Rivas have always possessed a reverential air that makes you feel as though stepping on board is a great privilege. Every Riva is something special, and the new Rivale 52 is no exception. Her looks are stunning-you simply stand on the jetty gazing in awe, wondering how a designer could create a yacht so beautiful.
The secret is that Riva does not just design, build and sell boats. The company aims for the best in materials, molding and craftsmanship. Since the days of the stunning wood models that launched the Italian builder onto the international stage, Riva has been synonymous with the highest quality and greatest sophistication.
So, heading out to sea in the blue waters off Cannes, France, was more than just the start of a boat test; it was the start of an experience. The Rivale was developed to expand the family of retro designs that began with the Aquariva, then grew larger with the Rivarama. The Rivale 52 will probably serve as the peak of this range. Why the name Rivale? Riva says that the name conjures up the design's vibrant and spirited personality.
The overall length of the Rivale is close to 53 feet, and she has a generous beam of 15 feet. The hull conforms to convention, with a deep-V and a deadrise of 16 degrees, combined with spray rails and a raking bow. Propellers are carried in semi-tunnels that help reduce the draft and provide a more efficient shaft angle. The rudders are tucked inside the tunnels, and the trim tabs are recessed, so there is nothing to spoil the lines.
Above the waterline, convention goes out the window. The Rivale has high topsides that terminate with a powerful curve into the deck, then on and over the coachroof. Air intakes are scalloped into the topsides, and the ports and windows along the side are hidden behind a smoked-glass panel, providing a clean but contrasting line. The integrated hull and superstructure are available in a range of exotic colors. Our test boat was "dove", a sort of champagne-brown; alternatives include anthracite, silver, blue and beige, or a two-tone combination of these.
The very rounded swim platform invites you on board, and there are steps up into the cockpit on either side of the aft sunpad. The quality starts here-the sunpad is tan leather (yes, leather), and the entire unit lifts hydraulically to reveal the garage, with its low-profile Avon RIB tucked below. Even the inside of the garage is finished perfectly, as were all the other hidden areas.
The mast, which is really more like a sculpture, towers over the sunpad, its twin curved pillars terminating in an aerofoil crosstree where the antennas are mounted. Forward of the mast is a settee that links with a teak folding table and another settee on the starboard side, creating a very comfortable sitting area. This is served by an integrated bar and barbecue opposite.
Facing the helm are two seats with tilting supports that allow the skipper to stand or sit. Here, the design seems to have gone a bit astray, because when you look through the windshield from a sitting position, the distortion in the glass and the dark tinting make it difficult to see clearly. I could just see over the windshield when standing-and I'm 6 feet tall. When the bow trims up as the boat comes onto the plane, the view disappears entirely. During our sea trial, ballooning of the forward sunpad cushions also compromised visibility over the bow. So, a raised helm or lower screen is essential for keeping this design safe.
The Rivale's bimini, which fits around the helm and deploys with the touch of a button, has to be the cleverest on the market, but it rattled. Riva will need to make some adjustments to get it right.
Bear in mind, of course, that our test boat was a prototype fresh out of the yard for the boat show. The company is aware of these issues and is working to remedy them.
Otherwise, the helm is clean and simple, with a tan-leather wheel that matches the tan of the cockpit seating. The MAN electronic throttles are in the right place, and the only other controls are the trim tabs, which are easy to use but have no indicators. The custom MAN engine displays and switches do the job perfectly.
Guests stepping down the central stairs will be delivered into a stunning interior. Riva has hit just the right note here, a mix of retro and modern. The joinery is a straight-grain bleached oak, which has a hint of the exterior color to give it warmth. Alternative woods are walnut or elm. Breaking up the wood is a panel of off-white silk on the forward bulkhead and brushed stainless steel on the galley lockers and in the staterooms. The curved settee is in off-white leather, and the nearby window, shelving and table match its curve.
The galley forward is partly hidden-the stove, sinks and microwave oven are covered from view. The refrigerator/freezer is behind a black door below the plasma TV; this door also conceals stowage for glasses and bottles. The Riva crockery has dedicated stowage. Abaft the galley is the day head, which is also the en suite head for the port twin guest cabin. On the starboard side, the cabin can be dedicated to crew use with head facilities included, or it can serve as another twin guest cabin.
The master stateroom forward has its own head, with a round shower and good-quality fittings such as a stainless-steel basin and glass surrounds. The island berth looks very comfortable, and its style is simple-a mirrored headboard and brushed stainless steel contrast nicely with the coarse, woven fabrics and the joinery.
So sophisticated is the deck of the 52 that it is easy to forget the engine compartment. Lift a hatch in the cockpit deck and the engineroom is revealed, with twin 900 hp MAN diesels fitting snugly below the garage. These drive forward to a V-drive gearbox, then aft to the props. Space is a bit cramped, but all the essentials-including the generator, air-conditioning system and hydraulics-are here. The exhaust system, occupying much of the space, is designed for a quiet ride. On our test boat, though, the exhaust system was perhaps too quiet, because we could hear the whine from the gearboxes (which are almost directly under the helm). Riva plans to add soundproofing when the boat returns to the yard.
At sea, the Rivale 52's performance is impeccable. The throttles respond quickly, and the acceleration is exciting. Steering is light and responsive, and I felt very much in control as we powered to top speeds near 38 knots. With the optional, more powerful 1,050 hp engines, the top speed should pass the 40-knot mark. We did not have many waves to cope with in Cannes Bay, just the swell left over from the winds of the previous day. The Rivale handled conditions well, providing a dry ride unlikely to trouble guests. I could detect nothing that would affect her performance in rougher conditions.
If you want to make an impression everywhere you go, this is the boat for you. The Rivale 52 will take you many places, but thanks to that special touch of Riva magic, she will not let you return to ordinary yachting again.
Contact: MarineMax, (888) 71-YACHT;
www.marinemaxyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877