They have been building RIBs for the Far East for over 20 years and now Silver Marine are stepping in to the European market. We took their Phoenix 610 out to see how she measures up against the competition.
There seems to be no end to the number of new RIBs coming on to the market. I don’t mean new models from existing RIB builders, but newcomers to the RIB-building business. As America slowly discovers the attributes of these versatile craft, this trend can only continue, and now China has stepped into the ring, producing RIBs in large numbers. As in all areas of manufacture, there are ways of reducing the cost of building by using modular components and line-assembly techniques, saving labour and time. These cost reductions can then be used to reduce the retail price, hopefully encouraging higher take-up. This is the kind of approach that Silver Marine have taken to producing their line of leisure RIBs, including the Phoenix 610.
The Phoenix has a constant deadrise deep-V hull with a Delta pad as the basis of the boat. This hull shape goes right back to the roots of Ray Hunt’s deep-V hull design. The keel line is rounded rather than angular, which will help with release from the mould. The deck is moulded as one piece and the engine well added as a separate moulding, laminated into place. The console and seating are then bolted into position. This lack of complexity in the build makes the boats very quick and easy to put together.
Of course, this kind of production prevents any kind of customisation, other than a choice of standard options on seating and cosmetics. This is bringing boat production into line with automotive manufacturing. There are those niche-market builders like TVR or Morgan, and there are the cheaper everyday cars like Kia and Hyundai. In terms of common denominators, they both get you to where you want to go. For some people this is not enough, which is why the niche-car makers are still in business. The same is true of the boating market.
The Silver Marine 610 is aimed at the leisure market where people are looking for a boat to take the family out in, no frills or status symbols, just practical boating at a very attractive price. For most leisure use, on calm or sheltered water, the limits of a good boat are never going to be tested, so there is an argument that can be raised as to whether you actually need a boat of that standard. Only the purchaser can answer that question, but it is like asking if you need a G Wagon if you only go down a muddy track twice a year; or a 300hp car just to tootle around the country lanes at 45mph.
The Phoenix 610 can provide fun family boating with her roomy deck and basic layout. The console is simply bolted to the deck and has a double leaning post rather than seating. There is a small jump seat forward, with an access hatch to the interior of the console. There is another access hatch to a small stowage port in the side of the console. The leaning post is given pigeonholes in the backrest and a further, off the deck, dry stowage hatch in the main structure. These are very useful features but they are very basic and lacking in finishing touches like edging strips.
The across the stern bench seat is another bolted-in item with stowage below. Again it is functional and nothing more. The gaps each side of the cockpit drain to the engine well and are likely to collect dirt unless attention is paid to thoroughly washing down and scrubbing these areas out. The padding for the upholstery is a bit thin and the foam is not very firm. These are further areas where the cost savings have been made. The main mouldings are actually pretty fair. There are plenty of useful practicalities, like deck-level lighting and running lights on the bow roller moulding, although Lord knows how they get the wiring to them. The rubbing strake all round is both deep and substantial with a double air-filled cushioning strip. The cones of the tubes are tapered to beyond the engine and overall the boat seems fine.
When you get the Phoenix out on the water she is actually reasonably stable, although she is light and you can feel the wind getting under the flared bow and wide diameter tubes forward. This makes her feel very light on the helm and a little ponderous as a result, like a car with understeer. Heeling into a turn the tubes do provide support, but they are more flexible than you would find on a high-performance RIB – as this isn’t one they worked perfectly adequately. That, I think, just about sums this boat up: she is perfectly adequate for having fun in. I would go so far as to say that, with regard to performance, with just 115hp she is quite an enlightenment, a pleasant surprise. A bit like driving a modern Skoda for the first time. We got her up to a top speed of 35.9 knots, which for a biggish boat with a smallish engine is very respectable and is a reliable indication that she is a light boat. Something that came through in the handling is that you do feel the water beneath you. For 80% of the boating public this will not be an issue.
The overall aspect of the Phoenix, with her pseudo-teak decks, is very smart. They may only be imitation planks but they add a decorative aspect that masks the basic build quality. Most people won’t even notice once their hair is streaming astern and they have lost yet another hat. Where else can you get a fully-rigged 6.1m RIB for under £24,000? Basic she may be, but she has everything the casual boater is looking for and has an attractive price tag. In today’s market, that is going to get people looking twice.