RIBs SHOOTOUT - How do you like your RIBs?
The RIB is an inflatable boat but in less than 50 years it has morphed into more than just that — luxury tender, super sportsboat, dashing dayboat, adventure craft, even weekender. JOHN FORD explains
When the editor suggested we should test some saucy RIBs, I was sure it was his shout for a pig-out in my don’t-wear-your-best barbecue shirt. Because a lot of us will be more familiar with the ribs you eat than with the RIBs that go to sea.
In Europe, the rigid inflatable boat (RIB) is a common sight swanning around the Med’ yet in Australia the popular lifestyle boat has been slow to gain traction.
While inflatable hulls have been around for many years, the addition of a rigid hull was introduced only in the mid-1960s. One of the early RIBs to be constructed — the Psychedelic Surfer — entered the 1972 Round Britain race and was among only a handful of boats to finish, thus proving the seaworthiness of the design.
RIBs have had since enjoyed success in such applications, with the armed forces and rescue organisations jumping aboard due to their high-volume capacity and stability in rough conditions. That said, the boats we are testing here align more closely with luxury yachts or Sunday sorties than commando raids.
The RIB is a happy coming-together of the inflatable hull’s inherent stability and the fibreglass hull’s hydrodynamic efficiency. At rest, the tubes running around the perimeter give superb stability and safety, even in quite small variants. The air-filled tubes have a remarkable amount of buoyancy and even if the boat is swamped it remains afloat and sheds the water through its self-bailing hull’s scuppers.
The incorporation of a fibreglass hull allows for rapid acceleration, reducing drag by lifting the tubes clear of the water. As speed increases, the hull’s deep-vee provides a soft ride through the waves and the flatter rear sections, in combination with the aft-end of the tubes contacting the water, add stability.
But one of the worries people seem to have with inflatable boats is the susceptibility to damage. To reassure everyone, Neil Webster from Sirroco Marine points out the force required to hole 1100 Hypalon is the same as that to hole a 4mm alloy plate boat. He adds that thanks to multiple compartments, even with one holed, the boat is still sound. In fact, with all tubes deflated your boat is still driveable.
To see how the latest RIBs cope with Australian conditions we put three of Europe’s finest to the test on Sydney Harbour and beyond. From Ital comes the Capelli Tempest 1000, from England the Scorpion Serket 850, and from the Ukraine the Brig Eagle 780.
Trade-a-boat’s crew had the UK-bred Cougar RIBS in our sights when we set about performing our big duckie shootout. Only problem was, the Cougar team were either delivering boats — a Bertram from Australia to New Zealand —
or driving them to the Mandurah Boat Show in WA.
So we took a rain check and decided to run this box announcing Cougar and outlining some of the brand’s features. Amid the Cougar lineup, the R11 Sport speaks volumes as a real performance RIB. Which is to be expected when you consider the company is the brainchild of Steve Curtis, a UK offshore powerboat world champion.
The surprise is the grunt. Powered by twin 330hp 350 MAG MerCruiser inboards with sterndrives, the Cougar R11 is a quite different beast to the "mainstream" outboard-powered big-RIB fleet. But in keeping with them, the equipment list, with a well-considered spread of options, underscores the trend to ever-more comfortable and capable RIBS.
A fibreglass T-top offers shade over the helm console, there are bow cushions, Flexi-teak flooring and courtesy floodlights, with a transom shower astern and, importantly, an electric toilet in the centre ‘cabin’ — accessed via a hatch in the centre console — that also features sink and pull-out shower. A changeroom for the fairer sex.
Electronics run from Clarion sound system to Garmin 12in chartplotter, but it’s the inherent seaworthiness of this race-bred hull that underscores the R11’s outstanding cruising capability. The balsa-cored hull, made with Aramid and E-glass, saves on weight but not strength, while heavy-duty Orca 1200gsm Hypalon ensure reliable working life of the outer tubes.
The Cougar R11’s top speed is 58kts and she is licenced to carry 10 passengers. With half that many, you could put to sea and blast up the coast to a less-crowded anchorage, dive the day away, do lunch together, then crank-up the volume —
and twin V8s — and hightail it home. This is very much the performance RIB and we’ll be reporting back in greater detail in the future.
