest thing to say, but my creation remains an unrivaled masterpiece.”

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Maltese Falcon exterior
The Maltese Falcon offers the exhilarating performance of race sailing with seven-star luxury and comfort / ©SuperYachtsMonaco
Outdoor deck
The Maltese Falcon has been set up to appeal to every kind of guest

Images courtesy of SuperYachtsMonaco

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