What do a professional journalist and a ‘layman’ have in common? Well, brace yourself for something a little different, as we discover the varying views of each in this unique multi-test of craft supplied by the Wolf Rock Boat Company. HMS takes up the story …

You might be surprised to learn that getting the opportunity to evaluate three different craft of the same size category in one hit represents quite a feat these days. With boat sellers keeping less stock on their books than they once did, and certainly with fewer demonstrators on hand, the business of physically testing product is a lot harder than it once was. Nonetheless, our hospitable hosts, the Salcombe-based Wolf Rock Boat Company, nobly rose to the challenge of satisfying our watery wants.

On this occasion, however, I wanted to mix the process up a little by inviting a good friend of mine, Ed Hickling, to come along for the ride in order to give his ‘layman’s’ perspective on the boats offered for test. Ed is a member of his local sailing club, drives the club safety RIB and, like many, he and his family enjoy all things associated with the water. Of course, while professional journalism undoubtedly has its place, it’s formed on a bedrock of previous experience and a knowledge of the company and people involved, as well as the wider market. As you will see, Ed came to the task in hand free of such influences. His views are therefore refreshingly straightforward, comprising a collective of first impressions, simple likes and dislikes, as well as comparisons to those things most familiar – in Ed’s case, cars!

For your benefit, we’re going to keep this short and punchy with as little ‘fluff’ as possible. We’ll let the pictures do the talking and endeavour to cut to the chase. First up, then, the all-aluminium UMS 655 DC.

UMS 655 DC

2023 UMS 655 DC

The UMS is a sporty Ukrainian-built utility craft. A multitasker, it will take pretty much anything you throw at it and no doubt is the type of craft that will still give more. From a distance, its profile – for want of a better description – is ‘James Bond like’ (I know it’s hackneyed, but it’s the best I can think of!). Its contours are shapely and there’s a definite air of ‘cool’ about it. Besides the fact that it’s made entirely of recyclable aluminium, to the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing else quite like it here in the UK.

Pedestal mounted bucket seats can swivel maximising use of space. UMS 655 DC

Pedestal mounted bucket seats can swivel maximising use of space.

Ed said: ‘It reminds me of a Ford Mustang but with the functionality and usability of a VW Golf GTI MkII.’

Ed knows his cars better than me, but I get what he’s talking about. The UMS certainly does mix these appealing attributes. Nevertheless, despite its attractive decal wrap, which most certainly disguises its aluminium construction, upon stepping aboard, you really have to be an alloy appreciator, because that’s where the disguise ends.

Facets and features

Ed said: ‘Its interior is the least refined of the three we trialled on the day, but the boat certainly stood out among all the other craft afloat in Salcombe Harbour in terms of its make-up and appearance. Its “angular”, “edgy” look definitely draws upon automotive influences,   in my view.’

Of course, one naturally looks down when stepping into a boat, and whether you’re conscious of it or not, the deck forms a big first impression. I didn’t favour the industrial-look non-slip stainless deck panels myself, but Ed commented on how much he liked them! In my view, though, the boat’s entire interior would be ‘softened’ if the current surfacing was exchanged for some stylish SeaDek. Either way, the deck is self-draining and, of course, totally hard-wearing by nature. The vessel’s interior is smart and uncomplicated in appearance, and the Silvertex upholstery throughout complements its modern, ‘punky’ industrial look.

Handy storage in the bow. 2023 UMS 655 DC

Handy storage in the bow.

Another great attribute of the UMS’s interior is that it can be fully enclosed by means of an optional cockpit/rear-deck awning. This makes perfect sense in terms of extending your season, or even progressing to all-year-round boating. But thanks to the cockpit’s twin-console design and substantial windscreen protection, plus the central walk-through, which can be closed off by means of a companion doorway, when slunk down in the swivel bucket seats you really do feel well below the wind’s line of fire. Alternatively, the seat bases can be flipped up to provide a bolster position, which is also useful.