The Cougars available here are made in NZ under licence from the UK yard. The R11 Sport was selling for $280,000 with the aforesaid options.
For more information, contact Eagle Yachts, Rose Bay Marina, Suite 1, 594 New South Head Road, Rose Bay, NSW, 2029, phone Brad Rodgers on (02) 9328 7400; 0419 916 469, email: email@example.com or see www.eagleyachts.com.au
— David Lockwood
Capelli Tempest 1000 WA
At nearly 10m in length, the Capelli Tempest 1000 WA is the biggest of our trio and unashamedly targets the high-end dayboat market with all the extras to get you out in style and comfort. The boat oozes Italian charm and hospitality and, with twin 300hp Suzuki four-stroke outboards, the Capelli will get you to your destination quickly. Boasting a capacity of 18 people, you will not be short of friends and they won’t be short of room thanks to four separate deck areas.
The bow is easily accessed by raised sidedecks leading from the helm console. These are wide enough to traverse in a seaway or underway and supported by well-placed handholds for moving around. A removable, full-width sunpad invites you to laze up front and is protected by a sturdy stainless steel bowrail, fitted with fender keepers, split at the bow for a clear path to the dock or beach.
Because of the height of the bow section, an optional ladder would be worthwhile for beach landings. Otherwise, the supplied windlass will take care of anchoring duties and stow the anchor under the Flexiteak-covered step. This flooring flows throughout the whole boat for a high quality and well-finished look.
The helm offers a wide twin-seat arrangement with comfortable flip-up bolsters, while the dash hosts a tasteful array of Garmin instruments for the Suzuki outboard, as well as a Lowrance HDS7 plotter-sounder.
A wide, sliding door to port of the helm takes you down to the cabin. Equipped with a dry-cell alcohol stove, a sink and 50lt Waeco fridge, you’ll find all the necessities for whipping up a meal, although it might be a bit of a stretch if all 18 guests get peckish at once.
Forward of the galley area is a lounge and table, with room for four. An infill creates a huge double bed in case you want to stay over. An enclosed head connected to a macerator and 60lt holding tank, with a washbasin and mirror, add to the amenities.
The optional targa over the helm supports a sunshade, but an additional removable section can be fitted to run right back to the transom. The cockpit sports a generous U-shaped lounge with seating for up to seven and a removable table for doing lunches. A walkthrough leads to extended swim platforms and foldaway swim ladder. A shower connected to 160lt of freshwater is provided for post-swim wash-downs. Storage is well taken care of with all seating incorporating generous dry bins.
Advance the throttles and the boat gets quickly underway. Takeoff is flat and there is good vision through the screen. The Capelli Tempest cruises happily at 3700rpm at 24kts with a combined fuel usage of 73lt/h for the twin 300hp four-stroke Suzuki outboards. The boat tops out at 6100rpm for a sizzling 49kts.
This RIB was well mannered and performed safely throughout the rev range. The ride was soft crossing ferry wash in the harbour. Although there was some banging from the crockery below, everything else is rock solid. At sea, the boat handled the swell with aplomb and there was never a hint of spray coming aboard.
The Capelli is easily driven, has plenty of room and is extremely stable. It turns well and predictably, belying the fact that you have three tons of boat beneath you. It’s fun and roomy and has the benefit of sun protection and the ability to overnight.
FACTS & FIGURES
Capelli Tempest 1000 WA
PRICE AS TESTED
$240,000 w/ 250hp motors
MATERIAL: Handlaid solid GRP hull with Neoprene-Hypalon tubes
TYPE: Deep-Vee Monohull with RIB tubes
LENGTH OVERALL: 9.6m
REC. MAX. HP: 600
REC. MIN. HP:
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Suzuki 300
TYPE: Fuel injected four-stroke petrol V6
RATED HP: 300 (each)
Win Win Marine,
Sandy Bay Road,
Clontarf, NSW, 2093
Phone: 0404 352 227
Scorpion Serket 8.5m
The Scorpion Serket 8.5m is the sportiest of our three test RIBs and has a big reputation to uphold. Scorpion RIBs hold several offshore race records in their class including London to Monte Carlo, and around Britain. The UK has a long seafaring tradition and is home to many luxury yachtbuilders, but the Scorpion sits comfortably with this heritage and the reputation for quality and finish.
