It seems everyone is obsessed these days with looking and feeling younger – and now there’s an easy way to achieve this without resorting to Botox, liposuction, tummy tucks, yoga retreats and gluten-free pizza bases consisting of coagulated cauliflower.
It’s called the Riviera 68 Sports Motor Yacht.
Yes, it will set you back $AUD3,898,000 for the base model, but spend any amount of time aboard and your factory settings for youthfulness are instantly restored, with pent-up stress melting into the wake. I defy anyone not to see palm trees in their near future.
So fresh, and refreshing, is the design that it transports you back to that moment you first stepped aboard a boat, felt the sluice of foam beneath the chines, and fell in love. It’s as though some male and female moulds came together, over a glass of resin and Barry White music, to produce a lovechild melding the refined luxury of a European motor yacht with the edgy athleticism of a US-style sports fishing convertible.
In conceiving the blueprints, Riviera engaged with seasoned owners from around the world, building not only a picture of their perfect cruiser but a full-scale mock-up in the factory. Hull 1 was about as perfect as it could be, allowing production to proceed apace.
Boat #2 followed close behind, bound for Cannes Boat Show then its Spanish owners, and the next two are well advanced. At the time of writing, 12 orders had been secured.
Interestingly, a plethora of motor yacht attributes were borne out by the consultation process, like a pantograph side door, walk-around decks with moulded bulwarks, and a foredeck that transforms into an entertaining space. Ladies, particularly, wanted elements such as mezzanine dining, a central galley and, of course, full-beam master stateroom.
30 Knots Plus
Men, being blokes, opted for the ability to run at 30+ knots plus a cockpit geared to fish the canyons. At the same time, the 68 can traverse the Tasman and venture onwards to the Pacific Isles with complete safety and comfort. Twin wing tanks of 3500 litres aside, plus an optional long-range tank of 1500 litres, afford a cruising range of 1975 nautical miles at 9 knots.
A conventional enclosed flybridge can do this too, of course, but against any measure, the SMY layout simply offers onboard living on a superior scale.
As it happens, the 68 was conceived in tandem with a 72. The mould is blocked, sacrificing a few square metres of cockpit and mezzanine space, however, the two models are identical from the engine room bulkhead forward. The price difference is around $600,000, some of which can be attributed to larger standard motors.
It’s immediately apparent how high, and dry, the 68’s hull sits above the water. Bridge clearance is 6.4 m – 2½ storeys – so headroom throughout, even in the full-height engine room is exceptional. Further, the beam of 6 m is carried well aft and the motors are set further back than usual thanks to a vee-drive installation.
To port are dual stairwells, one leading down from the cockpit mezzanine past CZone fusing and a washer-dryer unit, the other rising from the saloon to the enclosed bridge.
Heading below, firstly, there’s a day head with shower. The adjacent crew cab has a single berth, beneath which are a stainless-steel workbench and the ship’s toolkit. Owner drivers may opt to use this space for game fishing, water sports or dive gear.
From here, through a full-sized and sealed door, you enter the heart of the beast – alternatively, engineers can use a hatch concealed in the cockpit wet bar. With so much height and width available, there’s more than ample servicing accessibility.
Twin generators were installed on the test boat for redundancy, producing 27.5 and 13 KVA respectively, and there’s a battery of air-con units. Speaking of which, lithium batteries are installed as standard.
The 68 is the first Riv to be built to CE Category A, the world’s most exacting construction code. As an example, a separate emergency battery is placed in the flybridge for the communications equipment. In terms of engineering execution, and sensible seamanship, this is up there with the world’s absolute best.
The MAN V12 1550hp diesels are a sight to behold in their gleaming all-white surrounds, connecting seamlessly to vee-drives via Sea Torque’s oil-filled, self-contained shaft assembly. Exhausts lead to a wedged section at the transom, expelling their fumes and noise underwater. The temperature-sensitive variable-speed engine room fans are equally quiet.
Back on deck, the mezzanine offers covered seating and eating for 10 people. Twin drop-leaf tables create one long bench, fed by the nearby cockpit barbecue and aft-placed galley. There’s a bar table and stools facing the Hopper window, allowing the hosts to converse and commune with both the outdoor and saloon lounge areas.
