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Riviera 5000 Sport Yacht

Steadfast Aussie

A seaworthy cruiser that combines speed and al fresco livability.

Because it’s the semi-formal staging area for the annual Sydney-to-Hobart race, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s marina in Sydney seemed to be a wholly appropriate spot to crank up Riviera’s 5000 Sport Yacht for a sea trial out on the infamous Tasman Sea. The race, after all, is justly famed for its uproarious, boat-bashing “southerly busters,” and the wind was blowing rather sportily out of the south as I approached the 5000, a state-of-affairs that promised a thoroughly bashing wringout. Decorative flags around the marina snapped and cracked in 25-knot gusts as I went aboard.

The maneuvering situation looked a little grim. The 5000 was straining her lines mightily towards the pilings to port, a disconcerting phenomenon that seemed to be due exclusively to the cross-beam gusts. Indeed, I could see no sign of current in the water, and the Plastimo tide clock (see “Noteworthy,” this story) above the companionway, which the Riviera reps onboard described as “highly accurate,” was registering high-water slack.

So how the heck were we going to get the 5000 out of this slip without seriously screeching a rubrail or maybe even pranging a piling with her massive, teak-paved hydraulic swim platform?

The answer came soon enough. After making my way to the boat’s ample helm station (its electronics panel was large enough to accommodate a pair of optional Raymarine C140 Widescreens), I immediately noted the presence of the ultimate boathandling confidence-booster: a Zeus joystick control just to starboard of the adjustable wheel. Riviera installs just one propulsion package in the 5000: 593-bhp Cummins-MerCruiser QSC8.3-600 diesel inboards connected to Zeus pod drives. The system sports a smooth, ultra-intuitive, sideways-walking joystick as well as a conventional dual-lever binnacle control. Departing our slip went smoother than a kangaroo’s nose. The gusts were simply no match for the 5000’s joystick-controlled lateral oomph.

Things were considerably more rambunctious out on the Tasman Sea, however. As soon as we’d cleared the craggy promontory of Middle Head, we encountered a fleet of tightly spaced four-to-six-foot rollers whipped to a frothy melee by a cold, steadily building southeasterly blow. Migrating humpbacks plunging ahead of us sent up spouts of sea spray that were seemingly carried off to Antarctica in an instant. And yet, as I charged upwind with one hand on the wheel and the other on the levers, the 5000 split the headseas with steadfast conviction. We were doing 22 mph at two-thirds throttle, a sporty but prudent cruise speed under extant conditions, albeit one that was much less than the average top hop of 37.5 mph we’d measured earlier in calmer waters back in the harbor.

Zooming downwind proved equally impressive. Thanks to a set of safety-cowled jackshafts that span the approximately three-foot distance between the 5000’s engines and her drives, the boat’s longitudinal center of gravity is well forward, in large part to produce optimum running attitudes (the loftiest was just 4.5 degrees coming out of the hole) and obviate the tendency to stuff or yaw in following seas. Add to this bit of engineering savvy a slippery Frank Mulder-designed running surface with a short skeg-like keel for improved directionality, the super-tight turning abilities that characterize most pod systems, superb visibility through an immense wraparound windshield, a comfy, electrically adjustable leather helm seat, and responsive electronic steering, and you’ve got yourself one fast, agile, solid machine, even when the going is totally Tasmanian.

I picked up on one final performance plus while driving the 5000 back through Sydney Harbor to the marina. Being a reasonable guy, I’d wholeheartedly endorsed battening down the hatches at the start of our sea trial, well before we’d encountered the rowdy sea state prevailing in open water. Now inside and whooping along at 35 mph or so, we had both some windows and the electrically actuated sunroof open, and the lovely breeziness of it all got me to thinking: Although several sizable seas had slammed the 5000’s superstructure during the upwind runs we’d just done offshore, not a drop of water had leaked in, not even around the sunroof. A tribute to a rugged vinylester-skinned, solid-glass hull with a dense matrix of longitudinals, transversals, and other stiffeners inside? You betcha.

My dockside tour of the 5000 was also an upbeat experience for the most part. The main-deck arrangement seemed eminently practical, particularly for an owner who’s into al fresco dining and entertaining. Swing back the big stainless steel door and flip up the awning-style window in the rear bulkhead, and the 5000’s main deck cleverly mixes the indoor comforts of an expansive saloon/dinette/helm/galley area (featuring Cruisair air-conditioning, leather furniture, an electric-lift TV and a Bose stereo/CD/DVD Lifestyle System) with an outdoor cockpit that boasts a barbecue, wet bar, a couple of optional lounge configurations, and easy access to a standard Zodiac RIB stowed in the garage astern.

As for the lower deck, it can be configured as our standard, three-cabin, two-head layout or an optional layout that features a lounge instead of a small, third stateroom to starboard. Both layouts offer a comfortable forward master (with queen-size berth and cushy innerspring mattress), but each also has an L-shape VIP that is less congenial. More to the point, the athwartships double on the starboard side is hemmed in by bulkheads on both sides. And the additional berth/settee to port, being just a narrow single, provides little help. I had to ask myself, why not excise the third stateroom/lounge from the 5000’s lower deck altogether and expand the VIP into a more ample, comfortable, rectilinear full-beam stateroom?

This question occupied my mind for a moment or two as I finished up my tour of the sleek, fast, gutsy, Australian-built beauty. But in the end, with the southerly wind still howling like a banshee through the fabled CYCA marina, I stood in the calm of her saloon, bone-dry despite a serious tangle with the Tasman Sea, and couldn’t help but conclude that Riviera’s 5000 Sport Yacht handles the rough stuff like a champ. And that aspect of her personality, more than anything else, constitutes her steadfast, sea-chompin' Aussie claim to fame.

Riviera Yachts (772) 872-7260. www.powerandmotoryacht.com/riviera.

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.