Can the Brits step up to the mark in the battle of the brands?


You build a state-of-the-art, high tech carbon race yacht and then what do you do? In Britain, we like to paint on a bland corporate logo. It’s the equivalent of a polyester suit. We just don’t get it.

But they do in France. Before they launch a racing boat they go mad with the paint brush and use every square centimetre of hull and sail to turn heads. Race fleets are as multicoloured as child’s confectionery. The public loves it, photographers love it and so do the media. The most daring branding makes fantastic images that great on TV or on a magazine front cover.

Two recently launched British-built boats have bucked the trend: Alex Thomson’s carbon-black Hugo Boss and Estrella Damm, the Open 60 built in Cowes by the ultra media-savvy OC Group. In the battle of imagery, Estrella Damm is the real head-turner.

Her red hull is peppered with glow-in-the-dark stars and the sails are painted with brightly coloured flowers designed by a French artist. (The original idea of two children kissing was rejected.) All the crews we sailed by on the Solent yesterday stared, and then fished out their cameras.

The sailors on board confess they think it’s “a bit gay”, and they pay a small weight penalty of about 4kg per sail, but so what? Estrella Damm is a stunner. This imaginative style of branding is exciting and we badly need more of it.

1 comment:Of course big childish splashes of colour will turn heads. If I went out for the evening in Pompey dressed like that, so would I. Quite rightly, I would be attracting gazes of mockery and ridicule, not admiration. This nonsense is just allowing the sport to be directed by the marketing men, who, as a whole, will quite cynically use the boats as billboards. Professional cycle racing went down this road some years back, but eventually cottoned onto the fact that there was a conflict inherent in dressing the ‘Giants of the road’ in childrens’ playsuits.

There is a dignity and certain grandeur in the exploits of sailors which appeals strongly to young and old. This is, to a degree, lost when the whole shebang is decorated by a kiddies’ playgroup, as encouraged by the somewhat cynical marketeers.Pete Rigby