Coming off of the four-foot swells at 30 knots, my body automatically tightened. I’m getting too damn old for this routine, I thought, preparing to flex with the expected impact. And then there it was: nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. The Riviera 5000 Sport Yacht settled effortlessly, like a piece of cotton falling gently to the floor, into the trough outside of Sydney Harbor.
Looking over my shoulder, Riviera’s Stephen Milne wore a slightly wicked smirk. “Our boats are built for our sea conditions,” he said. We twisted and turned, sprinted through head seas, ran down-sea, turned hard over at speed, trying in vain to expose a flaw in this Aussie girl’s handling. Again, nothing happened. It was superb. Milne’s smile broadend.
The Cummins Mercruiser Zeus-powered 5000 Sport Yacht builds on the success of the 3600, 4400, and 4700 Sport Yachts, and is little sister to the voluminous 5800. Even in sloppy sea conditions, we achieved a top speed of 30 knots, and it should be noted we were not hitting the full 3000 rpm this day, so expect a few more knots. The aft-facing pod drives are coupled to the Cummins QSC8.3 600 diesels. Besides increasing efficiencies and making docking — with a joystick control — easy, another feature of Zeus I’ve really grown to like is the Skyhook system. When activated, it will hold the vessel on a fixed position. If you boat in an area with drawbridges where you need to hold station for awhile, you’ll appreciate Skyhook. Or if you cruise shorthanded and need to go on deck to put out lines and fenders, you no longer have to worry about sprinting from the helm to a cleat in a crowded harbor.
From a dead standstill, I pushed the throttles all the way forward — now I was beginning to smile. There was zero bow rise, no smoke, no protest at all from the 5000’s stoutly built hull and structure, just absolute compliance. Turning back toward magnificent Sydney Harbor, we rode in with the building swell pushing our stern. I only needed to apply a light touch on the helm. Looking at a 5000 at the company’s Queensland factory I saw one of the reasons; a stubby keel down the centerline. At idle speeds, and even under one engine, she tracked like a Mack truck.
I’ve written before in these pages that Riviera seems to have nailed helm-station design, and the 5000 is no exception. The double leather helm seats are designed to keep captain and mate securely in place, and even during our tougher than normal test I was more than comfortable. This is enhanced by the large windshield. Two forward-facing windows have uncluttered views and are served by decently sized wipers. Add the long side windows and open after bulkhead, and you have a nearflawless, 360-degree line of sight.
Overhead, a large opening sunroof brings in the light, and remarkably, like an expertly designed automobile, there was negligible wind noise bombarding us through the opening — even at wide open throttle. This concept of a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor space is one of the hallmarks of Riviera’s Sport Yacht line, and certainly represents a growing trend among more than a few builders. With more than 300 Riviera Sport Yachts built at the time of my test, you can argue that folks at Riviera, lead by head designer Neil McCabe, have fine-tuned the winning formula. When I asked Milne about the genesis of the Sport Yacht concept, he left all the marketing speak behind and informed me “we have people coming up from flybridge cruisers who tend to think the party is going on downstairs when they’re driving from above.” There is something to be said for this observation. Certainly if you cruise with young kids, the stress of lowering them down a bridge ladder or wondering if they’re okay in the salon while you’re on the bridge is not insignificant. Making lunch while underway will no longer be a solo affair, and if you boat in an area with a lot of rain, the lower station and salon setup is tough to beat.