Royal Riva

Stepping up to superyacht status with elán, Riva exudes attitude with its new 115.

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Recent years have seen virtually every motoryacht builder move up the size scale. In doing so they are following a trend that is set by owners who, as they age, tend to become more affluent and want a larger yacht to maintain their place in life. It's a natural progression and yachtbuilders have to keep pace, otherwise they could see their precious clients move across to other builders. At least this is the reason given by builders when they introduce a new flagship yacht.

And yet moving up the size scale can be quite a challenge, and nowhere is this more evident than when you are at the top of the tree, among the yachtbuilders who set the standards. Take Italian master builder Riva, for example-which has always been considered to be the leader in terms of quality and style. Its new ranges of stunning sports boats and cruisers let the company occupy a unique position in the yacht market. Now, with a new boatbuilding yard that has direct access to the sea, the company has made the move up into the superyacht category with a magnificent 115-footer.

The 115 brings Riva into a whole new world where fittings such as anchors and mooring arrangements have to be on a ship-size scale. With boats this size, there is also the luxury of a huge internal space where designers can have a lot more freedom to develop an individual style that is more likely to reflect the owner's tastes rather than the shipyard's thoughts. For the Middle East owner of the prototype Riva 115, this is reflected in a modern classic style, a subdued interior where quality rather than an extravagant statement is the rule.

When I was offered a run up the Italian coastline, from La Spezia to Monte Carlo, I couldn't refuse. The French Riviera is the spiritual home of Riva; this is where the brand made its name as the boat of choice of the rich and famous. It was fitting that my sea trial of this new flagship Riva should be a voyage up this magical coastline from the building yard in Italy to the sophisticated delights of Monaco. Here, the yacht was in total harmony with its elegant surroundings; its arrival in Monte Carlo was a head-turning experience.

Externally the Riva 115 makes a fashion statement, but this has been generated largely from the owner exercising one of the many options available on this yacht. What's unique is the incorporation of a theater complex as a deck lounge built in under the arch mast on the flying bridge. Fitting in here very snugly, it creates a very private sundeck at the aft end. Although having the theater here divides up the flying bridge, there is still ample space for sun worship and dining. This particular owner, however, has decided that much of the space ought to be taken up by twin Jet Ski stowage and a launching crane. On the other hand, with the fully open flying bridge option, you would have more than 60 feet of sundeck, with space for a bar counter and stools, a full barbecue plus a spa pool. This would be a true sun-worshiper's paradise.

Below there are almost unlimited options within the available space. On the prototype, the owner has opted for five double cabins below the main deck with the owner's suite at the forward end of the main deck itself. This layout maximizes the bed count while still maintaining a high degree of luxury. Reducing the number of beds, however, would allow more space and a full-width master stateroom below, creating more saloon and galley space above decks. There is plenty to play with here, but one area where Riva does not compromise is in the quality.

For this yacht, the chosen wood is a black walnut veneer on the furniture and on some paneling. This contrasts sharply with the white leather settees and quality fabrics creating a stunning impact that at the same time is quite relaxing. As you step through the curved sliding doors from the cockpit, you get the significance of the Riva style. Here, both the deck and sides are lined with glistening white marble tiling. At each side the glass curves around to form separate small vestibules, the starboard one giving access to the flying bridge and the port one internal access to the theater upstairs, which is fitted with comfortable seating that faces a giant TV screen. Sliding doors at the front allow access to the main flying bridge and at the rear to the private sundeck that overlooks the stern. Even with this theater room installed, there is still space for a spa pool on the flying bridge. Although Riva shows layout drawings for all the areas on board the 115, nothing is really cast in stone, and this yacht can be customized to a high degree.

The master suite at the fore end of the main deck is a very private area with a small office in the entrance vestibule. The en suite bathroom is a few steps farther forward with the large shower cubicle raised above the lower toilet section. Here again the finish is stunning with marble and quality woods very evident. The alternative position for the master suite is amidships down below, which leaves room for two twin cabins and a full-width VIP, allowing the crew more space. The dining room is then moved forward in the superstructure to enlarge the lounge space.

The external styling has been kept quite low to give the 115 a long, sleek look, and it is finished in the rich cream color that is a Riva tradition. The unusually light coating of external varnish on the teak was surprising, but this perhaps reflects the ultimate hot-weather destination of this yacht: the Arabian Gulf.

The stern garage has space for the tender plus a Jet Ski; internal access via a side stairway also gives access to the engine compartment. Twin MTU diesels from the 4000 range endow the 115 with 5,500 hp. The scale of this yacht is apparent when engines as large as these look quite small in the engine compartment. They can drive this yacht to a top speed of 28 knots and will cruise all day at a very comfortable 24 knots.

It was a four-hour run over to Monte Carlo, and when the waves became angry, with white caps everywhere, the 115 maintained its stately progress with the spray subdued. The pilothouse felt very "big ship in style, and within its enclosure all was peace and quiet. Up on the flying bridge there was a wild wind blowing; however, it did not upset the equilibrium of the 115. (She possesses good visibility for tight maneuvering in harbor with delicate controls.) An interesting and impressive design feature on the 115 is the ability to trim the yacht by transferring fuel; an extra two knots can be found by sensitive trimming that does not offer the resistance found when using the flaps for this purpose.

As might be expected, the Riva 115 offers quiet, sophisticated performance without compromising her accommodations. This stunning addition has been a huge step forward for the company, taking Riva into a new league of yachtbuilding.

Contact: Riva, (888) 71-YACHT; www.marinemax.com