Sitting low in the water, with a sweptback centre console, the wedge-shaped Scorpion has a sleek and stylish appearance. Adding to the suggestion of speed are twin Mercury Verados offering 400hp in total.
Construction of the deep-vee 24-degree hull is handlaid and medium tech GRP with solid stringers. There are five Hypalon composite tubes (with two-year warranty) that are kept to proper inflation by an electric air-pump and pressure-release valves.
The layout is simple with a compact central helm and open decks finished in Flexiteak. The bow comes in to a narrow point but with room for a raised deck and removable sunpad. The tubes here have a simple inbuilt lead for an anchor rope with pop-up cleats provided for anchoring. Under-deck storage is nearly 2m long providing space for water toys, such as wakeboards.
The centre console has a storage area in its forward section, through a large flip-up hatch assisted by hydraulic struts. A dedicated compartment inside safely stores the anchor and rope. Because of the sharp rake of the helm module there is limited height but it does provide a large, dry storage area, which also houses the electrical switch panel and a fire extinguisher. An optional head is listed for fitment here but it will offer limited privacy.
The helm is a definite winning feature of the Scorpion Serket. Electric bolster seats give superb support and a number of different options. With the bolsters set down completely you can stand, anchored in position by the moulded footrest. Lifted completely, the bolsters give a comfortable ride with a body-hugging contour that keeps you in place even in the sharpest of turns.
The dash blends with the sporty image of the boat. The helm is set to starboard — but can be moved to order — and in this configuration all the controls fall naturally within reach of a right-handed driver.
The wheel is an Italian Isotta alloy-spoked number with the same suede grip carried over from the finish on the grabrails. The Mercury SmartCraft instruments dispense comprehensive readouts of all engine conditions, with a Northstar M121 15in ’plotter located centrally, and the Fusion iPod compatible stereo and Icon VHS radio nearby. Switches operate the Bennett trim tabs.
In the cockpit, the moulded helm seat unit includes plush rear-facing seating for two ahead of a wide transom lounge that can accommodate three comfortably, with a slip-in teak table sitting in between. It’s a great social layout.
There’s storage under the seats, particularly in the transom which has loads of space and also houses the twin batteries, bilge pump and fuel strainers.
The outboard well manages to squeeze in a narrow teak step and swim ladder to port and the freshwater shower is connected to a 70lt tank.
Three lift points are fitted for getting the boat onto your superyacht. There isn’t much sun protection, so the optional bimini would be a must for Australian conditions.
Underway, the boat lives up to its hype. It accelerates quickly and settles into a happy cruise around 3700 revs returning 33kts. At 5500rpm it reaches 46kts, which is quick but the boat’s forte is in maintaining high speeds as conditions get rougher.
Steering south past Sydney Heads, we encountered a slight swell and a nasty chop. Most boats this size would demand you back off, but the Scorpion RIB replies: "Keep going!"
As the props get air over waves, there is no sensation of loss of control. The landing is soft, too, and the boat can be thrown around from side to side, all the while feeling safe and predictable, with the tubes taking up the weight in turns to keep things on an even keel. The sweptback windscreen sends the air rushing above your head and it is possible to carry on a conversation right up to full speed.
At 3700rpm, the twin 200hp Mercury Verados consumed 22.9lt/h, giving a very useful cruising range from the 450lt tank.
The Scorpion is built with quality as much as it is for speed. Its style and pedigree help explain the $170,000 price-tag. It’s the most fun of the three to drive and its chic look impress.
