Who is the greatest under-achiever among all the crews competing in the Volvo Ocean Race?
Clue: He's seven-years-old, full of mischief, comes from Springfield and is the best-known face in the race.
Rob Mundle discovers it's Bart Simpson, of course…the 13th crewman aboard Team News Corp.
Bart's famous antics have made his probably the most marketable face on television. His fame comes via the world's most watched television programme, The Simpsons, which is broadcast in more than 60 countries. Bart finished up more than an honorary member of the Team News Corp crew. He ended up with his face emblazoned on the hull and the spinnakers - and it was no mean feat getting it there, especially with a head like that! Team News Corp's PR and Communications Director, Ashley Abbott, explained how Bart came to be on the boat, literally: "We were looking for a paint design for the boat that would give Team News Corp a lift, an atmosphere of fun and have appeal to a wide range of people. Conventional designs were just that, conventional. Before we knew it Bart's head had bobbed, and with him being part if the News Corp entertainment family, we decided he was for us."
Los Angeles based Julius Preitus, an animator with Fox which is owned by News Corp, is one of the few people in the world qualified and authorised to draw Simpsons characters. He was briefed by News Corporation's Vice President Marketing, Spencer Moseska and Ashley Abbott on the task and came up with the image of Bart Simpson urging the boat onwards.
Designing the image was one thing. But getting a 2D drawing effectively onto a three-dimensional hull shape was more than complex. As well as remaining in proportion the artists doing the job at Cookson's boat building facility in Auckland were restricted to certain lightweight paints and were required to achieve a glass smooth finish. And the entire project had to be complete in time for the scheduled launch date.
Michael Brooke, of Sign City in Auckland decided he wouldn't be beaten by Bart and took on the job. Brooke and his team of expert signwriters descended on Cookson's each night after the boat builders had finished their work for the day. To maintain accuracy they created large adhesive templates of the design and positioned them on the hull according to the plan from Julius Preitus.
Sections of the adhesive pattern were removed according to colour and paint experts from Cookson's then sprayed that area. For example, Bart's big yellow head shape was pulled off and the white area that remained was sprayed the appropriate shade of yellow. That was left to dry throughout the next day and then that night it was time to do Bart's shoes. The painting process took hundreds of hours.
Reports back from Team News Corp during the first leg revealed that Bart was, as always, full of mischief: "Bart is becoming a little restless," said Jon Gunderson. "Over the last watch or two we have come to realise that this is probably not the best environment for a hyperactive seven-year-old! He has been trying to play games on the Nav Computer, messing with the off watch crew as they sleep, skateboarding on deck and just being a general nuisance. Also, there is a little matter of the ever-decreasing meals. Every meal seems to be getting a little smaller than the last and Bart's' gut is beginning to take on Homer (Simpson)-like proportions. The rest of the crew are beginning to eye him with suspicion."