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Protecting a multihull: vinyl wrap or paint?

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We went for vinyl wrap

By Michel Fischbach

Michel was born in 1961. A cardiologist in Bordeaux, France, he has been sailing since his early childhood. A long-time multihull fan, he set out in 2013 on a 5-month journey around the Mediterranean with his family on their Lagoon 380. He bought Caretta (the former Fredocean, a well-prepared Eclipse 472) in November 2015, with the aim of completing a four-year circumnavigation, which is scheduled to start in early September 2017. (See his blog www.catamarancaretta.fr)

Stickers on a boat hull? The idea might have seemed absurd until very recently! Yet, for quite a few years now, "wrapping" has been practiced on both racing cars and racing boats. We remember well the fabulous look of Pierre 1er, Florence Arthaud’s trimaran during the 1990 Route du Rhum! It remained to be seen if the durability of the product was compatible with every boat.  Wrapping or "covering" as it is known in France, has really only begun to be developed for boats in the last few years, but even the big yards are now using it. This is the solution we chose for our catamaran at the time of her refit, and we have not regretted it!  A little tip: there are three types of vinyl adhesive films of increasing quality: monomer, then the more-resistant polymer and finally, cast vinyl which is made up of several layers. The latter is most commonly used on boats because it allows for a greater flexibility for the installation in 3D using a heat source. It is very resistant to UV, sea water and abrasion.

What are the advantages of adhesive film over a paint job?

- Firstly, the price: about €6,000 for an 11m cat, fitting included (which is between half and a third of the cost of a good paint job!)

- Preparation: given a clean hull, no sanding is required.

- The immobilization time: 48 hours for our cat, which measures 15.70m!

- Health and ecological impact: no toxic solvents, and PVC is recyclable.

- Impressive range of colors and effects: customization is only limited by your imagination! Carbon effect, pearlescent, iridescent, leather...

- A decorative covering may be limited to only a part of the boat.

- Can be applied to almost any composite and aluminum base.

- The durability of the gloss is probably better than paint.

- Resistant to UV, wide temperature variations, all types of cleaning products and most solvents.

- Repair very easy by simply sticking a piece on.

- Protecting new hulls: it can easily be removed, and even after several years will reveal gelcoat as new!

 

And the downsides?

- Requires delicate and technical installation by a trained and qualified professional.

- Longevity not great: most products are guaranteed 5 years, but after that?

- The film is very fine (150μ max) and will show all the defects in a badly prepared hull

- Matt colors, but also structured effects (carbon, leather) and pearlescent and iridescent, age much more quickly. They are often only guaranteed for two years.

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