- You get the impression that every aspect of the boat has been carefully thought through.
- This particular version is obviously not designed for the average family, though its seats would certainly win a few hearts and minds in rough weather.
- Not many 8m RIBs give such a secure and planted ride as this boat, enhanced by its enclosed cockpit and bulletproof aluminium hull.
- There is no compromise with this boat, right down to the smallest detail.
The Ribcraft 7.8m Professional is primarily built as a commercial boat that also appeals to those serious about using RIBs in testing offshore conditions, as Greg Copp explains …
As its name implies, the 7.8m Professional from Ribcraft is a boat primarily aimed at the commercial sector. This is not to say that the only people who buy the 7.8 either fit blue flashing lights or sneak ashore with blackened faces, as this boat has plenty of normal customers in the leisure world. To be fair, it is not a newcomer to the market, but given the chance to try out one of the few ‘sneaky beaky’ aluminium versions of the 7.8m Professional, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
As implied, this boat is either built in GRP or aluminium, both constructed with an exceedingly robust below-decks cross-linked inner matrix. Most boats are GRP, which drops the price by over £30K compared to an aluminium boat, and the list of bespoke extras and modifications is virtually endless – including sterndrives and jet drive propulsion. Our test boat was particularly bespoke. It is one of five boats, all of which are slightly different, built for a European police force – which was as much as Ribcraft would say on the matter.
Black RIBs are no longer dockside novelties, but the lean black T-top that adorns this particular boat certainly made her stand out in Portland marina. What makes it so versatile is that the soft sides of the T-top are easily removed, as is the canvas roof should the weather warrant it. The roof is tightly tensioned on both sides, so there is absolutely no flapping at speed. The additional bonus of having a soft coachroof and side windows is the reduction in topside weight – which I would appreciate later off Portland. A particularly neat feature is the navigator’s strip light, whose red-light feature enables night-time chart work without loss of natural night vision.
If you like fast RIBs, or any other serious powerboat for that matter, you will love the helm ergonomics. Firstly, the shock-absorbing Ullman seats, mounted on slider rails, give you that perfect seat set-up – which they should, considering how much they cost. Secondly, the wheel and throttles sit where you need them, with a 9″ Garmin 922xs chartplotter directly in your line of sight over the compass to the bow. The two engine displays sit either side of it and can be reached without having to stand up, so all in all, the helmsman’s lot is a pretty comfy self-contained affair.
However, this boat is not a one-man mission, as the navigator gets his own box of tricks in the form of a 10″ Garmin 1022xsv chartplotter. The reason behind this is that the 1022, unlike the 922, apart from being larger, is not touch screen, and has a rotary knob and a conventional old-school keypad. Dabbing at a touch screen on a lively wet boat, or with gloves on, simply does not work, which is why Garmin and many other companies offer systems like the 1022xsv.
It goes without saying that Garmin’s latest compact HD GMR 18 xHD digital radar dome sits on the T-top frame. Weighing in at just 7.7kg, it can see out to an impressive 48 nautical miles, while if need be, it can zoom into a buoy just 20m away. Garmin, like most of their competitors, now have an impressive range of features within their electronics range, notably Auto Guidance, CHIRP ClearVu and CHIRP SideVu sonar. In simplistic terms, Auto Guidance gives you satnav like passage planning, which takes into account navigational hazards, tides, depths etc., while CHIRP sonar gives you impressive 3D images of life beneath and forward of your keel (see PBR Issue 143 for further info on all Garmin’s latest gear).
