BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 61 SERIES II
Rivera gets its powerful 61 back on track, while taking the interior to an altogether new and exciting place. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports.
If you ever doubted the pull of brand power then consider the owners of the Riveria 61 Series II pictured and tested hereabouts. They have owned previously, in no particular order, a 3300, 36 Flybridge, 4000 Offshore, M290, M430, M360, M400, 45, 51, and 43 Offshore. That's more than $6 million in Riviera boats excluding a few trades and their new $2.5 million baby.
The 61 Series II, with semi-custom touches such as granite galley and bathroom counters, and twin 1500hp Caterpillar C32 engines with conventional shafts, lifts the luxe factor while delivering greater seaworthiness than any of their previous Rivs. Both of these things were important as the intention is to embark on some serious coastal cruising.
This evolution of the Riviera 61 Series II is interesting in itself. The hull, designed in cahoots with Dutch naval architect Drank Mulder, has been previously used as the 58, 60, and 61 Series I. I'm told the very first 58 was a 40-knot rocketship. When we tested the 58 with 1400hp V12 Cats it hit 36kts. The 60 was also a great boat with the twin Caterpillar C32s, pulling 37kts.
But with the smaller 1000hp C18 Caterpillars and some subsequent changes to the fuel system and, thus, weight distribution, - the fulcrum shifted forward - the boat travelled too flat. This was a bugbear of some early 61s and, reading between the lines, we suspect it's partly the motive behind this new Series II.
Thankfully, the fuel system on the new 61 Series II has been changed and the boat's trim is back to where Mulder intended it to be. Additionally, the boat we tested here had the C32s that are without doubt the best match for this in-some-ways-un-Riviera-like performance hull.
With a fine entry, relatively narrow beam for its length, and plenty of weight, the 61 needs power to drive it forward and keep it on an even keel. But don't mistake that for lack of efficiency. In the cruising groove of 2000 to 2200rpm, the boat
is racing along at 27 to 31.6kts for a range of about 340nm from 90 per cent of the 5000lt fuel supply. Coastal passages pass in a few blinks.
Of course, you should prepare for all eventualities in a boat intended for serious cruising. The weather is out of your control, for one, but Miss Sunshine seemed a fitting name for this 61 Series II. The Gold Coast gloom descended on us during our test, but tucked away in the enclosed flying bridge - an Open 61 is available for mainly the Florida market - one's enthusiasm isn't exactly dampened.
As with the previous 61, this new incarnation offers penthouse living in a flybridge with lounges, wetbar and separate AV system; abundant head and shoulder room; but some altogether new layout changes that really do enhance the boat's liveability. With a 60-footer, designers just find a lot more room to move.
While the flybridge needed no change, the 61 Series II is now available in three- or four-cabin versions. Miss Sunshine is the three-cabin version with new fore-and-aft double bed in the portside stateroom - the bed used to be offset - alongside an opening portlight with breaker switch back to the dash. We like the fact you can sleep with natural ventilation, not to mention the huge storage area under the lift-up bed for spares, soft-bags, victuals and so on.
The equally generous forward stateroom with a settee and en suite creates a second fully-enclosed private abode perfect for cruising with another couple. The four-cabin version gains a couple more bunks to starboard, instead of the settee, and a pullman berth in the fourth cabin cum utility, white room or laundry. This boat had separate Miele washer and dryer in a cabinet before the VIP cabin. These are the ultimate units and you'll never be short of clean clothes.
But the biggest layout change is the aft galley. As touched on, when you get to 60 feet there is a greater sense of space and the saloon, now located amidships, boasts terrific, big opposing lounges that encourage social discourse, a nap before the TV during a wet weekend or Sunday afternoon, if not some "me time" with book in hand.
With galleyware, bathware, and décor packages, electric Roman blinds, and Riviera's high-gloss cherrywood joinery, Miss Sunshine looked sharp even before her personal aftermarket touches. The hard-wearing Amtico flooring around the galley adds to the sense of utility, while soft liners just about everywhere else impart a homely feel.
