The Domino Effect
An import geared for those with champagne taste and a thirst for performance.
It isn’t easy being Riva. There’s all that heritage to live up to: pictures of Brigitte Bardot in her little Florida runabout, and an endless succession of magazine articles proclaiming the Aquarama to be the most beautiful boat ever built. Then there is the need for speed. A Riva doesn’t merely have to be drop-dead gorgeous and full of the coolest Italian design details and not just put together with all the obsessive care and expertise required to justify a serious, luxury-brand price tag. A Riva also has to be quick.
After all, those little sportboats that made the company’s name back in the 1950s and 1960s weren’t just exercises in top-class mahogany boatbuilding. They were speedboats with V-8 engines and, by the standards of the day, they went like the wind. However much today’s designers might complain—that the market has changed, times have moved on, a big fiberglass motoryacht can’t possibly zip around like a sportboat—when it comes to this particular brand, the market has exactly the same expectations it had about 50 years ago: Rivas should be not just cool and beautiful, but they should be sporty too.
So here is the shipyard’s latest solution to that conundrum—the Riva 86 Domino—a flowing confection of steel and fiberglass. Her form is as expressive of power and grace as a P-51’s. She displaces 63 tons, yet to be a “true” Riva, somehow she has to live up to those dashing looks out on the water.
But even while still tied up alongside, it’s clear that Riva’s designers have been taking care of the first part of that equation. Cool, curvaceous, gray moldings in contrasting tones are highlighted by polished stainless steel, and complemented by the warmth of the teak decks. A beautifully inlaid logo in the cockpit table makes a subtle promise of quality which, once inside, seems fully warranted. The fit-out looks immaculate. Elm and gray-lacquered European oak are offset with tactile touches of stitched-leather detailing and hard, high-tech framing in stainless steel. Illumi-nation floods in from all sides through an expansive acreage of tinted glass.
The saloon has a simple and deceptively spacious arrangement of white leather sofas, with a folding, stainless steel-framed dining table amidships (see Noteworthy, this story), and what appears to be an enormous mirror at one end. In fact, this turns out to be a very clever TV with a 65-inch screen (somewhat larger than the typical 46-inch set), but while in mirror-mode its giant reflection makes an already large saloon seem twice as long.
On the other side of this full-height bulkhead the raised, three-seat helm station sits right under the huge windscreen, with a useful blind overhead to cut out instrument reflections. Steps down one side of this raised deck take you down to the galley—roomy, well-equipped, and rectangular, but rather cut off from the social life of the ship—while those on the other side lead down to the sleeping accommodations.
The owner’s suite, amidships and behind those imposing hull windows, has a sofa and armchair as well as a roomy (6'6"x5'6") bed. With a reflective lacquered deckhead and rectilinear layout, not to mention the excellent views out across the sea, it makes a comfortable and spacious retreat.
Your guests should be equally—well, almost equally—at home. The forepeak VIP suite cannot rival the huge head compartment and walk-in wardrobe of the owner’s, but it can boast the same 6'8" headroom and a bed almost as wide, while two large mirrors, facing each other, make the best possible use of the daylight.
The port guest cabin is one that Riva would like you to think of as a ‘second VIP’ owing to its double bed, which lies athwartships, although without materially affecting the flow of a reasonably spacious cabin. And in case you don’t actually need three double beds, this one can be split apart to form two full-size singles. The cabin to starboard has a more conventional two-berth layout, with semi-en suite access to the day head and shower.
Out on deck, you are spoiled for choice between the comfortable, shaded seating areas provided on both the foredeck and in the cockpit, while the upper helm station (it’s a bit small to be called a flying bridge) offers a secluded sunbed.
The Domino’s pair of twin-bunk crew cabins are aft, with a small head and a four-seat dinette, and reached via steps on the port side of the cockpit. From here, a watertight door leads aft into the engine room—a truly spacious compartment, with good access all round and 5'5" headroom between the engines.
There are few marine powerplants on the planet to match the power-to-weight ratio of MTU’s 2000 Series V16, and with two of them, the 86 Domino packs very nearly 5,000 horsepower. If pure performance were the principal requirement for a boat of this size and weight, a pair of Arneson ASD 16s would probably answer very well. But—you may have guessed—Rivas won’t have surface drives. The Riva brand is about beauty, quality, and performance, but it’s also about tradition, and that means she’s outfitted with proper shafts and rudders.
By giving the Domino a constant 12-degree deadrise hull and paring it away on either side of the keel rather than scooping out conventional tunnels, Riva’s engineers have tried to ensure that the shaft angle is minimized without any corresponding pressure penalty, which can suck air in around the props and lead to cavitation and rudder stall. And it works; the Domino is something of a rocket ship, with big five-blade props biting voraciously at low revs and providing a huge lunge of effortless, linear thrust once the turbos spool up. A top two-way average of more than 38 knots (43.7 mph) is about as good as it gets—although apparently the second Domino, with fewer options fitted and therefore a little lighter, is slightly faster.
But it isn’t just about the end result so much as the way the Domino gets there, I clocked 25 knots (28.8 mph) in around 23 seconds, with 35 knots (40.3 mph) not far behind.
It was hardly Riva weather. Springtime conditions off the dour Italian naval base of La Spezia were as gray as the Riva’s paint job. It seemed a million miles away from the Cte d’Azur harbors which those little mahogany runabouts used to frequent all those years ago, with their glamorous jet-set owners. But the Domino remained unruffled. The wind had mostly died away, leaving a three-foot sea for the hull to deal with. Here, sheer displacement counted—her vee sections might be comparatively modest, at least aft of midships—but with a fine forefoot backed up by 60-plus tons of mass, the yacht made short work of the waves. Downwind and across the seas she was equally well-behaved. Helm response was lively and precise enough to shape a course through the worst of the bumps, even at high speed.
A fun ride, a driver’s boat, as fast as she is elegant—it turns out that the Domino is a true Riva after all.
Contact: Allied Marine (954) 462-5527. www.powerandmotoryacht.com/riva.
BCS electro-hydraulic steering; ZF electronic controls; 1/110-lb. stainless steel Bruce-pattern main anchor w/ 328-ft. 12mm chain; 1/66-lb. stainless steel Bruce-pattern second anchor; 2/3.5-kW Lofrans bow windlasses; 2/1.5-kW stern mooring winches; 40-hp American Bow Thruster hydraulic bow thruster; 1/20-kW, 1/17-kW Kohler genset; 144,000-Btu Condaria air-conditioning; 2/21-gal. water heaters; Besenzoni passerelle; Simrad IS20 speed/depth, AP28 autopilot, VHF; Furuno 48-mile radar; Furuno Navnet 3D plotter; Ritchie compass; Miele 4-burner ceramic cooktop; Bosch oven and dishwasher; Gaggenau fridge and freezer; Hoover washer-dryer; 46" Ad Notam mirror LCD TV
40-hp American Bow Thruster stern thruster; 2/Mitsubishi ARG gyro-stabilizer units; 180,000-Btu Condaria air-conditioning; 1/47-gal./hr. Idromar watermaker; additional 27-kW Kohler genset; larger 65" Ad Notam mirror LCD TV
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/2,435-hp MTU 16V 2000 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF BW 3060V V-drive marine gears w/ 2.52:1 reduction
- Props: 56x43.5 5-blade nibral props
- Price as Tested: not available
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.