Ed said: ‘Out of the three,   from a space perspective, the UMS had the best on-deck feel. The layout, with the bucket seats being pedestal mounted and able to be swivelled too, means use of space is maximised – ideal from the perspective of both driving the boat and turning 90 degrees when wishing to socialise on the aft deck. The central door bridging the consoles was a bit cumbersome and quite weighty, though, so caution needs to be taken to avoid a finger trap scenario. The foredeck’s ability to convert into a sundeck was something I liked.’

Suzuki 200hp on the UMS 655 DC

Suzuki 200hp.

Another valuable asset is the degree of locker space and storage the UMS affords. This includes the self-draining central underdeck locker designed to take fishing rods and other items. However, our test boat had been sitting out in the rain for several days, which had allowed water to get into the navigator’s ‘glove box’ where mobile phones and car keys would likely be placed. This small but important ‘cubby-hole’ therefore needs to have a proper seal fitted to prevent water ingress.

The boat offers a high degree of on-board security for families as there are lots of handholds, and thanks to its near indestructible make-up, it won’t flinch at being beached.

2023 UMS 655 DC

Behind the wheel

In terms of the UMS’s driving experience, we both agreed it scored highly. Pronounced spray rails give the hull good lift and ensure a dry ride, and she behaved impeccably throughout all our sea trials. The trim tabs fitted either side of the Suzuki 200hp outboard would be a great asset in testing conditions, but amid the slight seas on the day of the test we barely had a need to deploy them.

The substantial UMS windscreen offers good protection.

The substantial UMS windscreen offers good protection.

With all 200 horses being pushed all out, the boat comfortably exceeded 40 knots. All the while, in both head and following seas, she ran level and true, and thanks to the UMS’s laudable ergonomics and associated rigging, the driving experience went without a hitch and proved a pleasure throughout. It was suggested that with a little bit of tweaking, an additional 150 or so RPM could be gained; if such is the case, this merely shows that there’s likely even more to be had from this already impressive boat/engine combo. As for Ed, he never had anything but a smile on his face throughout the entire process!

Specifications 2023 UMS 655 DC

  • Starting price: £56,836 (inc. VAT), with Suzuki DF115 BTGX
  • LOA: 6.49m
  • BOA: 2.36m
  • Dry weight: 850kg
  • All-up weight: 1226kg
  • Payload: 8
  • Max. HP: 200hp
  • Fuel tank: 180L

Price

  • Boat as tested: £74,637  (inc. VAT)

Contact

www.thewolfrock.co.uk

 

BRIG Eagle 6.7

BRIG Eagle 6.7

Ed has a soft spot for RIBs in general. He says he likes the fact they’re so ‘forgiving’ (at least, I think this is what he was referring to …).

Ed said: ‘I’d liken the BRIG Eagle 6.7 to a Range Rover Velar SUV. OK, the BRIG is neither hybrid nor electric powered, so you might think it an odd comparison, but in actual fact, I’m driving a Velar at this present time as my wife’s Land Rover Defender is stuck in Gibraltar (long story …). It’s a very well-appointed, comfortable car, and classy too in quite a classic way. But the superior driving position, that tough, outward-bound look and its “in command” driving position are all attributes the BRIG and the Range Rover Velar share, in my view. Furthermore, sat at the helm holding that lovely Gussi Italia wheel just made me want to drive, drive, drive!’

Detachable bow cushions create a forward sun pad on the BRIG Eagle

Detachable bow cushions create a forward sun pad.

It’s certainly true that the majority of people choosing a RIB over a hard boat do so for the reason that they favour a RIB’s fendering abilities, as well as its inherent stability and ‘off-road’ seakeeping attributes. You have to admit, a good RIB ticks a lot of boxes. But the question is, is the BRIG a good RIB? It’s certainly been the best-selling leisure RIB brand in the UK for some while now, and though one could assume that might be attributed to good marketing, at the same time, it’s clear there’s a lot more to the BRIG than just clever marketing.

Forward facing centre console seat on the BRIG Eagle

Forward facing centre console seat.

