As a relatively new name, you might not have heard much about Skua RIBs, but this British boat builder is already beginning to carve out a committed fan base. Owned by the same company (Nitec UK Ltd) that produces the very traditional and extremely effective Ribquest range of boats, there are currently just two craft in the Skua range and both are based on the same six-metre hull.
The test boat you see here is known as the RB6, a luxuriously appointed craft, designed to bring together the best elements of a tender and a sports RIB. The sister vessel, the SK6 is a more pared back model with conventional jockey seats and a greater emphasis on deck space. But in both cases, what you get is an explicit embodiment of the general market trend towards hybrid designs that combine the comfort and style of a sports boat with the durability and perfomance of a RIB.
The best standard package in the UK?
Skua claims that both its boat packages provide ‘more extras as standard than any other UK RIB’ – and while that’s a pretty optimistic claim, it’s easy to see why they’re so confident. In addition to the commonplace equipment, you get a Garmin GPS map 551s colour chartpotter, a 12v socket, a fixed VHF radio, hydraulic steering and a marine iPod stereo unit from Aquatic AV. You also get some rather lovely bow cushions, plus retractable cleats, LED nav lights, a Flexiteek deck, a road trailer, a full protective cover, a choice of hull colour and a mooring kit.
It’s all very impressive, but what a features list cannot convey is the quality with which the boat is put together. And when you delve behind the scenes, you get not just impeccably installed and routed cabling (a rare thing on a leisure boat), but also high-class fixtures and fittings, all properly through-bolted and secured, with as much care and attention as you could ever wish to see.
This attention to detail is particularly evident in the metalwork. In addition to the stainless steel vents, cleats, nav lights, seat braces and grab rails, there is a lovely one-piece stainless plate framing the dash, with the Skua logo at its heart. It is the same on the back of the aft bench, where the logo has been expertly craved into a metal section to reveal a crimson flash from the upholstery underneath. In fact, there is beautifully produced steelwork everywhere you look, so it comes as no surprise to learn that the builders of Skua RIBs also happen to have a long and successful history in metal fabrication.
Windswept but worth it
The helm station is a very enjoyable (if rather exposed) place to be. A moulded GRP lip at the top of the dash helps prevent glare on the four-switch panel and the impressively informative Suzuki dials. And rather cleverly, the fuel gauge and the trim dial are set apart, on elevated mouldings at either corner of the console. While this puts the fuel readout a fair distance from the driver, it locates the trim gauge precisely where you want it – bang in the eyeline of the man at the wheel. This enables you to drive hard, making small adjustments to the engine angle without taking your eyes off the water.
However, the screen is not all it could be. It looks pretty enough on that raked console but it offers virtually no protection from the elements. And as for offering the occupants a grabbing point, well it doesn’t achieve that either, because it comes without a metal screen rim. Now I’m all for aesthetic purity, particularly on a boat designed for the image-conscious watersports brigade, but in truth, this is a screen only in name. The wind smacks you square in the chest and if you use the top edge as a leaning point, you may well snap a chunk off in your hand. In fact, I did exactly that, but happily, the guys at Skua tell me they are planning to remedy this issue with a steel screen rim on future boats.
Four features for driving fun
With a relatively shallow V, a top-rated 150hp outboard, a 21-inch prop and a small keel running pretty much the full length of the wetted area, the RB6 offers tremendous driving entertainment. From a standing start, the plane is virtually instant, bringing you 30 knots in four seconds and 40 knots in just eight. And in addition to fearsome acceleration, you also get extraordinary traction in the turn, courtesy of that keel. It’s fantastic fun to drive, but if you use it for watersports, it should also offer some useful directional resistance to the load exerted by a weighty skier.
It’s not just about razor-edged handling either, because the RB6 also offers an impressive degree of balance and composure. The Skua staff are all trained by Suzuki in best practice rigging and it shines through with an easy and efficient plane, great responsiveness to helm input and very stable tracking. True, a top speed of 42 knots is not especially impressive given the power available, but with such ferocious grip and thrust on tap, you won’t care in the slightest.
The Skua RB6 looks and feels deliciously bespoke – and not just because it is a fresh and surprising RIB concept but because it provides flourishes that take it way beyond the mediocre. There are attractively pronounced angles where none are necessary and metal trim where none is needed. There’s a muted black ski tower, a raked sports console and some delightfully ‘muscular’ aft mouldings. Almost everything feels tailor-made, from the ‘Skua’ graphics on the aft bench to the stainless plate on the bow stem, and yet this is no catwalk trinket. This is a very mature and capable leisure boat, with great poise and superb quality of build. It’s a concept that deserves to catch on.
Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.