Jet Coupe 38 — By Capt. Bill Pike
— October 2001
Diamond in the Rough
|A stylish Italian dayboat, built in a sleepy Florida fishing village?|
I like Cortez. A little commercial fishing town on the edge of Florida’s Anna Maria Island, just southwest of Bradenton, it’s made up of small, tin-roofed fish-packing plants, tropical vistas, rickety wharves and docks, and rough-and-tumble fishing boats and fishermen. Similar to the little North Florida town I live in these days, it’s not quite the spot you’d expect to come across an Italian-style dayboat like the Rivolta Jet Coupe 38, with a deep-blue, voluptuously curved hull, oodles of teak trim sparkling under umpteen coats of sprayed-on urethane varnish, and a couple of Yanmar-powered Hamilton HJ274 waterjets, ready and raring to go.
Neither is Cortez quite the place you would expect to come across a guy like Piero Rivolta, an Italian-born designer who has turned an old, ramshackle fish house in the heart of the village (right next door to the A.P. Bell Fish Company) into a small, shipshape boat facility set up to finish, launch, and commission a dozen or so 38 Jet Coupes a year.
Rivolta is a bit of a Renaissance man. Capitalizing on a heritage of automotive design and fabrication that includes the famous Isetta of the ‘50s, the lithe IsoRivolta Grifo of the ‘60s, and several other distinctive Italian-made sports cars of more recent vintage, he presently offers all sorts of technological and engineering expertise to clients all over the world, with projects as varied as commercial architecture, interior design, environmentally friendly electric minicars, and, of course, marine engineering and boat design. On a more personal level, Rivolta’s Sarasota home constantly thunders with opera, thanks to a stereo system he modestly characterizes as "vibrant," and much of his free time is devoted either to writing poetry in his own lyrical Italian or enjoying the beauties of authentic working waterfronts like the one at Cortez, an obvious favorite.
Rivolta and I spent a couple of hours together recently, wringing out one of his 38s, first on nearby Sarasota Bay, which was nearly smooth on test day, and then via Longboat Pass, on the wide-open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where the seas were running about two feet. The overriding impression I formed from our sea trial was that the 38 is a heavily built, tightly bonded-together vessel, a product of all-glass construction and a liberal usage of top-notch materials.
The building process starts with a mold tooled at North End Composites located in Maine and a laminate that includes ISO-NPG gelcoat, a vinylester skin coat, and a thick bottom and PVC-cored hull sides laid up with polyester resin. Next comes a secondarily bonded fiberglass grid filled with two-pound-density foam and capped with three layers of resilient carbon fiber, all triple-tabbed into the hull’s interior. Finally, after various inner liners and modules are added, a PVC-cored deck is fastened to the hull flange with bolts and 3M 5200. Vacuum bagging is used extensively throughout the process, and the hull mold is a two-parter, to accommodate the lovely tumblehome at the Jet Coupe 38’s transom. Moreover, the hull remains in this mold under vacuum while the grid system is secured to precisely maintain the sheerline, the transom deadrise of 14 degrees, and other shapes.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.