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Top Coat Series Part 5 - Top of the Line Top Coat Paint

Want to know the secret to getting the ultimate topcoat finish?

When the eventual two-time America’s Cup winner Courageous launched in June 1974, admirers agreed that the all-aluminum, 12-metre boat was an elegant sailing vessel. One thing they surely noticed was the stunning sea-foam green topside paintjob that instantly turned heads and distinguished it from the competition.

With all the attention that Courageous garnered both as a winner of sailing’s most prestigious regatta and as the plaything of media mogul Ted Turner, the paint manufacturer Awlgrip, and its innovative approach to high-grade marine surface coatings got to go along for the ride.

“That yacht got talked about so much during that time that it really brought a lot of attention to our products,” said Elenor Ekman, Awlgrip Marketing Manager.

“The Awlgrip polyester finishes are designed, of course, to hold up well in a marine environment, but what really made us stand out and built our reputation is our gloss finish. We call that our ‘distinction of image,’ and the high-gloss, mirror finish looks fantastic even after a year out to sea in full exposure.”

As an industry-leading professional-grade topcoat paint line, Awlgrip products are designed using only the highest quality resins and pigments to prevent premature fading and chalking even in the harshest conditions. But, Ekman points out, there are many success factors involved in getting the ‘ultimate’ topcoat finish, such as who’s applying the finish, where it’s being done, and the system being used.

“We can help those applicators that don’t have the luxury of a dedicated paint shed to help make the finish as good as possible with things like anti-cratering additives and drying accelerators,” Eckman said. “We always try to make it as easy as possible for all of our customers to get involved in the process, and we emphasize training to optimize their skills and understand all the different variables. Our customer training facility is getting rave reviews, and many people are learning new tricks of the trade and how to stay ahead of the game with new solutions.”

With an extensive range of products, Awlgrip strives to provide the perfect combination of primer, paint additives and coatings plus support options for any conditions, whether the work is being done in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or California, Ekman said.

“We examine the project carefully and make mast-to-keel recommendations, for instance, with our variety of non-skid deck paint, flattening agents, accelerators and maintenance products,” said Ekman. “We want everyone to understand the process and how the products work together, so there’s continuity and they get the quality result they expect.”

Color matching is big business for Awlgrip, which means customers can get exactly the color they desire. Instead of distributors carrying hundreds of different premixed colors a client can bring in a color chip or other representation and the paint can be freshly mixed to that exact specification.

According to Ekman, the most popular topcoat colors shade toward the dark blues and whites, but special effects paints such as metallic flake and designer pearlescent options are becoming more popular in certain applications. As these types of effects became more prevalent in the automotive market, more customers started asking about creating a similar effect on their yachts.

“We took our time to explore all the different technologies involved with the special effects paints,” said Ekman. “Our Awlcraft SE is one that we’re very excited about, and it’s been available for about 18-months. Remember that spraying a car is not like spraying the surface of an 80-foot boat. The trick is to get the metallic flake all laying in the same direction. That definitely requires some expertise to make it look right with the finish as consistent as possible.”

One of the first high-profile projects to utilize Awlcraft SE was the flybridge of Cakewalk, the biggest new build in North America at the time. It’s also used on large refit projects with successful results. Ekman says more boatyards are starting to offer the product because of consumer demand, particularly on large sportfishers and superyacht superstructures, because it creates a unique, premium finish. Much like interior decorating trends in the housing market, there seems to be an enthusiasm to experiment these days.

Some of the research and development going on at Awlgrip is more behind-the-scenes, however. For some uses, the acrylic polyurethane Awlcraft 2000, with its faster drying time makes for an easier application, particularly in areas where dust is likely to settle quickly. While the finished product is not quite as hard as the typical Awlgrip finish, it is much easier to repair. And for areas with either voluntary or regulated emissions requirements, the new Awlgrip HS helps meet or exceed local standards, but require special training because of the differences in paint coverage and finish.

Special thanks to Elenor Eckman of Awlgrip Yacht Coatings for her contributions to this article.

Steve Rosenberg is the former editorial director of Boating World magazine and now writes exclusively about boating and yachting.

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