A bigger triumph is the full-width glass windscreen, in place of inbuilt cabinetry, that directs light and views back into the mid-positioned saloon. There's just no feeling at all of being sandwiched in. And if crew or guests want to ride farther aft, where the boat's motion is best, then there's always the mezzanine seating back outdoors. We'll get to that.
Like all good cruising boats, refrigeration comes in spades on Miss Sunshine, with eight upgraded Vitrifrigo drawer fridges and freezers, four of which reside in cabinetry, and a wetbar with electric drinks-rack and icemaker near the internal stairs to the flybridge. Back to port, you can have bar stools fronting the forward edge of the galley - not our take - or a traditional dinette before the adjoining lounge.
One of Riviera's signature awning windows - they take some muscle closing - extends the boat's living space and, with short storm side clears, the new mezzanine seating, topped in luxury Macromarine manmade upholstery, really does function as an all-weather entertaining area. The elevation adds to the views and, thanks again to the volume of this 60-footer, there's a real sense of space akin to what you'd find at a top restaurant.
When not eating, the mezzanine seating serves as a feet-up lounge or, for serious anglers, a perch from which to watch the lures/baits. After a blatt offshore in stormy conditions, I couldn't discern any salt build-up indicating blowback on the saloon door and aft window.
The proportions of the 61 are really very sweet, none too top heavy, but a great balance between indoor and outdoor spaces. The walkaround decks feature raised toerails and, in this case, a spread of smart blue LED courtesy lights. As ever on a Riv', grabrails are where you instinctively reach for them, but the recessed ceiling rails are oval for a nicer touch. The anchoring gear includes a 100-pounder and 100m of ½in chain - sleep easy - and salt and freshwater washdowns. The boat was also plumbed with a gurney.
Cockpit highlights include a very smart swing-up concealed barbecue that we've ably demonstrated via video and the stills hereabouts. The cockpit fridge, plus flybridge fridge, takes the number of fridges to more than 10. But with a 5kW integrated inverter also serving the AV system, lights, freshwater pump and outlets, you can sit at anchor in silent-ship mode with a cold drink. The 22.5kW Onan helps with the 96,000btus of air-con, cooking with Miele appliances or deck barbie, and watermaker, of course.
The 61 Series II hawsepipes and below-deck cleats add to the clean look, with toe-kicks under handy sidepockets. As this is a cruising boat, an optional hydraulic swimplatform seemed like a good idea. It certainly adds to the waterfront real estate, while assisting with launching water toys or oneself. Underwater lights add to the fun after dark. Mind the noahs. A 400kg davit up front will let you swing a decent jet-RIB.
Fish wise, the cockpit is roomy, with a mounting-base included for a chair - Riviera will gladly spec the boat for heavy tackle as per another faithful Riviera owner, Peter Teakle's bold new 70, Born to Battle, also featuring at this month's Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. Otherwise, the optional Euro awning will shade the vast teak cockpit during long lunches at a protected anchorage somewhere.
The 61 has a virtual walk-in engineroom with only the slightest crane of the neck needed. The liner makes spotting leaks easy, while 24V fans let the big Cats breath easy. The motors have their own in-situ engine starts and gauges, so the serviceman doesn't need to head back up top. Each engine also has a redundant Racor fuel filter, but the sea strainers were the enclosed variety that don't allow visual checks for weed. Not that the 61 will be up the lake too often.
All very clean and tidy, with good access around the outsides of the engines and sensibly, a backup freshwater pump among the custom options. Extra expense was also incurred adding additional engineroom and hatch sound insulation. Among the things to standout from our test was the smoothness and quietness of the ride. Obviously, the CNC-processed Nibral five-bladers and underwater exhausts have a hand in that.
