Osprey Inflatables have one of the finest reputations going when it comes to high performance technology in the RIB racing arena. Their distinctive hard bow designs have to a great degree set them apart from their contemporaries and ensured there has always been alternative thinking. A good thing in my opinion, even if it means such can be the cause of some small degree of controversy at times.
Whilst the company have become well known for the hard nosed approach, (I mean that in the nicest possible way of course!) they do in fact offer a further range of boats, from the smaller Viper through to the 9 metre commercial spec of the Falcon RIB, which follow the more conventional full sponsoned concept.
At 1997's Southampton International Boat Show, Osprey had two models on display, a 28ft Lynx with a diesel inboard, and in addition to this powerful number and the subject of our test an Osprey 5.15m RIB with a single outboard installation.
Though the `big' RIB market continues to expand, the 5 metre bracket continues to see a healthy demand from people who require the advantages and convenience that only a small RIB can provide. The 5.15 appears then to be Osprey's response to the ongoing call for a budget priced craft capable of the multi-functional roles of diving, safety boat use, and general light leisure use.
This particular boat is a new model from a company who have been relatively quiet as to their activities in the RIB market of late. The launch of a new product could therefore be significant as Osprey's sister company, Northern Diver Ltd, comes toward the end of an extensive expansion program which no doubt has taken much of the group's time and resources.
On then with the review. The 5.15 displays a basic and practical approach to the subject of small boat design, and it would seem, draws its influences from the commercial sector. This approach is further emphasized of course by the standard rescue orange livery of the craft.
The dive market should be attracted to this particular model as it achieves the very maximum in terms of deck space, of vital importance when it comes to the matter of kitting up and the stowage of air tanks. With complete packages of boat, engine and trailer retailing at under the magic £10,000 inc VAT, the price also should prove effective in enticing dive club bursars into parting with their money.
Standard fit-out includes a small single console which is built to take a minimal amount of electronics, near level mounted wheel, small spray/wind screen, throttle control, and key engine instrumentation. This unit also houses the boat's battery which is accessed via an external hatch. Thus, by this latter item being located as far forward as possible, correct weight distribution is assisted, and as in the case of the saying "every bit helps" goes some small way in contributing to the boat's overall balance.
The seating section is integrated into the helm unit so as to form a single moulding that carries the padded backrest and metal grab rail. Beneath the seat lies the 25 litre fuel tank. Access and removal of this item is made easier by the unit's open side panels.
We mentioned the importance of a small craft's need to be well balanced, so the positioning of the helm console up towards the bow is a sensible idea as it assists in the boat's performance and allows for greater room in the stern.
A flat profiled non-slip deck, wear patches, lifelines, and "D" fendering to the hypalon tubes, then complete the basic hardware line up.
The Deep-Vee hull to the 5.15 provided a cushioned ride and coupled to the boat's sponsons, which are set close to the waterline, ensure stable, typically RIB-type handling characteristics are gained in beam on and following seas alike.
The performance of the Force 75ELPT was pretty disappointing as it lacked any real punch or get up and go. I doubt too whether it would be of sufficient power to cope with the likes of 2 burly divers and their equipment. However, though this motor was fitted to the test boat, the Force doesn't seem to appear on Osprey's package deal listing for 1998. Instead, engines from Yamaha, Mariner, and Suzuki are offered with a selection of horsepowers ranging from 55 - 75hp.
I can't see the Osprey 5.15's appeal extending to the mainstream RIB leisure market. Dive clubs, yacht clubs, and small sailing schools on the other hand, who require a small craft at a budget price all in with a Hallmark trailer ready to go, might well be interested in this latest offering from Osprey. She is after all neatly put together, and though I would describe her as a small five metre craft in terms of the overall feel she gives, nonetheless, the 5.15 is clearly adequate for many light duties and general tasks of an inshore nature.