Does this smooth op­er­a­tor have the per­son­al­ity to match its se­duc­tive looks?

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - Words Alan Harper

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

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