Published: Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Carlo Riva passed away on April 10 in his hometown of Sarnico at the age of 95. He symbolises the history of an era of the launching of Italian design onto the world stage, from the days of “La Dolce Vita” to the present.

Carlo Riva Passed Away At The Age Of 95

(Photo: Ferretti Group - Carlo Riva)

Alberto Galassi, CEO of the Ferretti Group, said: “Carlo Riva has left us, the greatest of them all. The world has lost a brilliant creator of boats, a master of style, a giant in Italy’s industrial and business history. To me, this is a personal loss of a master, an example of brilliance, commitment and of dedication to work. 

“Carlo Riva taught us all the meaning of vision, creativity and passion. His vision and inexhaustible innovative energy make him the leading personality in the 20th-century yachting world, a man whose extraordinary creations have already become legends. Carlo Riva’s boats will always be the finest in the world, a source of inspiration to all of us who feel a strong sense of responsibility for the stewardship of and for taking forward into the future the leading brand in world yachting.” 

Carlo Riva was one of the most internationally esteemed and renowned entrepreneurs in the pleasure craft industry. Born in Sarnico on February 24 1993, during the golden era of motorboating, when the first speedboats were being built, he was driven from a very early age by a boundless passion for boats and for working in boatyards. He joined the family business at a young age, following his father Serafino, his grandfather Ernesto and his great-grandfather Pietro, who founded the company in 1842.

In 1954, Carlo Riva opened the new, futuristic shipyard, which is still protected by the Italian Superintendence for Artistic and Architectural Heritage, and organised it based on an innovative production structure. During the same period, he transformed the idea of boat, turning it from a transport vehicle for goods and passengers or a racing powerboat to an object of pleasure and luxury.

Carlo Riva created certain memorable models, including Ariston, Tritone, Sebino, Florida and Aquarama, which unveiled in 1962. Interested customers include Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Liz Taylor, Sean Connery, Jean Paul Belmondo, Richard Burton and Jackie Stewart as well as royalty, princes and sheiks around the world.

In the 50s and 60s, during Italy’s industrial reconstruction and economic miracle driven by the love of speed and racing cars, Carlo Riva grasped the spirit of the age and created boats in wood.

Carlo Riva commented on Ariston: “It was designed with love and is strong and pure like a thoroughbred horse. Unforgettable – my Lord of the seas.” The model was followed by the first twin-engine boat Tritone. Then came the Sebino and Florida. Aquarama, the iconic yacht of the shipyard, was produced in 1962.

Twenty-one boats were sold during the first year of production, and a year later the Super version was brought out. The Aquarama remained in production until the 90s, and the last one made, the #784, is still housed in the museum of the boatyard in Sarnico.

Carlo Riva showed entrepreneurial foresight yet again in 1969, when he created the first fibreglass boat. Anticipating the needs of yacht owners, he designed the Riva Boat Service to provide technical and sales assistance. Having left the shipyard in 1972, the focus of his interests shifted to the International Tourist Port of Rapallo, which was dedicated to him on July 25 1975 and bears his name since that day. 

In 2005, Carlo Riva was named 'Personnalite de la Mer' by Prince Albert II of Monaco.