Hidden storage on the BRIG Eagle

Hidden storage.

Built with passion

I’ve met the founding owner of the company, Slava Rodionov, and I can tell you, he is absolutely passionate about the boats he produces. I can only assume this determined and focused attitude has been a big contributor to his BRIG workforce, and he himself, remaining so committed throughout the horrific challenges they’ve all faced in Kharkiv this past year or so. But having known the brand since its inception, I have certainly witnessed its ongoing refinement and the manner in which the product’s design has developed. To this end, I have no reticence in stating that it is of very sound design indeed – one that balances just the right amount of 4×4 utility with the attributes of comfort and refinement.

Optimized helm with ideal throttle positioning on the BRIG Eagle

Optimized helm with ideal throttle positioning.

Ed said: He liked the dark  livery offset and the tan highlights of the vessel’s interior, and I’d agree with him. The fabric-impression Hypalon tubes, though blighters to keep clean, also play up to the BRIG’s classy, contemporary look. The rear deck’s suitability for socialising, its abundant locker space, the boat’s internal styling and the standout features you see portrayed in the accompanying imagery all unite to play their part in achieving the final aim: a true family-orientated ‘all-rounder’.

Fold-out table with cup holders on the BRIG Eagle

Fold-out table with cup holders.

Two things that set the BRIG design, including this 6.7m, apart from what might be described as a RIB of traditional British design are its bluff bow and its slightly firmer ride through the seas. In terms of the latter, its large-diameter tubes coupled to its hull shape combine to give a sportier feel than, say, a RIB essentially designed for more offshore/commercial application. Nonetheless, the BRIG’s underwater profile certainly guarantees an outstandingly stable ride even at 40 knots plus. And it has to be said, the super-quiet, sleeky-smooth power delivery of the Suzuki 200hp on this baby’s tail delivers right through the RPM range. Thanks to this motor, the underway experience was sporty and plain great fun. Super acceleration, coupled to a bagful of energy in reserve, means there’s plenty to call upon when throttling hard. ‘Difficult not to like this boat!’ exclaimed a bushy-tailed Ed from the helm.

The BRIG Eagle is a safe stable craft, with the underway experience being sporty and fun.

The Brig is a safe stable craft, with the underway experience being sporty and fun.

Indeed, I wanted Ed to drive the BRIG so he could discover for himself how well she looks after her occupants, even those less experienced or RIB savvy. ‘It’s nearly impossible to get things wrong with this boat. Even if you try to throw her about, she still looks after you,’ Ed admitted. Let’s face it, not every boat is this forgiving – but the BRIG is. With its pretty flawless ergonomics, high-quality fixtures and fittings (including a freshwater shower), functional and adjustable seating plan, and that great driving experience, you can see why this 6.7 model in particular is proving such a sure-fire winner.

Walkaround video from Boot 2024

Specifications – BRIG Eagle 6.7

  • Starting price: £63,453 (inc. VAT), with a Suzuki DF150 APX fitted. (add £3,365 for a Suzuki DF200 APX)
  • LOA: 670cm
  • BOA: 255cm
  • Tube diameter: 55cm
  • Tube chambers: 5
  • Dry weight: 810kg
  • All-up weight: 1210kg
  • Max. payload: 1660kg/8 (Cat B) or 11 (Cat C)
  • Max. HP: 200hp
  • Cat: B/C
  • Fuel tank: 191L
  • Freshwater tank: 45L

Price

  • As tested: £72,402 (inc. VAT)

Contact

www.thewolfrock.co.uk

 

Iron 647

Iron 647

You might recall we tested the larger all-black 767 model in late 2022, and at that time it was the very first Iron to be tested in UK waters. So how does its smaller 647 stablemate compare? Firstly, the test boat’s striking white colourway is preferable to the black option, in my view. White has a much wider market appeal and helps to ensure this high-performance ‘roadster’ doesn’t become purely the weapon of choice of the macho thrill seeker.

