|If there was name in the RIB business which was synonymous with the Super Yacht market it would most surely be Novurania. Of Italian descent, the American arm of the company produces in excess of 1000 boats each year - nearly all of which are to a single sector or client type. However, the Super Tender Yacht game is no easy market to be involved with even though the rewards may be high. Customers are at their most demanding when they’re seeking the perfect compliment to their pride and joy. Attention to the smallest detail, consultancy on the part of the broker, bespoke customisation, and a large helping of customer pampering are the order of the day and all this wrapped within the luxurious confines of a ‘down town’ showroom. RIBs have proved increasingly popular within this high-class hard boat arena, with their distinct advantages becoming more readily appreciated with every new season. Querulously though, in the States, even an 8 metre RIB can be given the ‘tender’ classification. In terms of size and specification, what traditional Ribsters might view as representing a stand alone cruising craft, the U.S. market at least, would generally consider being suitable simply as a sports boat/people carrier. |
If anyone thought these boats might fail to be understood in what is essentially a traditional sailing centre or that the cost of these imported luxury craft would deter potential customers from signing on the dotted line, they were wrong. The first container load of boats sold like hot cakes within a few weeks including a 7.5 metre top of the range number costing something in the region of 65k. All of this was achieved with little or no promotion whatsoever.
Available for appraisal on our visit to Yeoward Boatyards were four models in the Novurania range namely, an MX 530 DL, a 720 DC, an Equator 600 HP and a MX 660 DL/OB. Of these, the best known Novurania model of all would perhaps be the Equator. With a total LOA of 6.56 metres, this boat features an unusual D shaped sponson which maximizes the internal area of the boat and in the process allows for a very much more sports boat orientated interior. Complete with fresh water shower, sumptuous wrap around seating, a gleaming white profile - which of course shouts "Miami" at the top of its voice, plus as many curves as is possible to get aboard a RIB, the 1450kg Equator is a boat built to appeal, ‘lock, stock, and barrel,’ to the wealthy Super Yacht owner. In fact, the boat’s inventory lacked nothing whatsoever and included everything from phone plug and fire extinguisher to console cover and courtesy deck lights! But whilst its build quality and overall finish is as good as the price tag might suggest, the ride however, isn’t. This 200hp outboard-powered version wallowed underway, its movements feeling labored and weighty. Plus, the hull seemed to lack lift in its forward section which meant she tended to unnecessarily plunge her way through, what on the day of test, was merely a slight southerly swell. All of this, despite having 200 horses growling away on the transom. Strictly a people carrier then - not a sea boat.
Of more typical RIB design are the MX 660 and 530 DL models. Both boats tested were outboard powered - 200hp and 100hp respectively. Although the combining tube and hull design to these craft effects a ride slanted more to blue water than deep-sea use, the vee is quite generous nonetheless to both and generates good handling characteristics. The on-deck layout of these craft is good too. Whilst the helm stations and seating consoles are substantial in their proportions they are positioned in such a way so as not to restrict freedom of movement fore and aft. The helm positions are ideal too for skippers who are required to maintain a watchful eye on their human cargo. Such is achieved by means of a typical bolster/bum support set behind a high ‘Boston Whaler’ type console – a combination favored by those who wish to drive a RIB from a standing position. Ideal for short distance operations, this option offers a sensible level of control at moderate speeds.
At 650kg, the 530’s a lot lighter than its 660 cousin and this obviously shows in the way she responds to the throttle. Coupled to a F100 Yamaha, her power to weight is just about right and means that whilst she’s a ‘nippy’ number, she doesn’t become too flighty. All the DL models feature high prows which suggest they would cope well in a following sea and whilst at times the top of the 530 and 660 helm console and bow are only just below the line of sight, nonetheless, forward generally vision remains good. These boats are laterally very stable and this attribute comes into its owns of course when the boat is fully laden. The 660 is rated to transport a grand total of thirteen people whilst the smaller 530 doesn’t come far behind at a respectable nine person capacity. Both boats feature a top grade inventory and specification with all their fixtures and fittings suggesting strength as well as good design. Not that it appears to deter customers from coughing up the necessary readies, but at £34,075 plus VAT for the 660 or a healthy £23,000 plus VAT for the 530 model, money, I would assume, would have to come pretty low down on the list of one’s purchasing priorities.