FACTS & FIGURES
Scorpion Serket 8.5m
PRICE AS TESTED
$160,000 w/ 2 x Suzuki 175
MATERIAL: GRP hull
TYPE: Monohull with tubes
OVERALL LENGTH: 8.75m
HULL LENGTH: 7.93m
BEAM: 1.8m (internal); 2.75m (external)
WEIGHT: 1660kg (dry)
FUEL: Approx 450lt
REC. MAX. LOAD: 2300kg
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Mercury Verado
TYPE: Supercharged EFI four-cylinder outboard
RATED HP: 200 (each)
Scorpion RIBs Ltd,
Lymington, Hants, UK
Scorpion Ribs Australia,
Rozelle Bay Superyacht Marina,
PO Box 353,
Double Bay, NSW, 1360
Phone: (02) 0406 380 947
Fax: (02) 9337 6258
Brig Eagle 780
Built in the Ukraine, which occupies the northern coastline of the Black Sea, the Brig may well be a product of its environment. You can get from here to the Atlantic via the Dardanelles and the Mediterranean, making it an ocean-going country in a roundabout way. Moreover, Brig is the biggest builder of RIBs in Europe, say local importers, and it has sold more than 2000 inflatable boats in Australia through an extensive dealer network.
The Brig Eagle 780 was released only a few months ago and is the newest model from a company that, we are told, employs 1000 workers and has been producing boats since 1999.
At $99,500 as tested, the Brig is the smallest and the most affordable of out of our three test RIBs. but it still has a number of features that stand out. And for a company that makes parts for the Russian military this is a surprisingly pretty boat. The lines are smooth and pleasing and, while it does not have the edginess of the Scorpion, it still looks sporty.
The construction is ’glass and Hypalon composite (five-year warranty) with a deep-vee hull that runs full length. There is a range of some seven colours available and power is from a single 300hp Mercury Verado ( without twins you save).
The bow has a fibreglass step that separates the hull for increased space on the raised foredeck. The step looks more practical than elegant but does make boarding easier and the whole bow section gives good protection to the retracting anchor with electric winch.
An infill is available that converts the bow seating area into a huge daybed. You’ll also find an inbuilt seat at the front of the helm console with room for two. The bow, therefore, is a second social area away from the main rear lounge.
The centre console has a portside door that opens into a stand-up space with room for an enclosed head. The console’s helm is also to port and features a raised moulded dash housing the controls, a switch panel, Mercury SmartCraft instrument display, and a large ’plotter. The dash ahead of the navigator has a storage bin with lid, a 27MHz radio and a fusion iPod stereo.
A one-piece, three-sided and tinted windscreen sits atop the console and is easy to see through while seated. It deflects the wind nicely over the helm at speed. The helm seat has a bolster allowing for a variety of driving postures — stand, sit high or in the normal position — and all are comfortable with the controls easy to reach and operate.
The cockpit has a transom seat for three and a table converts the space into a usable lunch area. The targa gets the GPS receiver and aerials out of the way and allows for attachment of the optional bimini. Two swim platforms extend past the transom and a swim ladder gets you from the water.
The tubes are fitted with non-slip material at strategic points, making for safer boarding in wet conditions, and there are handholds along the length of the tubes to assist safety underway.
The Eagle 780 gets vigorous performance from the Verado ouboard, with a very flat takeoff, settling into a cruise at 3700rpm for 22kts and a 37lt/h fuel burn. At 5500 revs the RIB reaches a quite respectable 51kts.
The ride is great. The Brig turns sharply and flat, and proved efficient and safe in ocean swells and chop. Some spray came aboard with the 16kts crosswind on test day, but in most directions, the RIB remained dry.
The Brig does everything well. It has plenty of storage, comfortable seating and lots of space to lounge around. We can’t give a long-term verdict, but the finish was very good on the test boat.
FACTS & FIGURES
Brig Eagle 780
PRICE AS TESTED
$90,000 w/ 200hp Mercury
MATERIAL: Fibreglass hull; Hypalon composite tubes
TYPE: Monohull with tubes
1080kg (sans engine)
REC. MAX. HP: 300
REC. MAX. LOAD: 1940kg
MAKE/MODEL: Mercury Verado
TYPE: Supercharged EFI outboard
RATED HP: 300
70 Jones Bay Wharf,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: Neil Webster on 0418 247 461
Photos: RIBs underway, (L-R) Capelli Tempest 1000 WA, Brig Eagle 780, Scorpion Serket 8.5M; RIBs beached, (L-R) Scorpion Serket 8.5M, Brig Eagle 780, Capelli Tempest 1000 WA; Cougar R11 Sport; Capelli Tempest 1000 WA: Scorpion Serket 8.5M; Brig Eagle 780.
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