Ed said: He thought its looks were quite ‘unique’, commenting: ‘Using my automotive analogy, I would say the Iron 647 could be likened to the merits held by the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA. I would really, really like an Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, though I probably wouldn’t be allowed to buy one! The boat’s super-sleek projectile profile just shouts “performance”, and upon climbing aboard you sense that feeling of being “in” as opposed to “on” the boat. I liked the security of the high gunwales, but I particularly liked the rearward-raked fighter cockpit canopy-styled windscreen, along with the layout of the dash and its instrumentation.’

Fighter jet styled windscreen on the Iron 647

Fighter jet styled windscreen.

I’d agree with Ed on this count – the boat’s profile afloat looks both exciting and original, and when you step aboard, the interior, though relatively uncomplex, bears the hallmark of quality as well as being strikingly purposeful. You get the sense that this 647 is a true driver’s boat, but likewise, importantly, the needs of the passengers are not overlooked either. The seating plan, the layout’s socialising options, the extent of lockering and the commendable degree of handholds are all ‘thumbs up’ features. Ed commented, though, that he felt the distance between the aft seat and the double-width helm seat was a little cramped for his liking (in truth, probably more a case of being a little too cramped for his style!). But if style is what you’re after, then the custom SeaDek deck surfacing really sets this craft’s interior off beautifully.

Custom SeaDek flooring on the Iron 647

Custom SeaDek flooring on the Iron 647.

Grippy when wet, soft underfoot and available in virtually every colour and design under the sun, it forms the perfect partner to a sports boat of this ilk and type.

Across the water

When driving the boat you feel wholly in command, and with the Suzuki 175 strapped to her tail, this 675 is eager to do one’s bidding. Super-quiet, as lean burning as any you’ll find and rip-roaringly quick off the mark too, this engine and hull were made for each other. In the case of all three craft, the Garmin electronic systems really do tick all the boxes and boast both functional and intuitive navigation and communication attributes.

Foldable helm seats on the Iron 647

Foldable helm seats.

Good centre console stowage on the Iron 647

Good centre console stowage.

Until this day, Ed had never driven at speed before, so having done well with the UMS and the BRIG, it was time to let him enjoy a truly world-class experience by taking charge of the Iron’s Ocke Mannerfelt hull. The good thing about this hull form is that while it’s rightly classed as a performance hull, at the same time, it’s totally sure-footed and super-easy to drive. At 42 knots, chasing across the tops of a westerly swell east of Prawle Point, Ed had no difficulty handling a point-and-shoot 2-mile blast across the bay. When allowed her head, this boat rides on a pocket of air, supremely landing soft and true every time – a genuine zero-vice thoroughbred.

Bow step.

Bow step.

Plenty of dry storage in the bow.

Plenty of dry storage in the bow.

Difference of opinion

But would you believe it, despite the Iron 647’s impeccable performance, Ed declared that his favourite test drive had been that granted him by the BRIG! What? Don’t get me wrong, the BRIG is a fine boat and handles very competently, but come on, Ed, we’re talking Ocke Mannerfelt here! It doesn’t get much better than this. But hey, what do I know? At the end of the day, Ed’s view as a layman representing the boat-buying public may not be definitive, but it certainly has to be taken seriously. And I guess, when all is said and done, it’s a case of ‘each to his own’. Mind you, in terms of sheer quality of ride, I still hold to the view that the Iron 647 had the edge! 

Iron 647

Specifications Iron 647

  • LOA: 6.52m
  • BOA: 2.44m
  • Draught: 0.80m
  • Deadrise: 23° at transom
  • Dry weight: 1000kg
  • Max. payload: 800kg
  • Cat: C
  • Fuel tank: 142L
  • Max. HP: 175hp

Price

  • As tested: £74,619 (inc. VAT)
  • Starting price: £66,783 (inc. VAT), including Suzuki DF150 APX (Upgrade to Suzuki DF175 APX for £1,150 extra)

Contact

www.thewolfrock.co.uk

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