From a catering perspective, the port-side pantograph door gives quick access to guests at the bow. Here, the ingeniously-configured foredeck creates both a haven for a 4-metre tender and a socialising hub. Lift the dinghy away, via a davit, and the space transforms to a lounge nook with more cushions, folding parts and stowage than an IKEA store.
Headroom in the VIP stateroom below is not compromised in any way. It has a walk-around queen-size bed, en-suite and hanging locker, while topside windows and an overhead hatch draw in abundant light.
Classic and Grand Presidential options are offered for the master suite. The Classic, as demonstrated, has a master stateroom amidships with en-suite to starboard – there’s a king-size bed, stylish headboard and bedside tables. You also get an additional fourth guest cabin, with Pullman-style bunks, to starboard.
The Presidential suite places the en-suite in the starboard forequarter and a private sitting area with breakfast table, while the port guest cabin features twin single beds that can form a double as the inboard bed slides across at the touch of a button.
Finish is equal to the best that Britain can offer. While it’s hard not to love the glossy walnut finish and muted cream overtones on the test vessel, cherrywood and wenge are optional timbers … as is a satin varnish. For the inset mood lighting, there’s a rainbow of colour options, though warm white would do just fine.
In the Clouds
The flybridge is almost literally in the clouds, providing a commanding view from the twin helm seats. It has a leather sofa to starboard with a pull-out mattress that creates another huge double berth, bringing sleeping capacity to 10. You get a further flat screen TV up here, facing the lounge.
Skippers have three 22-inch Garmin screens spread before them on the dash, along with a centreline helm position. Complementing this is an external docking station, to port, on the flybridge overhang and an additional EJS (Express Joystick System) control to starboard.
Upon starting the MANs, you begin to fully appreciate how sophisticated the drive system is. At idle it’s totally free of vibration and scarcely audible from the bridge while running speeds produce just 60db – akin to normal conversation levels.
For all the power at the disposal of its Veem five-axis props, the 68 is also remarkably delicate in close-quarters manoeuvring. With the joystick linking to hydraulic thrusters, you can progressively control 47 tonnes of boat with the tiniest tweak and twist of your fingers.
Thenceforth the real symphony begins, with the Twin Disc transmissions working beautifully in concert with the twin turbo V12s to deliver super smooth acceleration. Vee drives bring added complexity in some buyers’ minds, but this is state-of-the-art technology that’s been thoroughly proven on superyachts.
Shaft angle is 8-degrees, with the props residing in hull tunnels. It allows the hull to have an optimum running angle of just 4.2 degrees, which can be monitored through the trim tab display.
To sculpt the running surfaces, Riviera renewed its acquaintance with Dutchman Frank Mulder. Tank testing was undertaken in England, resulting in a hull that is sumptuously soft, efficient and dry underway. Spray peels away from the fine entry and there’s no appreciable bow lift during the transition to plane, which kicks in around 1600 rpm for 17 knots.
The sweet spot is around 1850 revs, achieving 22 knots for a total fuel burn of 345 litres/hr. Wide open at 2360 rpm, we saw 31 knots at 600 litres an hour. In a 1.5-metre side-swell and windswept chop, we closed the flybridge and turned up the air-conditioning. It felt and sounded more like 10 knots.
The electronic steering is sporty and precise, needing just a couple of turns from lock-to-lock. The hull responds like a thoroughbred under rein, and form stability is excellent regardless of speed. The owner, Andrew, felt comfortable in dispensing with the option of a gyro that had initially been spec-ed.
Andrew, incidentally, has upgraded from a three-year-old Riviera 63, which he and his wife Jenny found a little compact for their tribe of six kids and nine grandkids. They say the 68 feels twice as big as the 63.
Ask Jenny what she likes most about the new boat and she replies with a smile, “Everything … but especially the captain”.
She is not alone in finding the 68 faultless. During its launch at Sydney International Boat Show, admirers stepped off saying it’s unquestionably the best Riviera ever built, which is some feat after 5200 boats over 37 years.
Essentially, the 68 and 72 are the culmination of a highly seasoned in-house design team working exhaustively with arguably the best superyacht architect in the world and a discerning customer base.
Significantly, they’ve stolen buyers from the motor yacht ranks. It’s a conquest boat for Riv in that category, and most likely the start of another new collection residing between the Flybridge and Sport Yacht ranges.
To be honest, I loved it.