In the last few years, looking at the number of new RIBs coming in from abroad it might seem that the sale of UK products is on the wane, but speaking to a number of traditional RIB builders it would appear that they are busier than ever with orders.
Despite the economic downturn of the world’s economies, with the current exchange rate between the pound and other currencies, particularly the euro, it should really come as no surprise that British goods are enjoying something of a resurgence of business, and this may be the reason for the upbeat mood of UK RIB builders.
RIB International has never made a secret of the fact that it rates the UK-designed-and-built Coastline as one of the best-handling RIBs of their size, particularly the traditional 6m, 6.5m and 7m craft, with their exceptionally deep V hulls and high-bow configuration. There is nothing fancy about these well-made RIBs; in fact, to the inexperienced eye they could be mistaken for one of many UK products, but under the skin and below the waterline is where the difference lies: when it comes to seakeeping and dry-riding abilities it is difficult to fault these relatively narrow-bodied craft, and the subject of this test, a Coastline 7m fitted with a Suzuki 175hp outboard, proved that they are still market leaders in this area.
The weather was good for the test, with the only significant waves being the wash from the Isle of Wight ferries, but at least we could put her through her paces in to see how she performed and handled when chucked about with gay abandon.
The construction of the craft is straightforward, with a moulded hull and deck bonded together to form a totally rigid ‘monocoque’, and additionally there are two full-length internal hull stringers glassed to the hull to further strengthen the craft and make the integrity of the RIB just about ‘bulletproof’. The ? litre stainless-steel fuel tank sits in its own under-deck moulded recess to prevent any fuel entering the bilge area, and access to the tank is provided by a removable GRP cover. Finally, there is a very effective non-slip pattern on the deck, an integral raised forward anchor locker and, on our particular craft, an engine splash well. Apart from the splash well, all the craft are built this way, with Coastline offering a number of different interiors and inboard/outboard set-ups to suit the client’s specific leisure or commercial requirements.
Our craft was simply fitted out, with a newly designed stand-alone steering console, featuring a forward ‘suicide’ seat, a rather tall rounded windscreen with a stainless-steel protection bar, two jockey seats with backrests, a rear bench seat in front of a moulded splash well, and a double stainless-steel A-frame with lights. The two-tone Henshaw-sourced Hypalon buoyancy tubes looked very smart in their dark-blue/light-grey livery, and they are protected by a light-grey heavy-duty ‘D’ fender around the outside.
So far everything was much as expected, and we set out into a calm Solent to see if the craft’s handling was as good as we remembered and to see what 175hp of Suzuki’s finest could do on the transom.
We were pleasantly surprised at both the acceleration and top speed of the craft, with 30 knots coming up at a shade over 7 seconds, and the top speed of 44 knots being achieved with what we discovered later was a damaged 25” propeller (Coastline reported a speed of 49 knots with a replacement prop the following week), a very respectable speed and further proof of the efficiency of the hull.
The handling was as we remembered, with the fine, deep-V hull, combined with the high-mounted buoyancy tubes, allowing the craft to bank more than most other RIBs in tight turns, but never to the point of making one feel uncomfortable. There was some cavitation/ventilation of the propeller on sharper turns which surprised the designer, Brian Hallett, who was also on board for the test, but this may have been caused by the damaged prop, which made sense as we had not experienced this on previous Coastlines that we had driven. Sadly, this excellent offshore hull could not be put to the test through anything more challenging than the wash from passing craft, although we did manage to get completely airborne at top speed over the Isle of Wight ferries’ wash before landing in a smooth and controlled manner, further reinforcing our memories of just how soft a ride this hull gives.
To sum up, this is a traditional British RIB, built and finished to a high standard, for those who know the difference between a craft that will provide an OK performance/ride and a craft that will excel when the going gets tough, whilst keeping its occupants dry. The Coastline 7m is an attractive craft without being flash, and she will appeal equally to those who know about boats and take their ‘ribbing’ seriously and the family man who just needs safe, comfortable boating at a sensible price.
We still rate this craft amongst the ‘best in class’, not only in its all-round performance but also in the way it instils a feeling of confidence that many other RIBs fail to achieve.