RIVA RIVAMARE TEST
Does this smooth operator have the personality to match its seductive looks?
We tentatively take the stitched leather wheel of the opulent sportsboat of your dreams
Astrange fact of 21st-century life is that as a species ,we seem determined to remain as tribal as we ever were. It’s perhaps understandable with today’s economic and political uncertainties feeding our insecurities about work, finance and family, but less so in the anchorage of the Baie de Cannes on an idyllic early morning in the late summer, where the sheer heavenly perfection of the scene should ensure, you might imagine, that all petty concerns were submerged beneath a benign sense of all being well with the world. Not a bit of it. It is not like Cowes Week, where your appearance in a large white plastic motor cruiser among all the frantic sailing craft is guaranteed to give rise to rude gestures and intolerant remarks. Neither does it accord with the common motorboating experience on the upper reaches of the River Thames, where expensively educated young men in fragile rowing eights display a mastery of ripe Anglo-saxon which would make their mothers blush and cause any passing dockers – on sabbatical, perhaps, from the business end of the river – to raise their eyebrows in disapproval.
In the Baie de Cannes, the prejudice is of the civilised and subtle sort that takes the form of approval tacitly granted, or withheld. In the sort of boats aboard which I am usually engaged to ply these waters, large and often white and invariably worth many times more than the roomy and comfortable house which I am pleased to call home, I have become so inured to seeing my sociable nods and cheery waves ignored that I no longer take much notice.
Riva’s new Rivamare was therefore something of a surprise. It is a very pretty craft, designed to call to mind the Italian boatbuilder’s mahogany creations of the dolce vita years. With its exaggerated flare and neat, tapered stern, it apes the styling of the classic wooden Aquarama even more overtly than the famous glassfibre Aquariva does. But unlike every Riva besides the little single-engined Iseo tender, it doesn’t have inboard engines driving conventional propeller shafts, but instead a pair of 400hp Volvos married to excellent DPH Duoprop outdrives. And it is already showing some of the sales promise of the notably successful Aquariva, with more than 25 claimed to have been sold so far, within nine months of its boat show launch.
Displacing 9 tonnes light, the Rivamare has a beautifully finished but nevertheless fairly simple interior that features so much lustrously varnished mahogany and stitched leather trim that it borders on the fetishistic. The vee berth in the bows has a neat little sliding infill to convert it into a triangular double measuring 6ft 3in long by 6ft 5in (1.90m x 1.95m) at its widest. Headroom in the galley, at the bottom of the companionway, is a perfectly reasonable 6ft 3in (1.90m).
It is, in essence, a very superior dayboat, and cruising areas like the Baie de Cannes and the rest of the Côte d’azur between Menton and St Tropez are the very waters for which it was designed. If Riva’s design department had any doubts about its first twin-outdrive concept, they didn’t make it out of the studio, and on the water, the Rivamare handled as prettily as it looks. As I lined the boat up outside the breakwater and pointed its pert nose west-south-west to clear the anchorage, I gave the throttles a first tentative prod and it rose smoothly on to the plane. The trim systems fitted – Humphree and Volvo’s own – are integrated and automatic and work extremely well. Even when we dug down through the operating screens to switch them to manual, neither I nor Angelo, the Riva captain, could make the boat handle any better or go any faster. That said, Riva’s people were disappointed with the top speed we did achieve – 36.7 knots – which is a little way adrift of the confident 40 that appears in their marketing materials.
The glorious experience of driving this alluring craft was enhanced by its being that rare creature, a true open sportscruiser, with nothing between you and the cobalt sky
It’s possible that a change of propellers would help, as our particular boat was loaded not just with a fair weight of fuel and water, but also with a 790lb (358kg) Seakeeper 5 stabiliser, the optional telescopic passerelle, and a larger-than-standard generator to power its upgraded air conditioning.
Most importantly, it didn’t feel overloaded, and came through its handling trials with flying colours. A slight swell overlaid by a lively 2ft chop was despatched with barely a second thought, and the whole glorious experience of driving this alluring craft in these attractive waters was considerably enhanced by its being that rare creature, a true open sportscruiser, with nothing between you and the cobalt sky except what hair you can still lay claim to, and perhaps the distant memory of a hat blowing far astern..
I was enjoying myself so much, and concentrating so hard on the hull’s terrific interaction with the sea, that I clean forgot to look around. The bay inshore was full of boats, all gleaming expensively in the sunshine, as their crews polished and cleaned while their owners, when they were visible at all, relaxed with their coffees and picked at the remnants of breakfast. Another day on the Côte d’azur was getting under way.
As we sped around the edge of the anchorage, giving the few intrepid fishermen and dinghy sailors a wide berth, I noticed I wasn’t the only one in thrall to the Riva. Eyes watched us from every deck, whether megayacht or fishing boat. Heads turned as we sped past, some nodding with approval, and every figure on whom I bestowed my cheerful wave returned it. The Riva, it seemed, was welcome in any company. Acceptance at last.
The wheel is an enticing combination of fabric, leather and polished steel If there’s a prettier stern on any other production boat, we’ve yet to see it The mirror finish of the cleats and grabrails is so perfect it feels like a crime to use them
The open-plan cuddy is best kept for siestas and storing your Louis Vuitton bags
Good-sized heads and shower come in handy for day and overnight usage
The galley is more likely to be used for caviar and champagne than tea and bacon butties