Our test day was perfect in sunshine terms, but a persistent force 5 was blowing directly off the land, so we headed south towards Portland Bill to get a feel of how the boat drove in some chop. The first thing that strikes you about this version of the 7.8m Professional is the lack of impression of speed. The enclosed cockpit is a major factor in this, but so are the Ullman seats, and the sharp hull. Ribcraft told me that they left a gap at the top of the windscreen so you still get some impression of how fast you are travelling, but on a warm day, what it gives you more realistically is a cooling draught right on the forehead. The beauty of aluminium boats is that unless you have a death wish, they are impossible to abuse, and as we started to run further out to sea I began to appreciate this. Hitting the increasingly taller waves at a shade under 40 knots, the Ribcraft cuts with clinical precision without the hint of a complaint from its hull. Most GRP boats will have a point, depending on how well they are built, at which their moulded hulls will hint that you are possibly being a little overenthusiastic. This boat has no capacity for complaint, and with the Ullmans reducing the abuse factor, you can settle down to some serious offshore mania.
I got the distinct feeling that the weight and position of the console works well at keeping the fore and aft trim just right in all conditions. Hitting the increasingly large seas as we headed out did not induce the bow to start reaching for the sky. I did not feel a need to trim the outboards any lower than 50% to get the forefoot down, as you would normally do when running into head seas. No matter what point of sailing, this boat always feels stable and composed. I thought that turning hard into rolling the beam sea that was building up further offshore might induce a ‘tippy feeling’ from the T-top, but with her big 530mm tubes digging in, there was no chance of that. Running fast with a large sea on the stern is effortless, as no matter how hard you come off one wave into the back of another, being inherently buoyant due to big tubes and a light aluminium construction, she picks her nose up quickly.
There is a distinct sweet spot at 25 knots, which at 3500rpm is maximum torque for the DF150s. The fuel figures recorded are remarkably frugal at this speed, and give you an incredible 400-mile-plus range – with a substantial reserve. Only above 30 knots do the fuel figures start to reflect the extra drag of two engines, which is particularly evident at 40 knots or more. Her top speed of just shy of 43 knots is a reflection of having the slight wind drag of the T-top.
On deck she has a clinically clean feel to her, with plenty of aft cockpit space. The rigging is beautifully neat, as it drops into two watertight tunnels at the transom leaving nothing to clutter the deck space. A grate-covered splash well conceals two large bilge pumps. The only slight downside of the boat’s design is that you have to clamber onto its heavy-duty tubes to go forward. There is no alternative if you want to access the watertight storage in the foredeck and in the front of the console, or open the twin fuel fillers mounted in the console. Without a doubt, reducing the console width would compromise the design.
There is no compromise with this boat, right down to the smallest detail. You get the impression that every aspect of the boat has been carefully thought through. This particular version is obviously not designed for the average family, though its seats would certainly win a few hearts and minds in rough weather. Not many 8m RIBs give such a secure and planted ride as this boat, enhanced by its enclosed cockpit and bulletproof aluminium hull.
Fuel Consumption (both engines – Suzuki fuel flow meter)
Engine speed GPH Knots MPG
2000rpm 1.5 8.3 5.5
2500rpm 2.8 14.4 5.1
3000rpm 3.5 21.2 6.0
3500rpm 4.0 24.9 6.2
4000rpm 5.7 30.2 5.3
4500rpm 7.1 32.2 4.5
5000rpm 9.5 38.0 4.0
5500rpm 11.4 40.0 3.5
6000rpm (wot) 14.3 42.9 3.0
- LOA: 7.8m
- Internal length: 6.4m
- Beam: 2.7m
- Internal beam: 1.7m
- Transom deadrise angle: 24 degrees
- Tube diameter: 530mm
- Displacement: 1600kg (dry with twin Suzuki DF150APXs)
- Power options: Single 150hp–300hp outboards, twin 100hp–200hp outboards (all Suzuki)
- Fuel capacities: Up to 2x180L (40 gal) for twin engines
- RCD category: B for 14
- Test engines: Twin 150hp Suzuki DF150APX outboards
42.9 knots (2-way average), moderate sea conditions, wind F5
From: £110,000 (inc. VAT) with a single 150hp Suzuki DF150 outboard
As tested: £148,000 (inc. VAT)
Houndstone Business Park
Somerset BA22 8RU