KAAMA Marine x Vehicule Magazine

VÉHICULE Presents: Betty Cook & KAAMA

Betty Cook Kaama Marine

Read about Betty Cook & friends in VÉHICULE.

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. 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 always strove to be different. The fact that she was the lone woman competing in a sport dominated by machismo, in conjunction with her team’s name and boats’ designs served to reinforce Kaama’s unique standing. Cook was the sole designer behind the visuals that made the Kaama Racing Team so distinctive. The name 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 strength and resilient nature. Betty Cook’s boats touted similar characteristics, and the name soon came to dominate the media landscape. In contrast to the competitors’ logos, 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 especially popular subjects for press photographers shooting for largely black-and-white publications.

Betty Cook and Team

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

KAAMA Catching Air

The Kaama offshore racing team also shares a long history with Mercruiser, having run their engines and drives in a number of 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.

Vintage Ad Kaama Motors

Read about Betty Cook & friends in VÉHICULE.

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