HMS takes to the air and finds himself piloting a craft of unusual ability. Standout features are multiple, and its looks set it apart from the crowd. But what underpins this 7 metres’ worth of sublime, seagoing driveability?

We took a walkaround the 8m version, take a look at the video.

Every now and again, one comes across an outstanding craft that really does exceed expectations. In my experience, such a craft will rarely, if ever, be merely a ‘copycat’ of another model or brand. Rather, its design will exude originality and be the product of creative thinking. This might relate to the boat’s internal design, its deck layout, aesthetics or even the materials employed in its construction. But whatever its standout points and USPs, in the case of every fine boat, a great hull is a prerequisite, an absolute must. In addition, the need for intelligent rigging is just as essential, because unless a boat’s engines and props are set up in such a way as to optimise the hull’s hydrodynamic qualities, the hull, no matter how good it is, will never truly shine. The latter is a complex affair, though, particularly at the smaller end of the market where boat brands often delegate the matter of rigging to their respective dealerships. In this respect, ‘quality control’, which necessitates investment in both training and oversight, is essential if issues are to be avoided.

So, what of the subject of our test, the Nordkapp Airborne 7 – a model sold through that long-established UK concern, Wills Marine of Kingsbridge?

nordkapp airborne 7

You may recall that we published a test report on its stablemate, the Nordkapp Coupe 905, at the back end of 2023 – an exceptional craft, powered by Mercury’s highly impressive, monster V12 OBM, the first of its kind in the UK. As in the case of the 905, the testing of the Airborne 7 found us leaping the Salcombe bar into Stairhole Bay, before flirting with the fringes of the English Channel, on a day that dutifully did our bidding by kicking up a sufficiently lively sea as to keep the hull pleasingly aerated and the mind focused. Perfect test conditions, in other words …

A head turner

As soon as you clap eyes on the Airborne 7, it stands out as being different from the crowd. It’s certainly not a RIB that follows convention. Its lines have a look of menace about them, its topsides an angular allure. And upon giving the boat even a cursory glance, you just know it’s built to be driven. From a fit-out standpoint, it takes its influences more from the sports boat sector than the traditional RIB market. Even so, its individual elements look cohesive and purposeful.

Nordkapp Airborne 7 - Helm console with excellent hand holds including for navigator, functional and well arranged.

Helm console with excellent hand holds including for navigator, functional and well arranged.

Well designed comfortable seating.

Well designed comfortable seating.

Being of moderate length and thus fairly compact, little space has been wasted or overlooked. As a consequence, the RIB’s internal design is maximised to accommodate a lazarette-styled aft seat (ideal for family use), a generously sized two-point helm seat for cox and navigator, a spacious front-of-console seat and even a small, rearward-facing seat up in the forepeak. To add to this array, every one of these units fulfils a useful secondary purpose – whether it be a locker, discreet stowage for the picnic table and cushions or, as in the case of the front face of the helm console where the seat lifts to reveal a large locker, a housing for the retractable cuddy-styled spray hood. Why, even the base of the helm seat sports a Dometic fridge! But the spray hood, to my mind, is definitely the standout item, especially so on a craft of this size, as it affords a super degree of weather protection that few craft of this ilk offer. It’s also uncomplicated to deploy and neat to stow – quite an accomplishment on the part of the Nordkapp design team.

Fold down table to reverse side of helm seat

Fold down table to reverse side of helm seat

Under seat stowage in the Nordkapp Airborne 7

Under seat stowage

Slide out Dometic fridge drawer.

Slide out Dometic fridge drawer.

Features & fixtures

On-board functionality features highly on this boat, with a generous supply of cleats, grab points and handrails. It’s good to see lateral support bars to both the lazarette and the helm seat units – something a lot of seat designs overlook. A generous-sized, full-beam swim platform with a non-slip section to the side of the lazarette negates the need for ‘tube walking’ when negotiating oneself aft to the swim platform, outboard engine hood or stainless ski pole. To accomplish this, the RIB’s GRP gunwale upstands sweep rearward to then encapsulate the aft section of the Hypalon tubes. Up forward, the deep deck provides yet further security – a key benefit with young children aboard. But likewise, when so desired, the entire foredeck can also be transformed into a cushioned sun deck – again, another attractive and adaptable benefit in the Airborne 7’s armoury.

Mercury V8 250hp Pro XS

Mercury V8 250hp Pro XS

Pulpit with cleats, fairlead and anchor stowage.

Pulpit with cleats, fairlead and anchor stowage.

Other features worthy of highlighting include the GRP structure to the forepeak, which includes an anchor locker and recess beneath the unit’s top flat surface. The latter incorporates two tie-off cleats and an anchor fairlead. In general, GRP additions to the bows of RIBs tend not to work, in my view. They’re a concept that conflicts with the RIB ethos. But each to his own, and to this boat’s credit, its design does at least incorporate several useful functions.

Bow locker

Bow locker

The stainless back panel to the lazarette is certainly another original addition and serves to screen passengers from the engine. I’m not sure about its true worth, but it certainly adds a tasty bit of ‘hardware’ to the proceedings. The SeaDeck synthetic deck surfacing finishes the interior of the craft nicely, though, and in true SeaDeck style, it’s been matched to the RIB’s tube livery in order to achieve continuity. While talking decks, it’s good to see this boat has the ability to organically rid itself sufficiently of any shipped water.

