Véhicule Magazine: Betty Cook & KAAMA

Betty Cook Kaama Marine

"Founded in 1976, the Kaama Racing Team consisted of Betty Cook as its owner and driver, John Connor as crew chief and throttleman, along with a number of navigators. The team ran four different hulls: a 36-foot Cigarette hull, a 38-foot Scarab, a 38-foot Cougar catamaran and a 38-foot Formula catamaran, all set up by John Connor.

Kaama Marine World Champion

Over forty years later, Kaama is still regarded as one of the most successful offshore powerboat racing teams in history. Having started in well over 70 races, Betty Cook and her crew regularly beat out the competition, employing innovative engineering to gain the upper hand. This lead them to winning U.S. championships in 1978, 1979 and 1981, as well as world championships in 1977 and 1979.

Betty Cook and Team

Betty Cook always strove to be different. Not only the fact that she was the lone woman competing in a sport dominated by machismo, but her team’s name and boats’ design also served to reinforce Kaama’s unique qualities.

KAAMA Catching Air

Cook was the sole designer behind the visuals that made the Kaama Racing Team so distinctive. The name Kaama was chosen as a reference to the south African antelope Alcelaphus buselaphus caama . The animal is known not only for its high speed, agility and jumping prowess, but also for its resilient nature and strength. Betty Cook’s boats touted similar characteristics, and the name soon came to dominate the media landscape. In contrast to the competitors’ teams, Kaama’s logo was a simple one intentionally designed in black-and-white.

Sitting in a helicopter or standing on the shore, there was no mistaking Kaama’s boat. If that wasn’t enough, a rendering of the antelope’s face on the deck further set it apart in a crowd. Kaama’s graphics were clear and legible, making their boats an especially popular subject for press photographers shooting for largely black-and-white publications.

As a result of their racing success, Cook founded a marine power and propulsion systems company under the name Kaama Marine Engineering Inc. In addition to now developing products for their race team in-house, the company also developed Kaama performance engines and surface drive systems for public sale.

Vintage Ad Kaama Motors

Aside from his work in engineering race boats at Kaama, John Connor co-developed the game-changing Arneson drive with Howard Arneson. Kaama Marine became the exclusive reseller. Once this agreement had expired, Connor, with the help of Peter Weismann, developed and released their expensive yet sought-after Kaama surface drive. This later became a special performance upgrade for Wellcraft and Formula models.

Betty Cook and John Connor tested field tested the performance engines and products that they developed, running the drives on their famous Kaama Scarab 38 and Formula catamaran. Their race boats were perfect test benches for speed assessment, efficiency and durability. As a testament to this, many Wellcraft and Formula models are still equipped with the Kaama surface drive after being run for over 20 years.

The Kaama offshore racing team also shares a long history with Mercruiser, having run their engines and drives in a number of their races. The Kaama boats also became their testing grounds for many innovative technologies that, once proven on the racecourse, became production standard.

The collaboration continued—the team regularly used Mercruiser’s “Lake X” facility for test runs and configuration assessments, and Betty Cook and Kaama boats were featured in Mercruiser advertisements.

Kaama Marine 2020

In 2009, Kaama Marine was acquired and rebranded by young entrepreneur and powerboat enthusiast Constantin Schmidt-Thomé with support of Kaama’s original co-founder John Connor…"

Read the whole story in Véhicule 2020.