Last, but certainly not least, comes the flagship of the range, the 720 DL. This is a magnificent boat with every conceivable extra most thoughtfully positioned so as to grace this little ship with as many refinements as is humanly possible aboard seven and a half metres of hypalon and GRP. Rated to carry 15 persons on a splendid array of sumptuously clad seating positions, this like the smaller boats in the range, is a true ‘sunshine’ boat. The 720 would look well along side any vessel, in any marina, anywhere in the world. If that is important to you, and it certainly is to many who enjoy their maritime pursuits along the sparkling coasts of France and Florida, then this biggest and best from Novurania could be just the thing for you. Although the model we tested featured twin Yamaha 150 HPFD1"s, (the first I believe to be rigged in the U.K.) the ‘Med’ version offers a selection of inboard options and drive alternatives including waterjet. I have to say the smooth power delivery of these new Yamaha engines is astonishing. They truly sing their way onto the plane and positively purr with pleasure when given a free head. Yamaha have rarely produced an outboard that couldn’t be described as an industry leader and these latest ‘HP’s’ are without question true to that same fine standard. Just a thought, but the 720 only has a 48 gallon in built fuel tank capacity, so feeding both motors in full blown cruising mode might be stretching it somewhat.
Returning to the question of the vessel’s aesthetics, this 720 is both spacious and elegant. Lockering and dry stowage facilities are neatly located throughout, plus other practical necessities, such as handholds for passengers etc. are also positioned with suitable frequency. Though the helm consoles to these craft are essentially square they are certainly not dated in appearance and of course by nature of their design they remain immensely practical. This means a wide assortment of instruments can be inset to the unit’s rearward faces with a luxurious degree of space for customised switch panels, engine monitoring displays and navigational items. The high smoked screen offers good protection from the elements and most importantly the wheel and throttle positions are located correctly with both being nicely to hand. On a boat of this size and power, I would however, like to see the helmsman afforded a more secure driving position. Whilst a long bench seat is sufficient at moderate speeds it becomes unsatisfactory at high speeds. When the boat leapt off the top of a wave at 30 knots I found myself seriously grappling to stay on deck! If the cox’ isn’t secure, what of his crew? A substantial wrap-around bolster, would I’m sure, be the answer here.
The 720’s looks score very highly, but…oh dear…I’m afraid once again, the handling lets the overall product down. I have driven few boats that have displayed such alarming characteristics as this Novurania due to what can only be described as major imbalance problem. The 720 had the unnerving habit of standing on its tail at every given opportunity. Rising onto the plane, forward vision was obliterated due to her porpoising motion and when driven over a sea she fairly flew her bow in a fashion I can only describe as positively frightening. Another fault resulting from all of this was that at speed she chine walked severely – another typical symptom of a boat either having its engines rigged incorrectly or suffering from too much weight aft.
As far as I could determine such things were caused by a combination of things. Firstly, this RIB’s heavy twin engine rig is mounted to an extension which protrudes well aft of both the sponson cones and the transom itself. This means that a huge lever action is created by means of this extended weight hanging off the tail end of the boat. It also appeared that the transom extension had a hand to play in the engines not being able to be trimmed in the additional extra 17% angle a standard upright transom would allow. Hydrodynamics is an extremely complex science, one which becomes even more complex when an engine configuration of this kind is employed. For instance, to counteract the effects of such a large unsupported hollow between hull and motor it is necessary to raise the height of the engines sometimes up to 3 inches for every 12 inches of extension. Without such adjustments the water’s angle of attack striking the cavitation plates of the propulsion unit will be quite wrong.
Such factors, added to what is already a stern heavy boat, therefore resulted in the problems described. Apart from undertaking a major rethink/refit, the options whilst not addressing the root cause, could include the corrective measure of adding some big trim tabs to force the boat’s bow down. Fitting hydro-wings to the engine cavitation plates could also help, as could a water ballast tank in the bow or a large deposit of lead shot placed in the anchor locker.
Yeoward Boatyards offer a very genuine service which is dedicated to customer support. Due to this I’m sure they will already be looking into the 720’s problem and ensuring that such a mistake is not repeated. On the other hand, Novurania themselves, who have much experience in supplying to the performance market, should know better. It all goes to prove, contrary to popular belief, true beauty should indeed be more than just skin deep.
NOVURANIA OF AMERICA, INC