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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Riviera 61 Flybridge Series II

Fine Tuned

Riviera tweaks its successful 61 Flybridge by changing its focus.

One of the little bits of black magic that’s part of boatbuilding is knowing when to mess with success. That is to say, when you’ve got a well-received boat that’s still selling well, how do you know when it’s time to replace or redesign it? And an even more critical question: How much should you change it? Too much and you may lose the boat’s constituency; too little and you run the risk of it going stale.

Riviera’s 61 Flybridge is a perfect example of this conundrum. She was neither old nor outdated. Introduced in 2008 as a much-improved version of the Riviera 60, she features a Frank Mulder-designed hull with 12½ degrees of deadrise aft that is a model of offshore competence, efficiency, and seakeeping. In fact, the design works so well, more than one company rep told me she is the best-running Riviera in the lineup. So it’s not at all surprising that in updating the boat, Riviera engineers pretty much left the hull form alone, with the exception of slightly widening the strakes in the foresections to enhance planing. Also retained are the propeller pockets that keep draft to a moderate (for a 64-footer) 5'2". These integrate with the 61’s underwater exhaust system, which on our test boat kept interior sound levels to a relatively quiet 70 dB-A at WOT despite her muscularoptional engines.

When the original 61 was introduced exactly three years before Riviera unveiled the 61 Series II at the 2011 Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, it was offered in both three- and four-cabin versions, and those options remain. The four-cabin model, with a pair of rather tight bunk rooms along the starboard side, is clearly designed for serious anglers or a family with children or grandchildren. The three-cabin variation, which I tested, uses the space that would have been devoted to those staterooms to expand the already generous forward VIP by adding a double settee and a dedicated laundry locker. The other major option on the Series II is an open bridge, but it seems obvious that the fully enclosed version will be more popular, especially given the level of luxury up there. The choice of both options hints at what the company was thinking when it tweaked the 61. As with many other models, Riviera seems to be aiming at buyers more interested in cruising—or cruising and occasional fishing—than hardcore fishing. And that brings us to the cockpit.

Its dimensions are the same, but thanks to a couple of new options, its primary focus has changed from angling to entertaining. Like the original 61, the Series II has a roomy mezzanine benchseat that’s sheltered by the cockpit overhang. But now you can order it with another, forward-facing settee and a dining table in between. (Riviera calls it the Al Fresco Mezzanine option.) Better yet, the galley has migrated from amidships to all the way aft, and the aft bulkhead window separating it from the settee tilts open so that the table is nearly within arm’s reach of the cook. The galley’s refrigeration capacity has almost doubled as well, and if you need more you can add another fridge under the aft settee seat. To really get the party going, order the transom barbecue module (electric grill, sink, trash bin, and stowage locker) in place of the standard livewell, and you’re ready to party alfresco style. As for that roomy L-shape lounge that used to be where the galley is now, it’s all the way forward and to port, facing a six-person dinette. Its two most inboard seats swing around to provide all-around seating at the dinette. All in all, it’s a layout that’s clearly more focused on the outside than inside and more on cruising than fishing. 

This is not to say that you can no longer fish the 61; after all, the transom livewell, single fishbox, and starboard transom door are all still standard, and cockpit freeboard is low enough to make it easy to boat a fish. (A second fish/dunnage box is optional.) But the fact that the swim platform is standard (it can be deleted at no cost) is telling, and walking through this boat, and even browsing the online brochure—no pictures of the boat fishing!—you can see that the Series II was meant primarily for entertainment and cruising. 

Which makes one other change a bit incongruous: Total fuel capacity has decreased from 1,731 gallons in one tank to 1,493 gallons split between a 1,295-gallon midship tank and a 198-gallon tank in the lazarette. (A transfer pump is standard.) I was unable to contact an engineer for an explanation, but I’m guessing the change is designed to shift some weight aft for quicker planing. (Our test boat’s running angle stayed right around five degrees on plane.) It certainly worked during my test; despite having six people and about 800 gallons of fuel aboard, the 61 jumped on plane in less than 10 seconds. And despite the fact that she was powered by a pair of optional 1,572-hp Caterpillar C32s (1,150-hp CAT C18 ACERTs are standard), she still managed a range of better than 400 miles at any rpm but WOT.

One other major change involves the configuration of the full-beam master, a feature on both boats. Another indication of just how focused Riviera is on luxury in this boat, the Series II gets new large hull-side windows that include opening ports on each side (with helm alarms). And to take maximum advantage of the view out of them, the queen-size bed has been turned from athwartships (where it made do with two tiny opening ports on either side, up high) to fore-and-aft.

The old saw that you don’t mess with success certainly applies to the 61. The Series II is not a new boat but a rethought, refined, and refocused one. And it perfectly reflects this Australian builder’s purposeful decision to focus more on cruising and less on hardcore fishing, a move that a lot of buyers are also making.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.