- This is Cobra’s most popular RIB and with good reason.
- It is easy to tow and launch and yet is big enough to rough it offshore.
- It is a high-quality British-built boat that has been meticulously designed as a fast driver’s boat.
- It is not so much a forgiving drive in the rough as an easy one, which is helped immensely by its robust construction.
Greg Copp boards one of a pair of Cobra 7.7m Nautiques and reports on a Yamaha/Suzuki Solent shoot-out …
It is rare that you get to test two identical boats, with two different rival engines of identical power output, but that was exactly what happened when we came to trial Cobra’s new 7.7m Nautique. It just so happened that they had a Yamaha F300- and a Suzuki DF300-powered Nautique for testing, both fettled and run in.
The new 7.7m Nautique is part of the Nautique range, which ranges from 6.6 to 9.7 metres. The 7.7 is built on what is referred to as the Evolution hull, a development of the original Picton 7.5m hull. It has a raklishly sharp transom deadrise angle of 26 degrees and a twin-chine set-up. The lower chine produces a similar effect to a Petestep hull (see this issue’s Boat Tech) insomuch as it channels water aft beneath the boat, improving performance and ride. This chine is downturned slightly towards its edge rather than horizontal, which has the effect of tucking the water downwards and under the boat. Cobra claim that as well as providing a drier ride it increases efficiency by around 5%, and also gives the hull better stability in tight turns. Engine options (all brands) range from 200 to 300 hp, which is a broad range of power options for a 7.7m RIB that displaces 1600kg with the heaviest engine option.
In typical Cobra fashion, the boat is styled as a luxury performance RIB that can keep its occupants safe and comfortable, even when the helmsman is piling on the power. Rightly there is a heavy design emphasis on the helm set-up, which offers a perfect balance of comfort, ergonomics and seating position. The seats, though they do not appear so at first, are gas-assisted sprung seats, with concealed suspension units built into the seat backs. They even have a small air pump to adjust the seat damping to your needs. The seat buckets reassuringly hold you in situ and the footboard is angled and located perfectly. You can, if you want, flip up the seat bolster and stand, which has always been my preference. However, I found that the height of the seat in relation to the line of sight over the bow, and the degree of comfort afforded to my rear end, kept me sitting during some pretty demanding driving off the Needles.
The console is designed so that it can be built with either a left-hand or right-hand helm position, which is a great idea. I like the throttle in the left hand like the test boat, but many people prefer otherwise, especially those that are left-handed. Having a centrally located plotter through which everything, including the hi-fi (either on-board or Bluetooth), is controlled and observed is a must on this type of boat. I also found it helpful to have the engine display located on the top right-hand side next to the plotter. Being just off my line of sight, it was easy to keep an eye on the tachometer and the engine trim level when throwing the boat about.
I drove the Yamaha-powered boat while Josh from Cobra drove the Suzuki-powered Nautique. Both boats were identical bar the engines – they even had equal crew and fuel levels. Having 300hp on a 7.7m RIB is a perfect match, and you really feel it when you nail the throttle. The Nautique took off with a vengeance, relentlessly pushing towards its top speed just shy of 50 knots. The hull is well balanced and responsive to the wheel and reassuringly steady when thrown into hard turns – even in some of the confused water just south of the Needles. The Yamaha only needed half leg trim at full power, which if you were lazy you could leave it at for pretty much any speed down to 20 knots with no adverse effect. However, in the rougher water it paid to run the leg out about a quarter if you were running into the weather or pushing the boat hard in a turn. It is not so much a forgiving drive in the rough as an easy one, which is helped immensely by its robust construction. At no point during the test did I hear a single complaint from the hull, which, all things considered, is quite an achievement.
South of the Needles, having such a deep-vee hull was a bonus as the ride was deceptively smooth. There is nothing I hate more than getting beaten up by the sea when I want to focus on other things. This boat allows you this luxury, made all the easier by the enclave of security afforded by the console/seat design. Whether the Evolution chine design works its magic in the turns is hard to say, but the boat is certainly great fun to throw about in tight turns and sure-footed in the process. Returning back into the Solent with the tide just on the turn, we had some impressive 10ft overfalls next to the Needles lighthouse, which the Cobra surfed through easily without any intention of stuffing its nose.
What I have always liked about Cobras is the attention to detail in the form of on-board features that give it a luxury edge without taking away that RIB character. The discreet toilet compartment is the perfect example of this, making this boat a credible family boat rather than a lad’s weekend blaster. The toilet is a chemical cassette toilet, but there is a sink, and any toilet on a 7.7m boat is a rare bonus. Beneath and behind the back seat is a large void of storage space, batteries and cut-off switches – accessed via a lift-up seat section. There is also more storage in the form of three sealed lined storage lockers in the helm seat back, as well as space under the bow cushions. Something I liked in particular was the texturised Hypalon tubes and the ‘grippy’ rubber bow roller, both of which enhance the boat’s practical nature and appearance.
