Art goes offshore with our new yacht

Professional sailing team 11th Hour Racing Team partnered with Van Orton Design to turn their race boat into an artistic canvas for ocean health

Since its earliest days, humankind has been intrigued by the power of pictures. The colorful forms and figures our ancestors painted on cave walls are the most ancient storybooks in history, our first works of art. Over millennia, they have passed on tales and traditions, without the use of a single word. 

A lot has changed for humanity and the planet hosting us since then. Still, storytelling through art is as relevant as ever. 

Professional offshore sailing team, 11th Hour Racing Team, based out of Newport, Rhode Island, USA, has an important story to tell. Its main character: the ocean, its beauty, and its delicate health. 

Supported by title sponsor 11th Hour Racing, an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring marine environments, the sailing team has decided to skip a thousand words and use our species’ most ancient technique to tell this story: a picture. Their canvas: their 60-foot IMOCA race boat, recently unveiled and set to race around the world raising awareness around ocean health. 

11th Hour Racing’s Communications Director, Alessandra Ghezzi explained: “We work with sports and philanthropy to inspire solutions for the ocean. Competing at the biggest offshore races that attract millions of spectators worldwide, 11th Hour Racing Team is a unique opportunity for us to engage with a vast audience. The team’s biggest asset is its new boat, so we decided to embed our values through unique and artistic branding, aiming to inspire, inform, and engage people to take action and leave a positive impact on the environment.” 

To bring the team’s central message “What’s below the surface connects us all” to life, 11th Hour Racing partnered with Italian artists Van Orton Design and French yacht design specialist Jean-Baptiste Epron. While the latter brought in decades of technical knowledge on how to apply a design to the angles of a race boat, the Van Orton twins, Stefano and Marco Schiavon interpreted the theme through their signature style they define as ‘Gothic-pop’, which has already seduced the likes of Disney, ESPN, and Pearl Jam. 

With a surface of over 1600 sq ft (151 m2) and height of almost 80 ft (27 m) on its mainsail, as well as 60 ft (18 m) in hull length, 11th Hour Racing Team’s IMOCA 60 is, to-date, Van Orton Design’s ‘largest’ project. Marco Schiavon emphasized: “We come from the digital world and were extremely intrigued by the idea of a computer-made illustration taking on such a large size. What stimulated us even more was being involved in a project that embraces the natural world and the possibility to make a small contribution to the team’s cause for ocean preservation.” 

Playing with the symbolic ‘11’ and the 12 dots of the 11th Hour Racing logo, representing a ticking clock in the race for climate action, the duo incorporated marine animals and natural elements such as bubbles and waves to create an engaging design. Focusing on the positive associations and the emotional ties people can have with the marine universe, cheerful colors are another significant element to the artwork. 

Marco Schiavon described their color scheme: “We love things bright and bold, and feel the colors make the artwork we created for 11th Hour Racing Team very impactful and fresh. They also highlight the positive, hopeful message that 11th Hour Racing wants to spread. In addition to the palette we usually use, we used a lot of blue hues as well as the team’s signature color of vivid orange.”

Rob MacMillan, co-founder and president of 11th Hour Racing, shared his vision for the IMOCA 60: “We wanted to create something inspiring and significantly different from other boat designs. Triggering emotional responses and establishing a real connection with the ocean is the basis when engaging people with our cause for the environment, which is the main focus for our sponsorship.” 

Communications Director Alessandra Ghezzi elaborated further: “We aspired to a look and feel that’s inclusive and hopeful. While acknowledging the urgency to act on climate change, we looked to paint a picture that focuses on the ocean’s fragile yet majestic beauty. Each individual has a different connection to it, and we look forward to inspiring as many people as possible to explore their unique interpretation of What’s below the surface connects us all and what the ocean means to them.” 

Below the IMOCA 60’s colorful surface, state-of-the-art boat building technology and a number of sustainable construction practices add to the 11th Hour Racing Team’s ambition to leave a positive impact on the environment and drive change within the marine industry. Co-skippered by Charlie Enright (USA) and Pascal Bidégorry (FRA), the boat will make a first race appearance at this year’s Défi Azimut from September 14 – 19 in Lorient, France, and then take on the iconic Transat Jacques Vabre in November from France to Martinique.