Back in the bridge, optional opening side-windows, electric sunroof and the aft door let you dial-up the climate when not running the 'air'. Such is the size of the rear deck you can park a couple of chairs and an occasional table when not on the throttles at the aft docking/fishing station that affords clear views over the cockpit to the transom.
Electronics includes twin Raymarine E120s, Caterpillar engine-control panels, Quickshift electronic throttles, optional 24V Sidepower stern and bow thrusters, CCTV, QL trim tabs, separate Clarion sound system, trick multifunction digital Tankwatch for the grey, black, water and fuel tanks, and more. The boat now comes with digital C-Zone switching, with a range of pre-set function available on the control panel near the bridge.
The twin upgraded leather Pompanette helm seats also swivel to face the L-shaped lounge for six that can double as skipper's bed. With fridge, sink, TV and AC outlets, you can kickback up top or send the kiddies away to entertain themselves. See what we mean about penthouse living? We've turned full circle. Some words about the drive.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA 61 SERIES II
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
In order to convey some idea of the 61's capability, we put our nose outside the Gold Coast Seaway on a rather snotty day. As with most enclosed-bridge boats you don't get a great sensation of speed. But from high-20kts, we soon tugged on the reins in the spillover near the entrance and were taking it easy from 14 to 16kts.
There was one graceful loop beam-on to the sea before we'd seen enough on a day that any sensible cruising buff would put to use for more pleasant pursuits. As the French say, it's impossible to overdo luxury. But as opera singer Leontyne Price one said: "The ultimate of being successful is the luxury of giving yourself the time to do what you want to do." The owners plan to go cruising. There are plenty of worse ways to travel.
Besides quietness and smoothness, the underlying sensation was that the 61 Series II doesn't bang. You can feel the sharp entry cleave the waves. We feel confident the new split fuel tank and apparent weight-savings up top will reduce rolling motion and keep the 61 on an even keel.
Yet to me, the boat still feels heavy in a seaworthy way, fast and powerful all the same, while the steering and motion is, as Riviera's marketing man put it, reminiscent of a Range Rover on the (blue)water. You should be happy with that improved ride and layout advancements.
PRICE AS TESTED
Approx $2,775,040 w/ Caterpillar electronic C32 diesel motors, and options
More than $400,000 in options including engine upgrade, aft galley, mezzanine seating, sternthruster, desalinator, gurney, hydraulic swimplatform, upgraded drawer fridges/freezers, granite counters, Raymarine C120 electronics and closed-circuit cameras, teak cockpit floor, opening flybridge windows, bathware and giftware packages, Karcher gurney, master cabin layout with opening porthole and fore-and-aft bed, 400kg davit, motorised blinds, and loads more
MATERIAL: GRP fibreglass with cored decks, superstructure and hull sides
TYPE: Hard-chine planing hull with tunnels and underwater exhausts
LENGTH OVERALL: 19.63m
HULL LENGTH: 18.6m
DRAFT: 1.58m (max)
WEIGHT: Approx 30,500kg (dry w/ standard 1015hp C18 engines)
BERTHS: 6 + 2
HOLDING TANKS: 273lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Caterpillar C32
TYPE: Fully electronic twin-turbo V12 diesel
RATED HP: 1550
WEIGHT: Approx 2840kg + gearbox
GEARBOX (MAKE/RATIO): Twin Disc MGX 6599A / 2.48:1
PROPS: Nibral five-blade bronze
The Riviera Group, 50 Waterway Drive, Coomera, Qld, 4209 Phone: (07) 5502 5555, www.riviera.com.au
Riviera sharpens its arrow, takes aim… and hits a bullseye. The new 61 Series II is a seriously seaworthy offshore cruiser with terrific speed, great comfort, proven engineering, but smarter use of space. The new optional aft galley and cool mezzanine seating, and the proven enclosed flybridge of the previous 61, creates a layout that rivals a 70 in many ways.
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