- Testing the Ribcraft 9.5m Cabin is pretty much a foregone conclusion, insomuch as it is built on a renowned pedigree hull.
- Everything is overengineered to comply with Lloyd’s regulations, so wherever you look the standard of fit is of the highest level.
The new 9.5m Cabin RIB from Ribcraft is a wheelhouse planing craft with multiple custom options, drives like a dream and is the product of a company with a fine pedigree. Greg Copp wonders what’s not to like …
In the world of British RIBs, Ribcraft need little introduction. Founded in the 1980s when the RIB revolution was in full swing, this Yeovil-based yard has supplied high-quality pleasure and commercial RIBs worldwide. Their new 9.5m Cabin, like many good offshore RIBs, is based on an existing design ‒ in this case their long-standing formidable 9m, whose deep-vee hull is still one of the best in its class.
The 9.5m Cabin is an immensely strong boat, built with a cross-linked inner matrix, producing a lattice-like construction below deck. She has a commercial hand lay-up, right out to her extended tube flange, creating a boat of immense strength for its size. The 9.5 Cabin has a DNV plan-approved hull that also meets Lloyd’s regulations and is constructed using the latest generation of composites throughout. The tubes are bonded to the hull over the extended tube flange, giving them superior bonding strength between tube and hull to conventional flanges. The end product is a strong hull and sponsons that meet MCA approval for coding ‒ in this case CAT 3 for passages up to 20nm offshore during day or night. The tubes are manufactured by Ribcraft with Hypalon 1670 Dtex, then clad in 3mm Neoprene and enclosed with a ‘snag-free rubbing strake’.
The boat featured is a fisheries protection vessel and is designed specifically to meet the client’s individual operational requirements. The customer wanted a boat that would provide a comfortable working platform for the crew along with all-weather protection for year-round usage. The wheelhouse is Ribcraft’s latest design, offering ‘Clear Vision’ by using frameless reinforced windows served by some serious ‘full-frame windscreen wipers’. These windows give the interior of the cabin an increased sense of space and light, as does the small sunroof – which it does need. The wheelhouse is fully insulated and lined, and has an Eberspächer heating system, an on-board toilet and two full-size shock mitigation seats. I did feel that it was a touch on the cramped side for more than three. If you do have just three on board, one crewmember has to sit on the smaller rear sprung jockey seat, which pales in comparison to the enticing armchair-like seats that the helmsman and navigator enjoy. Space is naturally limited on a 9.5m cabin RIB with a toilet compartment, so one really has to limit the crew to three on long passages ‒ or build the boat with a longer wheelhouse in the first place.
The options list for the 9.5m Cabin would make an article in itself, as no two end-users are likely to be the same. This particular boat had a large sonar panel on the coachroof, amid the life buoys, radar dome, navigation lights and a selection of antennas. Air conditioning, not too surprisingly, is on the list, as are FLIR thermal imaging cameras, which if you have ever used you will want ‒ just don’t opt for the ‘lower-end’ optics as it is certainly a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. If you are a member of the blackened-face brigade, then ‘ballistic protection’ is something else to consider, though I imagine it applies to the wheelhouse and not the hull and tubes.
The gelcoat finish is typically of a very high standard, as are all the hatch fittings and the engine rigging. The splash well, which houses a 2000gph bilge pump, a smaller sentinel bilge pump and two Samson posts, matches the clinical neatness and practicality of the two opposite hatches on the outside of the wheelhouse containing the primary fuel filters. If you need to go forward, the rubber non-slip side decks are complemented by full-length roof rails.
Driving the 9.5m
Any wheelhouse planing boat tends to give a slightly surreal driving experience. However, the Ribcraft 9.5 Cabin RIB, by the nature of its design and construction, creates a much more insulated feel than, say, a small diesel stern-driven Nord Star, and being externally petrol powered, blissfully quiet and smooth, you get very little impression of speed. It is also pretty quick off the mark, hitting 30 knots in 9 seconds and its top speed of 43 knots in around 17 seconds. It seems to require hardly any trim out on the outboard legs ‒ you just leave it at around a quarter or slightly less and drive it at that setting at all speeds. Having the weight of a wheelhouse sitting aft of amidships, I would have expected to have induced more of a bow-up attitude, but it hasn’t, which is a good thing. With its twin 300L tanks full of fuel, this situation may change slightly, but as it displaces a fairly reasonable 3.7 tonnes, I suspect it will always be well composed.
This particular boat may well have been sold as a fisheries patrol vessel, with little requirement for sports boat-like handling, but it is simply superb to throw about. The angle of heel on tight turns is increased and accentuated by the topside weight of the wheelhouse, and as you are sitting fairly high up for a RIB, you certainly know about it. It poses no problems, because try as you might you will not lose the stern, and the sponsons will always push you back if you corner too hard when cutting the incredibly tight turns that this boat is capable of. Its deep-vee hull will naturally increase its tendency to heel and, with the windage of a cabin, lean into the wind – depending on the weather. The test boat appeared to have no trim tabs fitted, but as every Ribcraft is bespoke, this is no doubt an option, and something that would benefit this boat on long passages in a beam sea.
Sadly, my test day was relatively untesting for a Ribcraft in sea state terms, although there was a bit of sharp wake to run through. True to form, the sharp hull cut through with reassuring stability, without the slightest murmur. Running along and off the wake crests of other boats did not appear to induce that side slide that can occur with lighter wheelhouse boats, so in confused or biggish beam seas I imagine she is pretty capable for a 3.7-tonne planing boat.
Testing the Ribcraft 9.5m Cabin is pretty much a foregone conclusion, insomuch as it is built on a renowned pedigree hull. Everything is overengineered to comply with Lloyd’s regulations, so wherever you look the standard of fit is of the highest level. Where it does tend to differ from some other commercial boats is that the refinement and finish are often of a higher standard ‒ a by-product of the fact that Ribcraft also have a big interest in the pleasure boat market.
What we thought
- Tight turning circle
- Soft-riding hull
- Sound insulation
- Comfy sprung seating
- Solid build quality
- Fit and finish
- Full-height toilet compartment
- FLIR thermal imaging camera option
- Only two full-size seats
Fuel consumption (both engines – Suzuki fuel flow meter)
Engine speed Speed (knots) LPH MPG
1500rpm 6.2 17.7 1.6
2000rpm 9.1 23.0 1.8
2500rpm 12.1 32.0 1.7
3000rpm 18.2 44.0 1.9
3500rpm 24.3 58.4 1.9
4000rpm 28.7 75.0 1.7
4500rpm 35.3 97.0 1.7
5000rpm 39.0 130.0 1.4
5500rpm 43.0 158.0 1.3
- Beam: 3.0m
- Tube diameter: 530mm
- Displacement: 3700kg (dry with twin Suzuki DF250s)
- Fuel capacity: 2 x 300L
- RCD category: B
- Test engines: Twin 250hp Suzuki DF250 outboards
- 43 knots (2-way average), sea conditions moderate, wind F3
- 0–30 knots: 9 seconds
- 0–40 knots: 15 seconds
As tested: TBC
Houndstone Business Park
Somerset BA22 8RU