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There can be no greater accolade for Riviera!

by John Curnow, Editor, Powerboat-World.com 26 Aug 00:39 UTC
The night is darkest just before the dawn, and this was the only thing visible - Riviera trip Gold Coast to Sydney © John Curnow

It was so, so good, that I fell asleep. And not just once, mind you, but four times. Brilliant, huh?! It had all started out as a reward for being up super early that day (actually I had not really gone to bed per se). Ultimately, the whole thing morphed into a challenge of sorts, as I swapped between four of the five terrific Rivieras we were delivering down from the Gold Coast to Sydney for the boat show.

As we left the Southport Seaway, the light just got better and better, and we had our special armada line abreast, with the famous skyscrapers all lit up by the glorious colours that only nature can provide. Soon, the boats themselves were bathed in these magical tones, and apart from those in the hot air balloons, we seemed to be the only ones up to enjoy the best show on earth.

So the work began in earnest, clicking away with the first of over 700 stills that I took, and the initial minutes of more than 20GB of video occupying my mind, as we positioned all the craft according to plan. Anytime you go to sea, you know it is more tiring than being on land, primarily as your body is using a lot of muscles to counteract the movement of the boat. Add in the intensity of capturing the moment, and you can understand that I was just a little bit spent.

Now if you go into the big blue enough, you’ll know that sleep, however short, is one of the best ways to ensure you remain alert, ready for whatever may come your way. The reason it is so crucial, is because you never know exactly when that may be. So after enjoying some of the copious provisioning we had on board, another key element to successful passage making, I took myself to the aft deck, lay down on the teak, and had a short nap of say 30 minutes.

It really is possible.

We had a following sea that first day, and the sun was glorious. In all honesty, I would pay for the kind of bliss that I enjoyed there. Train spotters will note that I was also directly above our 6000 Sport Yacht’s D11 Volvo Penta 725s that were humming away below me. They spun the jackshafts effortlessly, and with their exhaust being expelled out through the IPS drives, it was quiet, hypnotic and ultra-relaxing. Oh how I miss it. Please take me back right now…

Upon my awakening, which from the look from the crew had me feeling like I just had returned from the dead, it was my turn to take the helm. In this utterly palatial vessel, it is quite far for’ard (the most so of our armada actually), and to starboard of the light well that fills the atrium of the lower deck. We were on hull #82 of this very successful line, and I can easily see why it is so.

This model accounts for nearly 20% of the 500 plus Sport Yachts that Australia’s largest selling, genuine blue water brand has delivered in its 39 years of existence. It is incredibly configurable to your needs. You can have it with a second lounge below decks, turn that into another twin cabin, or bathroom or galley or study, whilst leaving the two other twin cabins to provide for a sumptuous accommodation, the VIP Stateroom up for’ard or twin stateroom to starboard, all whilst you then have the most resplendent Presidential Suite, and ginormous head. Together your territory occupies most of the real estate on board. Even the engine room gets less!

So Captain Araldite, that would be me, saddled in to the luxurious comfort and brilliantly ergonomic helm chair up against the starboard coachhouse window of this new Platinum edition. The many new, extra details and refinements that have gone into them would take up an article in themselves, but suffice to say they are everywhere you look and touch throughout the 6000, 5400, and 4800 Sport Yacht Series II model line up.

Beg for a treat.

Do investigate one of these vessels for yourself, or if you are lucky enough, have Riviera’s owner, Rodney Longhurst, take you on a guided tour, where his passion and enthusiasm for things like vents and fabric choices will imbue you with the very same sense of pride he and the 600 strong workforce at Coomera have in their product. Having experienced said excursion first hand, I can attest to the captivating nature of the round trip.

For the first time ever on any Riviera I have reviewed, I did use the autopilot. Not for long, mind you, but long enough to say that it all works fine, is integrated seamlessly into the joystick, and in combination with the two large screens before you, you can see and do all you need to as Master of your vessel.

In the very next breath, and before I get too far into this piece, I not only need to thank Riviera for the privilege of being able to enjoy some of their latest offerings back to back, but also all of the Skippers of the five new models that made the passage in company from Runaway Bay to Rozelle. Without Leigh, Mark, Rhys, Dean, and Adam being there, when my turn at driving was up I just would not have been able to nod off in peace. So cheers to all of you.

