GBH’s monster Puma yacht

London-based design agency GBH has designed the livery and graphics for sports brand Puma’s 70 foot yacht which will compete in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. The livery features giant red octopus tentacles and a watery Puma…

London-based design agency GBH has designed the livery and graphics for sports brand Puma‘s 70 foot yacht which will compete in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. The boat, called the Mar Mostro (Monster of the Sea), sports giant red octopus tentacles on its hull and sail, and an enormous, watery Puma (dubbed the Aqua Cat) appears to be leaping up from the waves at the bow…

“We wanted to create a livery that represents the non-stop battle between the team and the elements, but to do that in a fun way,” says Mark Bonner, creative director at GBH, of the livery of the boat and its enormous 100 foot tall sails.

“Back in 2008, for Puma’s boat Il Mostro (The Monster), we designed the boat as if it was a giant shoe in the water,” he continues. “This time, its been very much the other way round. Every element of the livery’s design is made up from either the monster’s red tentacles or with illustrated waves of water. Our aim was to create an interplay that really comes alive in photography when the boat’s design connects with the real waterline of the sea, especially at high speed.”

“This project is about Puma getting a wider audience interested in sailing,” continues Bonner. “More than that, its about getting people in the water, having fun, enjoying the ocean and understanding the environmental plight the ocean faces. The idea with getting involved in a round-the-world boat race (it used to be called the Whitbread) is to prove Puma’s sailing gear in the most testing of conditions.”

Phil Bold, senior designer at GBH who also worked on the project explains that Puma has a big collection of footwear and apparel that will be put to the test by the crew on the boat, as well as being available to the public. “There’s a massive grip story in this range of products and the boat design has been taken right through into a pretty futuristic set of shoe designs, the soles of which also resemble the sucker pads on octopus tentacles.”

As well as a showcase for its latest sailing clobber, Puma is also using its inclusion in the yacht race to communicate a message of sustainability, to kids. GBH has created a children’s character called Marmo – yes, Marmo is a red octopus. He appears on various Puma kids products…

And Marmo also exists in a team mascot kind of way too:

To further aid the sustainability message, Puma has teamed up with paddleboarding star Laird Hamilton.”He’s going to be involved in an initiative where he’ll work with the team’s navigator to seek out the biggest waves and may even paddleboard one of the legs of the race, from Lorient in France to Galway, Ireland,” explains Bonner. “The custom made carbon fibre paddleboard he’ll use has been designed by us to look like a mini version of the boat. There will be a version available for the public to buy too.”

Regarding the design of the boat, Bonner reveals that the medium in which the livery was applied had to be considered very carefully. “Weight is crucially important, so it was decided very early on that the less the livery weighed, the better. In the end, after testing two panels, it was decided that the carbon fibre boat would be painted by hand rather than apply vinyl graphics. This turned out to be a massively intense process, it took 600 hours to airbrush paint the livery onto the hull.” The sound is a little on the quiet side in this short film – but it gives an idea of the work involved airbrushing the artwork onto the hull:

“The most amazing thing about this job,” says Bonner, “is the scale of the thing. It’s been over a year’s work for us in total, and now the crew has a ten month battle with the elements which starts in Alicante in October.”

GBH has also just designed an outdoor print campaign to promote Puma’s involvement in the round-the-world race. The posters will run as 6, 48 and 96 sheet posters in the five stop-over port cities the boat will stop at during the race.

For more information about the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012, visit


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