FOR GARETH THOMAS, watching paint dry is the opposite of tedium. As a technical support team manager at AkzoNobel he has devoted much time to doing just that.

The results speak for themselves.Over a 13-year-career Gareth has been involved in the development of a number of breakthrough products – including the ultra-high gloss topside paint Perfection Pro.

He captured the paint drying process on film to demonstrate how its ultra high-gloss coating developed in real time. “It was genuinely really interesting,” Gareth insists.

Based at AkzoNobel’s International yacht coatings in Southampton, UK, Gareth is part of the yacht division’s R&D team, where he develops long-term strategies for a pipeline of products for the next 30 years.

“I’m quite lucky that I get to be involved in a huge number of innovation projects,” he says. “I seem to be the go-to person across most new projects in the yacht business, so it’s quite a varied role.”

The AkzoNobel Custom Paint Guides, available via International yacht paint websites, which Gareth played a pivotal role in creating, have been the defining project of his career so far.



To develop the guides, Gareth decided the best approach would be to “get a load of boats and just paint them”, with a crew filming the process.


“We hired a local shed in one of the marinas in Southampton and we acquired six boats in various states of disrepair,” he says.


“Over a period of two weeks we built up a video library and then spent what felt like months making sure that all the text and lengths of videos were edited in such a way that as you piece together this custom guide, you didn’t pick up a random selection of things, so they work together.”



Gareth thinks the project made his hands “probably the most famous hands in the world” as he spent an entire day mixing different types of paint and filming them from different angles.

One of the main challenges was filming the boats from angles that could be used by customers in countries across the globe.


“You can get very specific UK-style boats that wouldn’t work particularly well in the US or in Australia,” he explains. “We spent a lot of time finding certain video angles to try and make sure that it didn’t put people off because it’s nothing like the boats we’ve got here. We tried to get generic-looking boats.


“You’ve got a lot of YouTube vloggers out there, where you can watch a video to show you how to do something but it’s very specific to what they’re doing,” Gareth says. “But the breakthrough bit of this was about how we can actually turn this into little bits that can be pieced together so someone can build their own custom guide.”



Beyond the AkzoNobel Custom Paint Guides, working with International has given Gareth the opportunity to travel as part of The Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race)  supporting AkzoNobel’s entry.


“It gave me the opportunity to go and see customers in different parts of the world and get feedback from there, which all feeds back into a lot of the innovation projects that we’re doing.”

Gareth says he’s proud to work with the International brand: “Most of the people who work in the yacht business are in it, not because they’re interested in paint, but because they’re into boats.

“We’re helping to bring joy to people’s lives, whether that’s making your own canoe, refurbishing a little boat, or a parent and their kids working on a boat on the weekend.”