I had wanted to partake in this voyage as proof of concept. That mean’s offshore ready, high specification, luxurious quality fit out, and genuine sense of enjoyment. Australia’s finest premium boat builder delivers on all levels because they are quiet, in both the mechanical, and hull noise definitions of the term. The real bonus comes in the way that they are smooth and gentle, which is not only good for you, but utterly brilliant for your family and guests on board.

Back to passage making once more, and we stopped at the iconic Cape Byron for an engine room check. All good there, naturally, and so we slipped effortlessly back up onto the plane, to then see firstly Ballina, then Yamba and her famous Pacific Hotel, fly by as we made 22-25 knots feel eerily easy. Going higher up the scale simply had you checking SOG to make sure it was so, because relativity can take some time to get used to.

Brooms Head is even more special from the sea than the land, and Wooli and Woolgoolga were names on the chart plotter as we marched in towards Coffs Harbour, and my first change. The 5400 Sport Yacht with Mark Lawson and Nick Moxey on board was ready for me, so I put the electronics on my back, and jumped ship. Well boarding platform to boarding platform, at any rate.

Quiet achiever?

Her dark hull only adds to her stealth kind of nature. She shares the identical powertrain with her bigger sister, as does the 545 SUV that we would test the next day. Being five tones lighter than the 6000 Sport Yacht, those Volvos will move her 25 tonne mass out to a healthy 35 knots WOT, which we did on approach to Port Macquarie, our stop for bunkering, and a real kip.

The 5400, and for that matter her little sister the 4800, love to cruise at 27-29 knots. Even when travelling into a headwind and the resultant slop, they both prefer to skip across the top at around 25 knots, where they ride more smoothly, and that helps all passengers on board with a far kinder motion.

The 5400 has her helm station amidships, and it’s further aft than the 6000. She also has a lounge to port, and this goes up under the windscreen, so if you place a heap of cushions up there, you can have a cruisy forward facing day bed to talk directly with the skipper, as an option to forward facing, and slightly aft is a second, the main L-shaped lounge. Powering along sublimely, for I certainly had the wheel in my hands, rather than let the really remarkable electronic device, FRED, have all the joy. With the excuse of taking images we were able to slide along, up and down the fleet at varying speeds. The 5400 Sport Yacht quickly found a new pal in me.

So I had enjoyed a big day, and driven two magical boats for extended periods of time. Best I go lie out on the aft deck once more. So I did... Now Skipper Mark knows exactly what I am like, but Nick Moxey who was also on board seemed less convinced. After my siesta he was perhaps seeing more than a genesis of an idea, and by the time we were hauling in the 445 SUV on approach to Port Macquarie, we were all around Mark on the helm, and just possibly all enveloping ourselves in the same awe at how effortless the second half of our day had been. Clearly I was the most rested, and so I gathered my thoughts, and began creating the very prose you read here.

I particularly loved the breakfast bar aspect in the main saloon, and used this to get the laptop out to check on the status of the material gathered so far once we were tied to the quay. All that was missing were the beers and crackers, or did someone say Champagne and canapés? Our hosts for the night must have heard me, for soon the latter arrived to the delight of all.

The morning after…

It was simply great to be back with my dear old friend, known to us as the big speedboat, but her real title now is the 4800 Sport Yacht Series II. You can read and see what we thought of the Series I model by going back in time to, Just move with the times.

Her twin 7.7l inline, turbo and supercharged sixes now push out a very healthy 600hp each. She is also a smidgeon longer now, with more buoyancy added to her aft planing section. She’ll top out at around 34 knots, which is pretty handy for a craft that is 20 tonnes. Yes, it is a whole one-knot slower than the 5400, but the joy of this boat is the way she does what she does.

Part of it is the turn in, especially with the interceptors disarmed, so when we closed in on Seal Rocks, I took the opportunity to come in behind Skeleton Reef and have a play. If the Water Police had seen the track on the display before me they would certainly be asking a lot of questions!

We performed another engine room check here. Well the rest of the fleet did whilst I continued to play, and I could hear the groans across the water when I subsequently asked the vessels to get in place for a photo, and our crew went below to review our own Iron Ladies. There was one more image to get, but that involved yet another vessel change for me, and I did not want to press my luck, for we had a date under a bridge to make…

So we popped out from behind the lee of Seal Rocks and saw that the weather had continued to build. My projects were done, and with Port Stephens nearby, I decided to see if I could grab a nap lying athwartships in the midships triple cabin. The change of wind, and resultant water coming over the coachhouse roof conspired to preclude another jaunt out aft. Some of the boxes of brochures making the journey down with us would be my lee cloth.

