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Rio Yachts 42 Air

Meeting the needs of boaters in the U.S. has some builders around the world scratching their heads, but not Rio Yachts. This Italian builder knows what works and what doesn’t, and adds a creative touch and fine finish to differentiate its product from lots of other boats out there. Have a look and see what you think.
Rio Yachts 42 Air
Price $740000.00


Year 2017
LOA 43'5"
Beam 13'2"
Draft 3'8"


Fuel Capacity (in Gallons) 300
Water Capacity (in Gallons) 85
Optional Power 2/370-hp Volvo Penta IPS500s
Displacement 35,000 lb. (dry)

The Art of Refreshment

There’s something in the air—the Rio Yachts 42 Air—that brings the cool when things heat up.

I’m not saying Americans are demanding, but it’s nevertheless an interesting fact that, according to her manufacturers, a Rio 42 Air fitted out to U.S. specification—which includes more powerful air-conditioning, a bigger generator, and an extra 12-inch monitor at the helm station, among various other refinements—comes out ten percent heavier than the same boat built for the European market. 

Which perhaps explains why Rio chose to fit my test boat, the first one built for the U.S., with the larger of the two engine options—a pair of 435-horsepower Volvo IPS600s. On glassy seas off the Côte d’Azur at the tail end of summer, these proved more than adequate to push the boat through the 30-knot barrier. In fact, in a two-way speed trial—not that there was any tide to counteract, or even any wind during the hottest Cannes Yachting Festival anyone could remember—we averaged just over 32 knots. 

Rio Yachts might not have tracked across your radar before, but this family-run boatbuilder from northern Italy has carved out a solid reputation for its runabouts, weekenders, and sports cruisers for more than 50 years. While its main focus down the decades has been the domestic market, the company now seems determined to make a splash over on the more demanding side of the pond.

It’s certainly taking the challenge seriously. European customers would generally expect three cabins in a 42-footer, but this first example of Rio’s new model was fitted out American style, with just the two. There’s much to recommend it. All boat layouts involve compromise, but there’s little of that in evidence here in the en suite double forward, which has a roomy head compartment, and a full-size berth with 6 feet of headroom at its foot.

The amidships cabin is also surprisingly practical, with a useful en suite, a small sofa on the port side, and cabinets to starboard, complete with a hinged and mirrored top to create a dressing table. Headroom over most of the berth is a perfectly reasonable 33 inches, while windows and an opening porthole on each side admit light and fresh air.

With just two cabins, there’s plenty of space between them for a comfortable little saloon seating area opposite the galley on the port side, which has good counter area and plenty of stowage space. The saloon sofa slides out to create an extra berth, albeit one for shorter people—it measures 5 feet, 4 inches by 3 feet, 4 inches when extended—while the infill cushion has its own stowage slot under the galley sole. 

There are numerous other clever stowage solutions throughout the boat, from the dedicated glass and crockery cupboards in the galley to a useful little locker hidden away behind the companionway steps, which might not be especially accessible, but it still makes excellent use of otherwise wasted space. Best of all is the way the cockpit table rises electrically out of its own recess in the engineroom hatch. Of course this does mean that when the table is stowed, you’re walking on it, but for most owners that will prove a small price to pay for being able to make the table simply disappear when it’s not wanted. And naturally, in its half-way position, it fills in the L-shape of the sofa to make a large sunpad. 

Rio Yachts 42 Air

A word about the cockpit sofa: that open corner looks pretty unusual, and there’s a reason for that. It has now dawned on Rio that what probably looked cutting edge on the drawing board is actually a pretty fundamental design flaw, and so future boats will have conventional seatbacks all around (thus filling in the open corner), to help ensure that you return to port with the same number of passengers you set out with. A more useful innovation is the way the port section of the cockpit sofa pivots around to face forward—not to improve the view, but so it can sit inside the zipped canopy, the better to enjoy that high-spec, stateside air-conditioning.

The fit and finish of the 42 Air are also aimed at the U.S. market, according to Rio, with high-quality plumbing fixtures, leather-trimmed door handles, stitched leather linings, and neat little features like the embroidered ‘RY’ logos on the upholstery, which all help to create a luxurious ambience that’s maybe a notch or two up from the average sports cruiser. Bamboo flooring is an unusual but attractive touch that also adds a little character.  

Unplugged from the boat-show pontoon, the sudden lack of 42,000 Btu, American-style cooling power that we enjoyed belowdecks was apparent in the sweltering confines of Cannes’ Vieux Port that lent an element of urgency to our departure. In the airless conditions we badly needed to create our own breeze rather than deploy the curtains around the cockpit and crank up the air, and the Rio was only too willing to oblige. 

Lightly loaded as we were, with just three aboard and not much fuel, the moderate-vee hull was on the plane at about 2500 rpm, and from there onward provided a fun and responsive ride, with no vices and just the right angle of heel in the turns. It seemed especially comfortable at cruising speeds in the mid- to high-20s, and with big wheelhouse windows, sightlines from the helm were pretty good. 

It was also quite sensitive to fore-and-aft trim. Putting the tabs all the way down increased speed by a full knot—although such changes may be less marked with more fuel in the tanks and the boat’s center of gravity slightly farther forward. 

While 32 knots seemed an excellent result, it’s somewhat less than the top speed Rio claims for the 42 with IPS 600s. Part of that might be due to the heavier U.S. spec, but we did notice that the engines were about 50 rpm down on their rated maximum of 3,500. So props with slightly less pitch might help reinstate the missing revs, add a little more speed, and, more importantly, ensure that the engines can reach their rated power even with stores on the boat or some late-season fouling on the hull. 

But if I hadn’t looked at the tachometers, I wouldn’t have realized that anything was amiss. The 42 Air felt right underway and proved to be a safe and enjoyable family cruising boat. It felt right in the harbor, too, with its luxurious fit-out, capacious stowage volumes, and the all-important interior space created by a generous two-cabin layout. 

There was another reason why it felt right, of course, once we got back from the sea trial. With the shore power plugged in again, that air conditioner was soon back up to full combat power. I didn’t want to leave.

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The Boat

Layout Diagram

Rio Yachts 42 Air layout diagram

Optional Equipment

NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Volvo Penta IPS600 option ($45,000); 48,000 Btu air-conditioning ($43,350); genset upgrade ($12,000); hydraulic swim platform ($22,500); 4-kW bow thruster ($6,750); custom galley ($6,850); additional 12-in Garmin MFD ($7,250).

Other Specification

Generator: Kohler, 13.5 kW, Warranty: 5 years on hull and deck, manufacturer warranty on engines and equipment

The Test

Conditions During Boat Test

Air temperature: 88°F; humidity: 60%; seas: 1'

Load During Boat Test

87 gal. fuel, 85 gal. water, 3 persons, 250 lb. gear.

Test Boat Specifications

  • Test Engine: /435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s
  • Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta IPS, 1.82:1 gear ratio
  • Props: Volvo Penta VP T4
  • Price as Tested: $977,250

The Numbers














































EDITOR’S NOTE: Since our test, Rio Yachts changed out the props and the trim tabs CPU, and reported a top speed of 35 knots at a fuel burn of 45 gph with 119 gal. fuel and 87 gal. water, and three persons on board.

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

The Photos