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Oct / Nov 2012
Going Topless

Writer: Ziad Taha

Riva may claim its breathtaking new Virtus defines a new category in motorboats but what it really does is remind us what we’ve been missing for the last twenty years.

 

Seriously, what happened to open motorboats? For a while back in the early 1990s things were looking really good. Riva’s Black Corsair was a pioneer of sorts - at 60 feet in length it was huge for its day. Sunseeker launched a challenger, the Renegade 60’ (18.2m), which at that time was the largest motorboat the English shipyard had ever created. Leopard Sport upped the ante with its vision of the future in the form a 21.5-metre open cruiser. Then Overmarine, a previously unknown entity, went all in. Going bigger and better than everyone, Overmarine unveiled the absolutely spectacular Mangusta 80 (24.3m), still regarded as one of the most timelessly handsome yacht designs ever made.

Yet despite its success, the Mangusta was in many ways the boat that killed the genre. In proving the growth potential of open yachts, Overmarine initiated a length war that would eventually lead us to where we are at present; the Riva Domino 86 (26.2m), the Sunseeker Predator 92 (28.0m) and the Leopard 34m. All are extremely beautiful single-deck motorboats yet despite the claims of their manufacturers, not a single one is truly open. That’s because they all feature a hardtop, which - let’s face it - is an abomination in the concept of open-top motoring. Worse, this trend is not even close to being confined to these three marques. The reality is that hardtops are so widespread that if you’re looking to buy a motorboat today, you’ve only really got two choices: a flybridge or an “open” boat that’s basically a flybridge without the upper floor.

Case in point, Mangusta doesn’t even make a single product without a fixed roof. Neither does Sunseeker. Look elsewhere and you’ll find almost every other manufacturer suffers from the same affliction: Fairline, Princess, Leopard, Baia and the list goes on. Scour the entire market and all you’d have ended up with is a sole, lonely shipyard that’s still turning out large open boats - Magnum Marine - and for that it really does deserve credit, even if the small family-owned shipyard is a bit player.

But now there’s another manufacturer to add to that list - Riva and this is incredibly exciting news because this well-known, time-honoured manufacturer is regarded by many as a trendsetter. When Riva acts, others follow. Bear that in mind as you read on, for what you see in the following pages is not just the new Riva 63 Virtus, it is the manifestation of a renaissance in true open-top boating.

Designed by Officina Italiana Design (the studio that exclusively designs all Riva’s range) in collaboration with AYT (Riva’s parent company, the Ferretti Group’s naval research and design centre), the Virtus is both thoroughly modern and timeless in its elegance. “Sporty, sociable and a pleasure to drive; these are the concepts that guided the design of the new Riva open,” boasted Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta, founders of Officina Italiana Design. “With Riva 63’ Virtus, we wanted to create a long-lasting yacht, destined to become part of the company’s history, one of its great classics.”

It’s unquestionably a glamorous vessel. The exterior fibreglass can be tinted in a choice of distinctive, metallic Riva colours including silver, brown and two shades of sand in addition to non-metallic shades of black and white. From the moment you board the yacht, you’re aware of the unique Riva aura. There’s a striking quality and feel to the materials and the fit and finish is superlative. Teak decking may be de rigueur these days but Riva goes over and beyond by using teak for all its flooring, front and back. It starts at the bathing platform and continues all the way to the bow. You can even have it continued throughout the interior too but just make sure you don’t have messy guests because removing stains from untreated wood is a real pain.

Walking around the open cockpit you’re immediately taken aback by the feeling of space; this is not a boat that’ll cocoon you in its innards. It’s a boat that connects you with the elements. The cockpit is enormous and occupies half of Virtus’ length and the feeling of openness is further strengthened by the fact that the designers did away with a conventional radar arch. In its place, there is a centrally positioned mast. It’s not the first time Riva has done this (recall the 52-foot Rivale) yet it’s so much more striking on the larger scale of the Virtus.

There are two sunbathing pads, one at the rear under which the tender and toys are stowed and one at the front. The helm seat is big enough for three people to sit side by side and share in the thrill of piloting this beauty. And just behind that there’s a sofa, which will fit about six in an L-configuration and if you slide the single-row starboard sofa (along custom-made rails of course) you create a U-shape that will sit nine around the foldable varnished teak table.

For those who plan to use the Virtus regularly, its single greatest feature is one that perfectly lays to rest the open versus hardtop argument. If the weather turns nasty, or even if the sun gets too hot, you can effortlessly close up via an electro-hydraulically powered bimini, which covers most of the cockpit. What’s more this canopy doesn’t need to be stowed away, even if you’ve opened up the twin 1,360hp V12 MAN diesels and are pelting forward at 40 knots.

Naturally, given that this is a large Riva, there’s a stunning interior to be discovered below deck and there’s a huge amount of space there too. One reason for this is the placement of the engines: they’re pushed all the way to the aft thanks to some space-saving v-drive gearboxes. This allows room for three bedrooms, each with their own head, and one main living room.

The interior is an elegant blend of bleached and grey-tinted oak with gloss and matt lacquer and contrasting dark leather. The master bedroom is placed midship beneath the cockpit. This might sound cramped but it’s not at all and with 1.94m of headroom, it should accomodate even the tallest of owners. Just ahead there’s a small room with twin berths, then there’s the generously proportioned full-beam saloon. Finally at the bow you’ll find a guestroom with a double bed.

You should also be aware of the fact there’s space for one crewmember right at the rear of the boat but honestly speaking, the Virtus can be driven without any help at all. One owner who knows what they’re doing, helped by a friend who can take care of the ropes and buoys should be more than enough. Which of course is another reason why it’s such perfection; the Virtus really does rekindle the romance and simplicity of motorboating.

“Riva is an extraordinary brand and always manages to innovate, creating unique, cutting edge models, whilst still maintaining the charm and magic which have characterised it for over 160 years,” Norberto Ferretti, Chairman of the Group, said at the boat’s launch in Cannes this year. “The 63’ Virtus, with her strong, decisive character combined with the elegance and refined features that are typical of this brand, is the perfect addition to the Riva range.” Whilst we agree with Mr. Ferretti, we would add that the Virtus is also the perfect wake-up call for the industry as a whole.

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