This is Cobra’s most popular RIB and with good reason. It is easy to tow and launch and yet is big enough to rough it offshore. It is a high-quality British-built boat that has been meticulously designed as a fast driver’s boat. However, it is not a boat that will get rejected by the family after one season, as happens to many RIBs. As with any high-performance craft, the key point is the driving experience, and this boat, with its generous power-to-weight ratio and such a capable hull, excels in this department.
It had to be done – a Jeremy Clarkson-style drag race over half a mile to see which engine was the quickest. It was about as equal as you could get. Equal crew numbers, equal fuel, and both boats had been fitted and rigged by the engine manufacturers with the optimum prop for the boat. We lined up at Hurst Castle with engines in neutral, Simon and I in the Yamaha boat, and Josh and co-pilot in the Suzuki boat. The photo boat waited at the finish line to record the result. Simon did the count-down – ‘three, two, one, go!’ – and we were off. My boat shot ahead by a huge margin and creamed it over the finish line flat out at 49.9 knots with the Suzuki quite some way back. I nearly fell out of the boat laughing when Josh turned up demanding a retrial, which I happily agreed to.
Again Simon did the count-down, but this time he noticed Josh slip the boat into gear on ‘one’ – obviously keen not to be sucking my fumes in again. We were off, and again my boat was ahead (though not by as much this time) and out of the hole ahead of Josh, regardless of his cheating. Yamaha clearly had the edge on acceleration, but towards the end the Suzuki-powered boat was closing the gap and crossed the line at a top speed of 50.5 knots. These engines, though theoretically producing the same horsepower, do have some notable differences. The reasons for the Yamaha’s better low-down power delivery are likely to be the following: it has variable camshaft timing, it is 19kg lighter, its stroke is not shorter than its cylinder bore is wide – like the Suzuki (longer stokes have more torque) – and it has an extra 141cc. There may be an argument regarding different prop pitches and gear ratios, but the truth is that the Yamaha produces more low-down response than the Suzuki.
Following this race we conducted fuel consumption trials, which again showed a difference, this time with Suzuki’s lean burn system having the advantage in terms of economy.
Engine specifications on test
Yamaha F300BETX Suzuki DF300APX
Engine type: 24-valve DOHC V6 (60 degrees) Engine type: 24-valve DOHC V6 (55 degrees)
Bore and stroke: 96 x 96 mm Bore and stroke: 98 x 89 mm
Displacement: 4169cc Displacement: 4028cc
Full throttle range: 5000–6000 rpm Full throttle range: 5700–6300 rpm
Weight: 255kg Weight: 274kg
Gear ratio: 1.75 Gear ratio: 2.08
Prop pitch: 19″ Prop pitch: 23″
Fuel consumption Fuel consumption
Engine speed LPH Knots MPG Engine speed LPH Knots MPG
2500rpm 21.0 13.9 3.0 2500rpm 20.0 12.0 2.7
3000rpm 25.6 22.5 4.0 3000rpm 23.5 16.0 3.1
3500rpm 34.0 28.0 3.8 3500rpm 29.0 23.4 3.7
4000rpm 43.0 32.2 3.4 4000rpm 39.5 31.5 3.6
4500rpm 58.5 36.5 2.8 4500rpm 56.0 37.0 3.0
5000rpm 76.0 41.6 2.5 5000rpm 69.4 42.0 2.7
5500rpm 92.0 46.1 2.3 5500rpm 87.8 46.9 2.4
5800rpm (wot) 102.0 49.9 2.2 6000rpm (wot) 99.5 50.5 2.3
All fuel figures were from the factory-fitted fuel flow meter.
- LOA: 7.70m
- Beam: 2.55m
- Transom deadrise angle: 26 degrees
- Displacement: 1600kg (with engine)
- Power options: 200 to 300 hp
- Fuel capacity: 300 litres
- RCD category: B for 11
- Test engine: 300hp Yamaha F300
As tested: £86,931 (inc. VAT – either engine)
Yamaha F300-powered boat: 49.9 knots (2-way average), 50% fuel, 2 crew and moderate sea conditions.
Suzuki DF300-powered boat: 50.5 knots (2-way average), 50% fuel, 2 crew and moderate sea conditions.
Cobra RIBs UK, 12 Priory Industrial Park, Airspeed Rd, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 4HD