Fold down table to reverse side of helm seat.

Fold down table to reverse side of helm seat.

Amidships

The helm console to this boat really works well and incorporates a number of nice features, including a cunningly disguised pull-out draw within its rearward face – really useful for keeping any precious small items safe underway. There’s certainly no shortage of space on or within this unit, as this valuable commodity is maximised by the integration of three elevations: namely, that which extends either side of the wheel and includes the switch panel, etc.; then the flat surface in front of the wheel with its compass and drinks holders; and thirdly, the angled face that houses the gauges, Garmin VHF and Garmin GPS plotter. Located below all these items on the rearward face of the bulkhead are the Fusion audio speakers and then, at the console’s base, an angled footplate to help brace the driver when the two-point seat is in the down position.

Nordkapp Airborne 7

The manner in which the wheel integrates with the helm seat is commendable, because whether the seat base is locked in the down position for high-speed driving or pushed up into the bolster position, the steering and throttle ergonomics work well. One small addition I’d like to note too is the fact that the starboard side navigator’s position is provided with its own dedicated grab rail. Many boats overlook this detail, but in an offshore craft, the navigator most certainly needs a sturdy grab point. Furthermore, bearing in mind the positioning of the throttle binnacle on this craft, the navigator could double up as throttleman too if so desired.

Finally, the rearward-raked, fighter cockpit-styled windshield, with its wrap-around, protective stainless grab rail, offers valuable protection and, from an aesthetic point of view, serves to accentuate the Airborne’s sleek lines – as, of course, do the vessel’s sponsons or tubes. This all-important feature is of tapered, aerodynamic-inspired origin, and while performing the function of a stabiliser, it does so without interfering with, or detracting from, the boat’s hydrodynamic engagement with the water. Pressure release valves, rubbing strake and wear patches, etc. then complete the Hypalon tubes’ chief components. 

Wind in your hair

So, what of the matter we opened with at the start of our discussion – the Airborne’s hull design and corresponding driving experience? Nothing short of superb. In fact, this boat’s hull ranks alongside the best of them, and in this sense I would describe the ride as being ‘world class’. Sporty, with a high-performance feel about her, the Mercury 250hp-powered Airborne 7 isn’t just quick, it’s remarkably sure-footed and super-soft in flight too. Few boats of such size eat the waves like this particular Nordkapp model. Obedient to the trim, with plenty of grip through the turns, as well as being reassuringly predictable in behaviour, these desirable attributes readily contribute to the driver feeling confident behind the wheel and fully in command of their steed.

Nordkapp Airborne 7

We discussed the importance of rigging and propeller choice at the outset of this article too. In the case of this test boat at least, I can confirm that this is all absolutely spot on. Despite the fresh easterly blowing on the day of the test, the boat ran perfectly level with the weather on her beam, and then, when running before the seas, the hull had sufficient lift to ensure that she recovered well out of the troughs. But what I think was most impressive was the Nordkapp’s ability in a head sea. Handing over to the Mercury auto-trim, the boat intuitively ran as straight as a die, punching through the oncoming waves with aplomb while all aboard remained dry and secure. And to evaluate the effectiveness of the spray hood, I drove at speed with this in place too and found it had no noticeable ill effect on the boat’s performance. Importantly, this structure took the punishment well, showing no signs of weakness, and I can well imagine it would be a genuine godsend in inclement weather.

Nordkapp Airborne 7 - Stability at rest afforded by the tube's stern cones

Though the Airborne 7 has quite a heavy lay-up, rather than this being to the boat’s detriment, if anything, this appears to aid her seakeeping abilities. The engine model selected not only makes for a great marriage, but topping out at 48 knots is plenty enough performance to be getting on with, and particularly so as this model, despite its offshore capabilities, remains at heart very much a family boat.

In summary, this is a great RIB, and a fine testimony to its makers as well as Wills Marine here in the UK for the contribution they’ve made toward the final result. But if the 7m model is this good, what of the 8m Airborne? Now, that’s one test I really am looking forward to!  

What we thought

For

  • Driving experience
  • Spray hood weather protection
  • On-board security

Against

  • Potential vulnerability of fixtures to bow
  • The test boat fit-out comes at a price

Specifications

  • Length: 7.13m
  • Beam: 2.3m
  • Weight: 1150kg
  • Weight (inc. engine): 1450kg
  • Fuel capacity: 195L
  • Water tank: 55L
  • Septic tank: 39L
  • Max. engine: 250hp
  • Recommended engine: 250hp
  • Max. persons: 7
  • CE category: C

Selected Features

  • Mercury V8 250hp Pro XS OBM
  • Garmin GPSMAP 923xsv chartplotter
  • Fusion RA210 marine stereo
  • 4 x Fusion XS LED speakers
  • Twin battery installation
  • Spray hood canopy
  • Stern table
  • Dometic fridge
  • Stern shower with tank
  • Cover for console & seats
  • Bow & cockpit LED lights

Price

  • On the water from: £85,550 (inc. VAT)
  • RRP of tested boat: £94,900 (inc. VAT)

Contact

www.nordkapp-boats.com

www.willsmarine.co.uk

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