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It's a wrap!

by Mark Jardine 20 Feb 09:00 NZDT
17th PalmaVela: `Platoon`, TP52 © Nico Martimez / Martinez Studio

In sailing we have a lot of plain white hulls. Let's face it, when everything looks the same, it does make things a bit dull. The end of February is a dreary time, so it's time to talk about boats which brighten things up.

There are some stunning hull wraps and paint jobs on yachts and dinghies, as well as incredible spinnaker and other sail designs.

The 52 Super Series is arguably the hottest Grand Prix racing circuit in the world for conventional yachts, with the top sailors vying it out in ultra hi-tech designs. This doesn't mean that a splash of colour is out of the question, with one of the most eye-catching designs being Harm Müller-Spreer's Platoon. With the hull looking like sheets of steel rivetted together, you can always see where they are on the racetrack.

America's Cup yachts back in the day used to be a single colour, or maybe include a few stripes. Things have changed in the foiling era, with bright colours and outlandish designs. With the AC75 the hull shapes are already a far cry from what we know traditionally as a yacht, so combined with some graphics the look can be striking.

In these days of sponsorship and product placement, thought has to be put into how to ensure that the design doesn't detract from the logos, which Emirates Team New Zealand have managed pretty well on their yacht which was used in the 36th America's Cup, but has been rebranded and used for practice ahead of the event in Barcelona.

SailGP's F50 foiling catamarans concentrate on their national branding, with some now sporting title sponsors on the wings and hulls. For a circuit which is such high profile, the graphics could be regarded as a little staid, but it is clear as to which country each yacht is representing.

Spinnakers are a natural place for a bit of artistic flair, and Ian Dobson's Merlin Rocket 'Strung Up' carried a fantastic Minions spinnaker back in 2021. The fleet is already pretty colourful and back in 2007 'General Lee', in homage to The Dukes of Hazzard's Dodge Charger, complete with 01 graphic, was regularly seen on the UK racing circuit.

Elsewhere in the Merlin fleet an octopus (since writing this I've been reliably informed it's actually a kraken) and Pokémon ball have been seen...

Artists occasionally get involved, with Sarah Morris creating a spinnaker for Boris Herrmann's Malizia - Seaexplorer in The Ocean Race, as seen here:

2013 saw the UK Star class Championship held in the Royal Victoria Dock alongside the now defunct London Boat Show. Fine Art Sails was a collaboration between world class yachting and internationally acclaimed fine artists, which produced some striking designs.

This coming weekend sees the RYA Dinghy Sailing & Watersports Show where since 2009 I've been one of the judges for the Concours d'Elegance boat of the show. Over the years, there has been a marked increase in graphics with some stunning examples of both traditional and modern dinghies sporting artwork.

The 2020 winner, the Scorpion class dinghy 'Tallulah', may have a classic wooden varnished deck, but the mainsail and hull graphics really stand out. Traditional and modern can go hand-in-hand, and I can't wait to see what this year's show will bring.

The Olympics is a place for true national identity, and this image by New Zealand editor Richard Gladwell at the Rio 2016 Games caught the 470 fleet in big winds and huge seas. Even with the conditions as they were, it was easy to see which team was which.

I couldn't go without mentioning the SSL47 yachts of the SSL Gold Cup. The gold wrap on these is particularly photogenic. Combined with the kit the national teams all wore at the event, the image was striking, and we can only hope that the next SSL Gold Cup will have spinnakers branded for each nation as well.

How we are seen as a sport in the wider world is important, and those who go the extra mile to make their boats eye-catching help get sailing out to a wider audience. Today I raise a glass to those who've made the huge effort to make their yachts unique.

Mark Jardine and Managing Editor

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