New Cat, New Colors

If you thought that the Puma Avanti — formerly ABN Amro Two — sported an unusual paint job, baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Really, how many boats can you think of that boast an asymmetrical paint job? Likely zero, but that’s exactly what Puma rolled out of Goetz Custom Boats’ yard in Bristol, Rhode Island on Monday evening. The boat, which has been detailed to look like a different shoe when viewed from either port or starboard, was designed by Botin & Carkeek — with a lot of input from Puma watch captain Chris Nicholson — and is currently at Newport Shipyard where she is being fitted with her keel and rig. Puma plans to publicly unveil the boat in Boston on May 12; this is likely the first chance that media will have to see the boat up close and personal.

As you can imagine with a boat that is so design heavy on the graphics, Puma’s graphic designers spent months working out an ideal color scheme. Perhaps the coolest element of the new boat — graphic design wise — is the way the Puma team dealt with the mandatory 5-square meter red “box” that must be on the underside of each boat to make it easier to spot from the air, should the boat capsize en route around the world. Rather than going with an unimaginative red square, Puma designed their red area to resemble their cat-logo puma leaping out of the water, once the boat is heeled to weather. While the boat is asymmetrically painted, this cool-cat feature is depicted on both sides, which should make for an exciting-looking boat, especially when she lights up under full sail. Still, one has to wonder how it will be to go around the world — sailing through hot climates — on a jet-black, solar-absorbing boat. According to Puma skipper Ken Read, “we’ll find a way to make it work, and work well.” Hopefully the team has packed some solar-powered fans, or other heat-survival technologies. The good news, however, is that the black paint job will make the legs through the Southern Ocean that much warmer.

Puma Ocean Racing is the only American-flagged team that’s entered in the 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race. Given the fact that the new breed of VO70’s are now Version-2.0 models, it will be interesting to see how the new designs effect boatspeed, boat handling, and the new course, which is speculated to contain more upwind work than the previous routing. Most campaigns are expected to be spec’ing their new rides at max beam, and Puma is no exception. “We’ve been aiming for a whole string of base hits with this boat,” said Read during a tour of the boat while she was still at Goetz. “Instead of counting on a few home runs, our plan is to do as many little things right as possible.” Interestingly, Read’s baseball analogy took some explaining to his team of sailors-cum-boatbuilders, who mostly hail from Australia/New Zealand and Europe. “I should have used a cricket analogy,” Read said with a laugh, “but the guys have learned about baseball.”

Cricket, baseball, or surfing down huge waves in the Southern Ocean, the new Puma looks fast — stay tuned for more info on the new ride as it becomes available.

Posted: April 23, 2008

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