Emirates Team
New Zealand race boat

by  | Jun 14, 2017 | Boat Signage


As a Kiwi business, we are extremely proud of our design, production and execution of the branding for the Emirates Team New Zealand race boat graphics.


I’m sure you must be, as are we, so proud of the achievements of our tiny nation — taking on the mega-wealthy of the world and succeeding in becoming the 35th challenger for the America’s Cup in Bermuda.

We have been involved with Team New Zealand since the days when Sir Peter Blake successfully defended the America’s Cup in New Zealand, and have continuously reinvented the graphic imagery alongside the evolution of the race boats.

Have a read below for an insight into our creation of Emirates Team New Zealand’s stunning, unrivalled 50ft catamaran graphics.


A winning design

Throughout the ever-evolving image of Emirates Team New Zealand campaigns, their identity consistently evokes impressions of speed, power, pride and innovation.

We thrive in our ongoing relationship with Emirates Team New Zealand, knowing that as every campaign rolls around we must extend our creative abilities beyond anything we have ever done before. By developing original and powerful graphics, the image of our country’s team and its global sponsors is presented in a way that dominates over the other nations in the America’s Cup series.

Initially we presented three entirely different design concepts to Emirates Team New Zealand, and the unanimously favoured version was affectionately known throughout the design process as ‘The Razor’. This unique graphic design, with shards intersecting from the hull to the jib and wing, visually enhances the incredible velocity of our flying pedal-powered boat.


Up to the task

BIG’s integrated team structure allowed excellence at each step of the process, from design to prepress to application.

The challenges we faced when working on the race boat encouraged our team to be at the forefront of the signage game. The long nights and early mornings, with expectations of pin-point accuracy and exceptional quality, were all met with commitment and dedication. One of the BIG team’s greatest skills is the ability to work under extreme deadlines, whilst manoeuvring around a busy shore crew. It’s an amazing sight to see: the many individual components of this enormous vessel being simultaneously developed with the utmost precision and co-ordination.


Two 50-foot hulls

Our process for applying graphics to the hull is a complex and unusual system to create the absolutely best result. We start by masking and painting the graphic shapes and logos on the sides of the boat – back-masking, painting, back-masking again, yet again, and then finally painting the remaining areas of the hulls black. This the reverse method of how a regular project is produced.

Each cut mask has a 1.5mm overlap, which has to be laid up in exactly the right position to keep each colour and layer of paint at exactly the same level, so that when the final clear coat is applied to the hulls there is a seamless finish with not one lip of paint protruding higher.

This whole process is a very tedious and time-consuming system in comparison to conventional signage. The accuracy of back-masking has to be flawless to create the ultimate smooth finish for gliding through the water (and gliding above the water…).


The colossal wing

The America’s Cup race yacht wing is similar size and shape to that of a commercial aircraft wing. It has a solid appearance but in fact has a film stretched over a framework structure, which then has the graphics applied over the top. The artwork once again posed a great challenge for our prepress department to build files and cut vinyl with the same accuracy that is needed for the hulls. The hull and the wing are produced not only as separate pieces, but were housed in separate boat sheds, so in order for the graphical elements to line up from the hull to the wing involved a lot of careful planning and precise measurements. And of course a good eye for perspective!

The wing’s graphics were produced from 3M 180C vinyl which is a premium product. It has a very aggressive adhesive with expandable properties to allow for flexion on the high energy wing surface and also adapting to varying temperatures and humidity.


Knowing that we are working on the ‘Formula 1’ of yacht racing, a lot of planning and consideration happens behind the scenes to ensure that we are achieving minimal weight with our vinyl. We work closely with 3M to calculate the surface area and the weights of the different vinyls, and liaise with the wing designers and shore crew.


With all of these challenges we faced, and knowing the expectations for the final product, the pressure was always on. When working on the 50-footer, our allocated time on the hull – in conjunction with painters and specialised boat builders – was scheduled in military fashion. We know that if we dropped the ball in our time allocation, it would throw the entire project into mayhem.


As you can imagine, the BIG team approached the entire project – from our planning stage at four months out, to the last day we walked out of the workshop – with the utmost passion and commitment.