Beauty takes centre stage as legendary Italian yacht builder Riva goes back to its origins, with the small but ultra-stylish Iseo
The Riva boatyard must be the most spectacular in the world. Located on the shores of Lake D’Iseo, there are mountains towering behind it and the most scenic of the Italian lakes in front. This boat yard has seen the creation of some of the most beautiful boats in the world – the wonderful wooden Rivas of legend. A few years ago I was given the privilege to taking the last Riva Aquarama ever built on a test run on the lake. After a final polish by the white suited mechanics in the ‘underground’ dock below the Riva office, the doors were opened and I drove the Aquarama out onto the lake. What an experience; it was like making history
Now I had come to Sarnico to test a resurrection of that Aquarama. The new Riva, named after the lake on which it was born, is just as beautiful as its ancestor, a boat with the most stunning classic lines that you have ever seen. The Riva Iseo has to be the most beautiful boat on the water today and I could feel the emotion and the sense of history as I stepped on board.
Boat testing normally involves the prosaic, checking out the speed and performance and seeing how many cabins the boat has and how it performs. For the Riva Iseo these factors were forgotten. Emotion took over because the Iseo is a boat that crammed to the brim with emotion. Your heart beats fast just to look at this jewel of the lake. Your heart rules your head when you try to describe it. This is nautical beauty in its most perfect form.
I find it hard to call this object of such beauty just a boat. A boat is just there to fulfil a basic function of moving on the water. The Iseo takes boating to a higher plane, to an area where emotion takes over and you find yourself caressing the beautiful curves and feeling its form. It is the next best thing to sex.
The Riva Iseo is a boat where you will get as much pleasure from looking at it as you will from driving it. The new Iseo from Riva is a tribute to classic sports boat design in the beautiful Riva image, but it also embraces the latest modern technology to create what must be one of the most stunning boats on the market today. Every detail of this boat has been carefully developed to create the perfect boating image. This is a boat that is much more that just a thing of beauty – the Iseo is also a joy to drive.
The hull is a pure classic style, but below the waterline there is a modern deep-V shape that promises excellent performance and seaworthiness. Above the waterline, the lines flow in graceful curves from bow to stern in perfect balance. There is a subtle flare in the bow to reduce the chance of spray, there is the classic curve of the windscreen, there is the tumblehome around the stern, all contributing to a beautiful whole. The fittings and fixtures have been designed just for the Iseo, and they are machined from solid stainless steel. The warm glow of highly varnished mahogany is matched to fabrics designed for exposure to salt water but still highly textured and subtle in colour.
It took a year just to develop the automatic canopy that deploys at the touch of a button to fully enclose the cockpit. It was developed by the same people who make the same feature for Bentley and Rolls Royce sports cars and whilst offering full weather protection, it does not flap or move at 40 knots and there is still excellent visibility to drive the boat. Then there are the practical features like well placed handholds, stowage for small items and side tables and a fridge that can convert the aft area for social use. Riva has thought of everything in the design of this wonder boat.
The power unit is a Yanmar diesel of 360 horsepower, a V-six engine that emulates the original engine of the Aquarama but in diesel form. This is installed in a well sound-proofed aft engine compartment under the sunbed. Coupled to a stern drive, this combination gives a top speed close to 40 knots, but an optional smaller diesel can still offer 35 knots. A petrol engine option offers speeds over the 40-knot mark. A hybrid version with electric power is under development to give silent lake running with a range of over 20 miles.
For use as a superyacht tender, the Iseo has a built-in sling system that is located under the cockpit floor. With the stern drive raised the profile is low and one Iseo has been ordered for a large yacht currently being built at CRN (a fellow member of the Ferretti Group). A dedicated road trailer can also be supplied for those who want to travel with their Iseo or avoid the problems of marina moorings.
Underway, the Iseo is highly responsive but as with all small sports boats, there is a need to trim the boat for the conditions. The flaps are perhaps oversensitive and would be better with an indicator. The steering is a bit on the heavy side, but as you get to know the boat there is enormous pleasure to be gained from driving this classic. The cockpit layout is conventional, with two comfortable individual seats forward and a bench seat aft. This bench seat is served by the fold out tables and the helm seats can be reversed creating a good social area. The lifting slings are housed in the longitudinal locker built into the deck between the seats.
Under the foredeck, there is a space where a toilet could be installed or this space can just be used for storage. A locker under the bench seat is designed to house a liferaft if the Iseo is to be used offshore. The aft sun bed is only for use when stopped and for swimming there is a small swim platform with a ladder. Forward there is a specially designed anchor stowed into the bow with an electric windlass hidden under deck.
Slow speed manoeuvring is very adequate, but you do need to wind the wheel over in order to direct the stern drive thrust in the required direction. A small bow thruster is an option if you want better control.
An innovation on the Iseo is the use of an iPad to provide music, navigation charts and the full owner’s manual as well as normal iPad functions. There is a dedicated stowage for the iPad in a waterproof housing where it connects to a charging system. The engines are monitored with classic analogue dials although the electronic information is available in a small cut-out display.
Whilst the Iseo embraces the latest technology, it is the sheer beauty of this boat that will enthral you. The Iseo is the ultimate style statement on the water and the Ferretti Group design team combined with Officina Italiana Design have done a tremendous job in re-creating the Riva style with modern requirements. The Riva Iseo is as close to perfection as you are likely to get on the water and it makes other boats look less than ordinary. It is in a class of its own.
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