Black carbon paint makes boat virtually invisible to radar systems on other ships

The record-breaking powerboat Earthrace has taken on a black look to protest against Japanese whalers in some of the world's most dangerous waters late this year.

The 24m trimaran powerboat has special paint which deflects radar waves, meaning it can sneak up on Japanese whalers almost unseen in the Southern Ocean.

"It is like a stealth boat," said skipper Pete Bethune, who skippered Earthrace last year when it became the fastest powerboat to circumnavigate the globe.

The black carbon paint makes it virtually invisible to radar systems on other ships.

The boat has also been fitted with a broadband radar which cannot be detected by other vessels.

Mr Bethune would not say if they would run without navigation lights in an attempt to get close to the Japanese whalers.

"You do what you have got to do."

He said Earthrace was being bought by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and would join the ship Steve Irwin on a three-month mission to protest against the Japanese whaling programme.

Conditions in the Southern Ocean for the protest voyage would be "brutal", Mr Bethune said, but Earthrace was a tough boat and well proven in heavy seas.

It had had an additional 500kg of Kevlar added to the hull beneath the waterline to strengthen it for possible contact with sea ice.

Mr Bethune said he expected waves up to 12m high during the three-day voyage to the Southern Ocean from Perth. Earthrace would not follow Sea Shepherd tactics and try to ram Japanese whalers.

"We need different tactics. I can't tell you what they are. But we will stir things up down there. We are well resourced."

Mr Bethune said his concern was for the safety of his crew and boat. "We are going down there to mess with some Japanese who are extremely pissed off. They believe they have got a right to continue taking these whales and we believe they haven't."

Earthrace is due to leave Auckland at the end of the month for Perth and will sail for the Southern Ocean on December 7.

- NZPA