Greg Copp tests the Stingher 800GT Sport Custom
Unless you know exactly what you want in a RIB, the rows of high powered rigid inflatable boats that adorn most boat shows often saturate your head with temptation and confusion. The fact is that RIBs have got faster, handle better, and are generally tougher. Many have shot up in price, with little justification other than a well-known brand name. MRL RIBs is not one of the ‘many’ though this Southampton based company has become a well-known brand name, with a purist approach.
Historically speaking the MRL Stingher 800GT is a new boat. Many will consider it a luxury sports boat, come super yacht tender, which amongst other things it certainly is. However this practical boat still retains true RIB credentials. It also provides the sort of white knuckle driving experience that anyone buying a big RIB inevitably craves, whilst acknowledging the need for a family orientated dimension.
It is an effective combination of British practicality and Italian style. The hull and tubes are constructed in Italy, and then the bare boat is rigged and fitted out by MRL in the UK. It is one of a range of luxury RIBs, some of which are seriously fast, all of which have a range of sensible design features. As only the hull and tubes are Italian built, everything else from the synthetic teak decking to the engines, are specified and fitted by Southampton based MRL. Having plenty of experience in this field this company has created a very ‘driver focused’ boat, from shock absorbing Scott seats, to a range of engines from every manufacturer. Every boat is rigged and extensively sea trialed by Neil Holmes, a man with an extensive history of power boat racing titles behind him.
My test boat had a super-charged 350hp Mercury Verado, one of the most exciting single engine configuration for a boat this size. Every time I drive a boat with a Verado I never cease to be impressed by the torque it pumps out, and its super smooth power delivery. Once out in unrestricted waters I took off and was hitting 40 knots in around 10 seconds, and less than 10 seconds later, albeit with a bit of fine trim tuning, I was past 50 knots. Neil then did some timed runs, the details of which are listed below, which prove the value of extensive prop testing.
The 800GT is aimed at being a point and shoot boat, that does not need an experienced driver to keep it in line at wide throttle openings. Subsequently it does not have a stepped hull. The truth is this boat is both fast and efficient and having a well-balanced deep-vee hull, great fun to throw about in a series of tight turns. There are plenty that will argue that a few extra knots could have been achieved by stepping the hull, and that not all stepped hulls are twitchy at speed – which to be fair is true.
It steers as if on rails, and I could not induce the slightest hint of hull slide, try as I might. It has perfectly precise steering, that is both quick to react to the wheel and totally composed. You do not worry whether you may have inadvertently over-steered, as can be the case if the steering system is touch over the top. It has electro-hydraulic power steering which can be fine-tuned as required, and clearly somebody has spent some time setting this to this specific boat.
It was a calm day, but there is always a bit of ferry wake to be found in Southampton Water when you need it. Hitting this at 40 knots is easy work for the Stingher. If you do get the boat out of the water she lands with no complaint. You get that reassuring ‘hewn from granite feel’ with the 800GT which you do not always get from a big RIB. Running both into some of the chop and confused water off Calshot, the boat was reassuringly steady. She requires just a small amount of trim out on the engines to squeeze out the last few knots, as her natural poise is very good.
Something that needs a mention are the seats. The shock-absorbing Scott seats fitted to this boat are a great. This boat might be able to hit ridges of water at speed easily, but humans have their limitations. There are two types of Scott seat offered, either with or without the short stump. Our test boat had stump seats which enables you to stand, leaning into the seat base with your legs anchored either side of the stump – the same principle as standing over a jockey seat. This works a treat if you want to gain a bit more height to look over the bow at the wave pattern ahead. Deck rails enable the fitting of an extra pair of Scotts, or adjusting leg length for the front pair as required.
Ergonomically the 800GT is spot on. When seated you are hidden from the weather, though if you stand you will get a face full. Because of a better view over the bow, I virtually always stand with fast offshore boats. However the seating/console equation was such that I kept myself firmly planted in the super-comfy Silvertex upholstered seats. The finish of the carbon dash is impressive, as is the gel coat and the various stainless fittings that adorn the console, radar arch and transom area. It has the all-important luxury of a proper sea toilet entered via the console front. This is a feature that is becoming far more common in RIBs, simply because it sells the boat to the family, and not just the helmsman. It is not obvious at a glance, because locating the toilet as low as possible has not compromised the size and shape of the console.
The bow has an impressive storage in the form of two lockers, bow locker and a windlass locker above. The two deck lockers have a large central cavity that is big enough for inflatable toys. This forward area with a cushion infill can convert to a sun pad.
The aft section has the option of a teak table. The bench seating is suitably recessed to keep any occupants dry. If you need to access the transom platform then you can step around the radar arch courtesy of teak topped coamings on either quarter. The aft bench seat opens to reveal not only another storage cavity, but an impressive array of system controls. The system is built around not only easy access and maintenance, but effective problem management.
There are battery shut-off triggers at the helm, for each of the two batteries: engine, and domestic/system battery. In the aft cavity there are a series of trips/fuses for all system components plus a bridging system. This enables the batteries to be quickly linked in parallel if the engine battery is flat, enabling the engine to be started. In reality it is unlikely that any batteries will go flat as there is a solar charger on the radar arch. In the port quarter the power steering pump is conveniently located along with the transom shower pump. There is also a bilge blower as would be normally fitted to an inboard engine bay, just in case of fuel spillage when cleaning or draining the fuel filter/separators.
The MRL Stingher RIB is a well-designed boat that is really very hard to fault. It is a boat that has been carefully thought out, down to the smallest engineering details by someone who understands what this sort of boat is about, and what boxes need to be ticked for maximum appeal. It is a joy to drive, and is capable of cracking on at a serious pace without alarming its occupants – always important. Significantly its build quality and fit/finish is certainly on par with any leading brand, and in most cases at a lower purchase price.
What we thought
- Great handling – very responsive steering.
- Attention to detail – even behind the scenes
- Like most boats there is an extras list, albeit a fairly short one.
- Engine options: Single 250–400 hp or twin 175 or 200 hp – available with Mercury, Suzuki, Yamaha, Evinrude or Honda engine packages
- Total length: 8.01m
- Total width: 3.00m
- Weight (bare boat): 1230kg
- Max. power: 431hp
- Fuel capacity: 370 litres
- CE category: B
- Person capacity: 12
Fuel Figures (Mercury fuel flow meter)
RPM SPEED (knots) FUEL CONSUMPTION nmg
1500 6.7 3.6
2000 9.8 3.2
2500 16.4 3.9
3000 19.6 3.5
3500 21.7 3.4
4000 31.1 3.6
4500 37.7 3.3
5000 43.5 2.8
5500 48.4 2.3
5836 (WOT) 52.3 2.0
52.3 knots (2 way average) sea conditions moderate, crew 1, and fuel 30%.
0 – 26 knots (0 – 30mph): 5 seconds
0 – 44 knots (0 – 50mph): 13 seconds
26 – 44 knots (30 – 50mph): 7 seconds
Available from: £86,800 (inc. VAT)
As tested: £99,650 (inc. VAT)