51 Sportfisherman — By George L. Petrie —
|Part 2: My inspection convinced me that her reputation for toughness is well deserved.|
Of course, it would take a sizeable impact to breach the solid-fiberglass laminates that extend up from her keel to the waterline. And to keep the hull and deck firmly joined, that critical joint is triply secure: bonded with epoxy adhesive, through-bolted, and then tabbed with fiberglass. Internally, the yacht’s backbone is a quartet of deep, foam-cored longitudinal stringers, with steel-capped engine beds. As for transverse strength, several watertight partial bulkheads run athwartship to support her bottom.
In counterpoint to her hard-core construction features, the 51 offers a spacious, comfortable, and well-appointed interior. But even though she’s fully endowed with first-rate amenities and finished with premium joinery and upholstery, her interior is not fussy. She’s built to be enjoyed, not fretted over. Let me explain.
The saloon and dinette blend seamlessly into a single, large, open space, with settees on opposing sides that define each area but still allow guests to converse and maintain eye contact. Because leather is so plentiful in Australia, customers can choose between Ultraleather and real leather at no extra cost. Both are durable and care-free, but the real leather on our test boat looked to be as indestructible as the yacht itself.
Across from the saloon’s L-shape settee is a cherry cabinet fitted with a U-Line wine rack, ice maker, and pull-out drawers for bottle and glass stowage, all standard. The high-gloss finish on the standard cherry joinery and the inlaid cocktail table alongside the settee was second to none, but beautiful as it was, it was not a finish that I was hesitant to touch. On the contrary, it almost invited you to set down an icy glass and fix a cold drink. The galley, fully equipped with four U-Line under-counter refrigerator drawers, a Sub-Zero freezer, Corian countertops, and Amtico flooring, seemed to also say, “go ahead and use me.”
To be sure, the Riviera’s interior was not the only part of the yacht that beckoned for use. Beneath a cloudless blue Florida sky, we climbed to the flying bridge and brought the MTUs to life. As our captain, Dave Crews, eased the yacht out of her slip, I surveyed the layout of the bridge deck. The helm seat is all the way aft, affording the captain an unobstructed view of action in the cockpit without compromising sightlines forward. And with its roomy settee forward, a full wet bar, and an air-conditioned enclosure, this space is bound to be a favorite with guests while underway. My only complaint is the lack of handholds in the forward seating area and on the underside of the hardtop in the forward area of the bridge.
Handholds (or lack thereof) were not an issue in the flat-calm waters that prevailed during our speed trials on Lake Worth, where we recorded a top speed that was just shy of 32 knots. What impressed me more was her balance: The 51 planed effortlessly at around 1400 rpm and rode steadily at near constant trim all the way up to WOT. At 2000 rpm her Frank Mulder-designed hull form makes better than half a nautical mile per gallon, delivering an impressive 500-NM range from her optional 1,000-gallon fuel capacity.
Outside the Palm Beach inlet, we ran a series of tight high-speed turns in two-foot swells, and I found her handling to be stable and predictable. At lower speeds I felt a tendency to oversteer, probably due to the yacht’s deep forefoot. But maneuverability in tight quarters was superb, thanks to the standard 8-hp bow thruster and control offered by the Twin Disc Power Commander electronic controls, which offer an innovative trolling mode that can reduce propeller rpm almost to zero while holding the engine at idle speed.
While sea conditions on our test day didn’t put the Riviera to the ultimate test, my inspection convinced me that her reputation for toughness is well deserved. Among world-class sportfishing yachts, she sets a high standard.
Riviera Yachts USA Phone: (561) 721-4100. www.riviera.com.au.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.