Having used a Shearwater 8.5m cabin RIB for our ‘voyage of a lifetime’ South-West Ireland cruise in 2007, we commented on how practical it was to have a small cabin both for storing our kit and for the protection it afforded from the rain, and we wondered why others were not quick to follow their lead.

Fast forward to RIBEX 2008 when we saw the new Capelli Tempest 900 WA Cabin RIB for the first time and, unsurprisingly, UK distributors Hockley Marine were inundated with enquiries, rapidly selling their entire 2008 quota of the model. At that time we had hoped to be able to test the craft, but with no more available in 08 we had to wait.

Fast forward again to RIBEX 2009 and we finally had the opportunity to try the same craft, only this time fitted with twin Suzuki 225hp outboards instead of the twin 250hp models on last year’s boat. This latest craft benefited from a number of upgrades and was fitted with a substantial bimini top that gave good protection for those in the cockpit area.

The deck layout of the 900 WA (stands for ‘walk around’) is similar to many American walk-around sports fishing craft in that it has a raised deck forward to provide more cabin space, without losing the relatively low profile of a sports boat. There is a small raised cabin section to provide standing headroom/better access and this also gives some protection for those in the cockpit; but what really protects the crew from the wind and rain is the oversize wrap-around windscreen which dominates the craft’s appearance. Whilst I thought the screen was eminently practical, others thought this plexiglas addition did nothing for the looks of the craft, but whatever one thinks, there is no doubting its practicality, although with its upright angle it must knock a couple of knots off the top speed! To prove a point, though, on the Saturday of RIBEX, two Capelli RIBs from Belgium Capelli distributors, Brugge Marine, visited the show having made the cross-Channel trip from Belgium in a Tempest 900WA and an open Tempest 770; whilst both craft made the voyage without mishap, it was clear that the protection afforded by the cabin/windscreen on the 900 meant that the crew of that craft looked considerably less windswept and tired.

Despite being named a 900, the Tempest 900 WA gives the impression of being considerably bigger. The craft is 9.3m from the GRP bowsprit to the stern but she has a generous beam of 3.21m, and this enhances the feeling of great space. From a practical standpoint, the Capelli designers have pulled out all the stops in providing the maximum accommodation and features for a given volume, and I can think of no other RIB that offers so much accommodation, inside and out, on a 9m hull.

Starting with the deck area: right forward the remote-controlled electric anchor is neatly located in a GRP bowsprit, whilst crew safety on the raised deck is provided by a high stainless-steel pulpit rail extending from the cockpit to the bow. The entire forward deck area is covered by a huge sunbathing cushion, which butts up to the raised cabin section with its couple of side windows and clear, opening deck hatch to provide natural light and ventilation to the cabin. The cockpit is virtually divided into two, with the front section given over to the helmsman, plus one crewmember leaning against the two-man leaning post-cum-seat arrangement, and a space for another crewmember standing alongside, all protected by the cabin/windscreen. Aft of this is a comfortable seating area with two bench seats facing each other, providing seating for five people. A removable table (also fits in cabin) makes this area ideal for socialising when stationary, and with substantial handholds and deep sides to the cockpit this is a safe, comfortable area for children and adults, both underway and at rest. Right aft is a large bathing platform which, like the rest of the cockpit area, is covered in smart-looking anti-slip artificial teak. The platform features a slide-out bathing ladder and a freshwater shower to rinse off the salt, in addition to providing excellent access to the twin Suzuki 225hp 4-stroke outboards. This particular boat was fitted with the optional GRP radar arch and bimini sunshade, and whilst the sunshade would undoubtedly prove useful in the Med, for the UK market the new folding windscreen ‘pram’ hood side screen arrangement would seem more practical. Personally, I was not taken with the GRP radar arch, preferring the traditional double stainless-steel version, but it is good to know that they are both available as an option.

The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the cabin: this is the veritable ‘Tardis’, there being enough space here for two people to sleep and cohabit over a long weekend, provided, that is, that one person does not mind stepping out when the other uses the loo! Access is through a curved sliding GRP lockable door leading to, on the port side, a sink with freshwater tap and electric fridge unit, and to starboard, a low locker that conceals an electric flushing toilet; right forward is a V berth/infill arrangement that makes into a large double berth. In fact, apart from a stove (but then who wants to cook whilst away?), everything one needs for a weekend break.

And so to sea, and, oh boy, were we in for a veritable treat; with the wind howling at a steady force 6 with gusts of force 7, the Solent was boiling – ideal for testing the seakeeping of any RIB. With 450hp on the back of a 2.7 ton craft, one would expect a reasonable performance, but in these conditions it was a case of seeing if the craft could cope with the seas, let alone what speed she could achieve. We need not have worried, for this race-proven hull made light work of the conditions, even to the point that we were playing in the waves, experimenting to see at what point the craft would bite back at us, but she didn’t. Whether heading into, away from, or across the waves, we could not fault the handling and were quietly impressed by the way the craft rode seas that other RIBs would have found testing. There was plenty of spray flying around, yet even with a strong wind on the forward quarter, heading into steep waves, the crew remained sheltered and dry behind the protection of the cabin/windscreen.

Due to the conditions we were unable to carry out performance figures, but Hockley Marine report that in ideal conditions she hit a shade over 50 knots on the GPS, so a probable 45 knot+ top speed would seem realistic for most owners, but more importantly they also noticed that the Suzuki 225s were considerably quieter than last year’s twin 250s on the same boat; and even more perversely, the smaller engines were marginally faster! Evidently the motors had been brought closer together and raised slightly, and this had considerably improved the craft’s performance and handling.

To sum up: probably the perfect cruising RIB for a couple or family who need space and accommodation, along with a sound build and a proven hull design that will inspire confidence when the going gets tough. It is hard to fault the concept of this craft, and whilst there will inevitably be those purists who say we are going soft by having a cabin, I say that this concept ticks all the right boxes if you don’t mind looking sensible rather than flash.

Paul Lemmer

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