Kala and Caldera come on board to help steer a French sailor to success, using the latest techniques to address the specific issues of wrapping a racing boat.
Following two attempts at the famous Route du Rhum race, Breton skipper Gilles Lamiré is looking to put himself among the front-runners with the purchase of a Multi50 formerly named the Prince de Bretagne, a 1.27m multi-hull vessel that won the race in 2010. Having been damaged in 2011, the boat required considerable repair work and – with a change of ownership – new branding. For this, Lamiré has been able to count on local support from finishing equipment manufacturer Kala.
Having met some of the Kala team during one of the trips he runs around the Mont Saint-Michel, Lamiré knew that they would be a perfect match and approached them to become the official boat wrap provider – as well as a sponsor.
“We decided to support Lamiré for a number of reasons,” explains Laurent Bouchard, owner at Kala. “We were looking to support a sport that complies with our corporate image, but also to be part of a local project while keeping to a reasonable budget.
“The other aspect that swung it for us was the chance to relate the partnership to the vinyl decoration side of our business. Many of our users wrap cars or install vinyl onto various surfaces and use our laminators to do so. We wanted to relate our sponsorship to the product lines that we offer.”
When it came to providing a vinyl wrap for the boat, Kala wanted to do something different. With weight a huge issue on competition boats, the company suggested that the vessel be wrapped in its entirety using a brand new type of vinyl, rather than following the usual method of painting and then applying cut vinyl decals. This complete wrap would then be fully printed to show the advantages of digital printing.
“After we told him we would use the most environmental friendly possible solution, he accepted immediately,” says Bouchard. “With 250 grams per square meter of laminated vinyl, this technology is much lighter than painting and varnishing – so it is a significant advantage when looking to maximize the boat’s efficiency.”
A second factor that led to this approach was time. It takes on average six to eight weeks to prepare and finish a boat, whereas this install required a mere four days.
“The members of the other sailing teams were very skeptical about our chances to achieve this in such a short time,” admits Bouchard. “Needless to say, they were amazed and some of them are now interested in adopting this wrapping technique.”
As this was, to Kala’s knowledge, the first time that a boat has been wrapped in this manner, choosing the correct materials and production tools was a priority. For the vinyl, Kala selected one of 3M’s recently released materials – the Envision 480 film. As it is PVC and Phthalate free, its environmental credentials stood up well to the requirements of the project.
“The idea behind using 3M material was to reinforce the eco-friendly image – and also to enforce our image with leading media manufacturers,” explains Bouchard. “We do not offer printing or laminating media in our product range and therefore our machines can work with all kinds of substrates. This gives us the ability to ensure that the best possible material is used for the application.”
There were only ten days between the date the boat was purchased and the first race, which meant that Kala had to turn around the graphics rapidly for Lamiré to make it to the starting line. The files were prepared to specifications on Adobe Illustrator, with a Caldera RIP used along with an HP Latex LX850 to output the graphics. A Kala Arkane D model was used to laminate the material.
“From the four rolls of printing vinyl and four rolls of lamination, we didn’t waste a single square centimetre of media during preparation,” states Bouchard. “The Arkane D is among the only laminators, if not the only one, capable of achieving this type of work with the best quality, no waste of materials and high performances.”
When installing a vinyl wrap, the application of the material is of equal importance as the quality of the media. For this project, Kala brought in Sean Rhodes, a 3M-approved marine installer based in Portland, Oregon.
“Having tried to apply it by ourselves we have realized pretty quickly that you had to be specialized and trained to do this job,” explains Bouchard. “We were expecting some help from a local installer who could not come, so Sean ended up doing most of this job alone, with our help in holding the materials in place for him. His work was fantastic – he’s definitely the best installer we have ever seen in action.”
The wrap was completed in time for Lamiré to compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre, sailing competitively from Le Havre in Normandy to Itajaí in Brazil.
“This has been one of the craziest projects we have been ever involved in, working all day long until late in the evening,” concludes Bouchard. “After the last touch of squeegee, the result was just stunning and all the team was exhausted but happy.”
Lamiré’s next project is the 2014 edition of the Route du Rhum, which departs from Saint Malo, close to Kala’s headquarters, with Guadeloupe as the final destination. The start of the race attracts nearly two million visitors for two weeks and, with other skippers given a first-hand view of the streamlined solution provided by Kala, it could prove to be a shrewd sponsorship deal for the finishing manufacturer.