Excusing myself to Rhys and Justin, I gave it a shot in the building seas. The 4800 affords a gentle motion, and soon I had achieved three from three. That was important, for time had run out and we needed to blast in to Shoal Bay to swap me over to the new 545 SUV that was premiering in Sydney. Roaring past the whale watching boats I could not help but wonder if they would be furious to know that we had seen over 20 of the these great gifts in the preceding 16 hours of daylight?

A new love?

The plan had always been for me to be on the 545 for the run into Sydney Harbour, as she was the star. Given that the wind was going uprange, and yet more water was coming over the deck, it turned out to be a masterstroke.

Now I have always been an open flying bridge kind of guy, but I can honestly tell you how much I am in raptures with what this vessel can do. For sure she is like a planing ocean grader, which might sound a little like an oxymoron, but is actually the best way to describe her.

The 545 does share her hull with Riviera’s 54 Enclosed Flybridge model, and now also has the full beam Master Stateroom from that craft. The centre position of the helm is possibly the most aft of the craft on test, at least in a relative sense, and it is really comfortable. I totally got into my time as skipper, and did try the autopilot once more, before reverting to helming manually, a lot of the time whilst standing.

All that old school behaviour must have worn me out, and soon even our Skipper, Dean, was enquiring if I was going to go four from four. Having spent the previous night asleep in the sumptuous Master of this very craft, with the ports on both sides open to provide a nice ventilation path, I knew how good it could be. There would be no open ports now, for sure, but the comfy bed did its job, and I was back up in time to catch the fleet of racing yachts heading the other way. We were definitely close to Sydney…

Getting very used to single level boats

Riviera have produced over 500 Sport Yachts to date, and there would be around 120 of the SUVs built thus far, but then they have only been available for less than ten years, whereas the Sport Yachts have been around for almost 20. The aft galley, generous undercover seating in the cockpit, outdoor BBQs, tender garages, or open spaces for fishing, and then an amazing array of electronics to keep the skipper fully appraised of any situation really does make the one level totally appealing. I genuinely get it!

This extended passage also meant I could appreciate Volvo Penta’s IPS on another scale all together. It is little wonder that all of Riviera’s product with this drive solution come with a complete, five-year, factory backed warranty! Perhaps the need for shafts in vessels from 30 to 60 feet may have indeed gone the way of the Blackberry…

Watching cruising powercat people’s eyes light up when I talked about doing 5 to 8.5 litres per nautical mile, depending on the model, is clearly a mark as to the range’s efficiency. Of course we cruised predominantly at 22 to 29 knots, speeds that a lot of them simply cannot attain, let alone hold. We covered the 420nm in 19 hours, and averaged a bit over 19 knots, which I reckon is way cool. Put simply, you get there quicker, and you still have a reserve of speed above these levels to escape issues.

We could have gone harder, for the vessels would not have complained, but comfort is key to making it happy days for all, and we had a range of owners/guests and staff aboard. One had never been to sea before, and another had never been on a plane, either, which was his method of transport to get home. The 6000, 5400, and 4800 Series II Sport Yachts, along with the 545 SUV are all the same in a way. They are so smooth, deliciously quiet, and yet also very, very unique, just like fraternal siblings.

Closure.

What would I do differently? Not a lot really. Save for one thing. I don’t reckon I would have turned right after North Head, unless it was to complete a 180-degree turn. Yes. It was too much fun, and I had grown into each and everyone of the Riviera armada. I kept telling myself that despite the fact that we would be found, and the next bunkering port would definitely be onto us, that I just had to complete the deal by being aboard the 445 SUV. She now has a pair of Volvo’s new 5.5l D6s with forged pistons, conrods, and nitrided crankshaft, and 480hp a side. Knowing that Riviera had TV crews parked under the Harbour Bridge awaiting our arrival to capture footage for the nightly news was not my issue. I had a mission to complete, so Riviera, please give me a 445 SUV some time soon…

Interestingly, seeing as over 30 Rivieras have been purchased over the last few months alone, I could be waiting a while. Accordingly, does ‘pretty please, sugar on top’ help at all?

You deserve a reward for making it to the bottom, so here it is - the whole trip in three and a half minutes!

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