Pendennis De-step M5: The World's Largest Mast

By Ben Roberts

One month after M5’s (ex. Mirabella V) arrival in Falmouth, the Pendennis Plus shipyard has successfully de-stepped her mast before she docks down for her substantial 13 month refit. M5 is located at A & P Falmouth’s Queen’s Wharf, an ideal site for an operation of this scale. The 40-man mast lifting team was onsite at 4:45am Friday morning, with the impressive 89m mast completely detached by mid afternoon.

Many statistics are quoted around m5, the world’s largest sailing sloop, but these mainly involve the space onboard. The process of removing her rig in advance of her refit is impressive in its own right. The 45 tonnes mast required a total of four cranes to coordinate the lift, including use of one of the UK’s tallest cranes. It took 16 Lorries to deliver these massive pieces of equipment to Falmouth.

The UK's largest crane with a boom length of 104m (that’s twice the length of Nelson’s column) lifted the mast itself, with two further cranes supporting the forestays with an additional crane required for the tail of the mast. Local company Macsalvors provided two of these and further coordinated the hire of two specialist cranes from Ainscough.

The central tower of Truro Cathedral is shorter than m5’s mast at only 76m (250feet) tall, so one can imagine the logistical issues of handling a mast of this size and weight. Pendennis has been working closely with Marine Results, who were responsible for the original mast and rig installation when the yacht was built in 2004.

Ed Danby from Marine Results explained that teamwork has been essential throughout “We have used our prior experience of this enormous rig to work alongside Pendennis’ expert in-house project team, with the support of many local riggers, to carefully plan and execute the issues surrounding timing, tide, equipment, and weather impact on this complex procedure. Unstepping the rig is no small job. To give you an idea of the size of the job, when we remove the boom vang, this alone is 9.5m long, weighs 900 kg and is capable of pulling 112 tonnes.”

It was essential that less than 12 knots of wind was present during the lift, and luckily, in Cornwall and the sheltered bay of Falmouth, the weather windows occur consistently with rotating settled patterns, unlike the Mediterranean yards which often face consistent spells of high breeze. This is testament to the expert knowledge of all companies involved and the world class facilities available in Falmouth to undertake a procedure of this type.

Stephen Hills, Director of Pendennis Plus, the arm of Pendennis responsible for 60m+ projects, commented “We are fortunate in Falmouth to have a fantastic network of experts and facilities that are able to support an operation of this scale. We are extremely grateful for the facilities and support offered by A & P Falmouth whilst we prepared m5 to commence work at Pendennis. The team of local riggers that supported Marine Results thought the day demonstrated that the local skill set is as strong and professional as anywhere in the world. All companies involved, have worked professionally together to ensure that the detailed planning of the de-stepping of m5’s mast occurred without issue and on schedule. We now look forward to commencing the full refit following her docking down at Pendennis this weekend.

By Ben Roberts
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