As the undisputed kings of automotive flair, the Italians are justly famous for their flamboyance - so much so that some of Italy’s most iconic brands appear hardwired to the pleasure receptors of the brain. Consider brands like Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducatti. They combine glittering heritage with cutting edge performance, stylistic elegance and unparalleled desirability. And they succeed not because they present a vast array of practical features or satisfy an exhaustive tick-list, but because they put sensory excitement in pride of place at the pinnacle of the design criteria.
It is precisely this approach that has brought such success to the Italian powerboating world. Consider Riva, Ferretti, Azimut, Baglietto and Pershing. They might represent only a small (and rather exclusive) part of Italy’s leisure fleet but if you are lucky enough to step on board one of these exquisite superboats, the aesthetic loveliness, the engineering excellence and the pervasive sense that you’re in the presence of something special leaves you profoundly marked by the experience.
So what of Ranieri?
As an Italian boat builder with an established reputation for sporting ability, a modern Ranieri craft has a tough image to live up to - so it is great to see that the rather plain looking leisure boats of the past have been trumped by the altogether more dramatic Voyager 19S. Gone are the softly rounded GRP mouldings and the rather unambitious patches of grey and blue and in their place we get bold black and silver colourways, underpinned by a classic Ranieri hull step. You also get low-profile stainless guardrails allied to a very muscular moulding at the aft end and a generous 140hp on the transom. It leaves you in little doubt that the Voyager 19S (the only boat in the Ranieri range that enjoys the ‘S’ suffix) is much more like the classically potent Italian sports boat in your mind’s eye - not just a boat that performs well but a boat that looks like a thoroughbred.
A big step forward
Ranieri is renowned for using hull steps even on very small craft, so it is well worth having a closer look at this part of the boat. In basic terms, a step is a contoured V-shaped ‘gutter’ in the base of the hull, which is designed to draw air in from the sides and then funnel it back toward the planing surface. The point of this is to reduce the drag that exists at the point of contact between the boat and the water, thereby increasing both speed and efficiency. That is why they are so often used on race hulls, but the downside of this more ‘slippery’ stepped design is that they tend to have a little less grip on the water, particularly when pushed very hard or thrown through a turn at pace.
Now on leisure boats, you might suggest (with some justification) that a step is often as much about cosmetic enhancement as dynamic ability - and the words ‘HIGH PRESSURE - HIGH FASHION’ emblazoned on the side of the Ranieri might be taken as a candid confession of exactly that. But in the case of the Voyager 19S, the step actually plays a very substantial part in the driving experience…
Push on from a standstill and, after a period of revving and some substantial bow lift, the boat settles over the hump, grips hard and surges forward, hitting the plane between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm from around 12 knots upwards. This slipping of the prop at the outset is mirrored by a classically stepped feel in the turn, with a shallow angle of heel and quite a perceptible sideways sliding of the hull. But don’t let this put you off because it is by no means a difficult boat to control. On the contrary, the pivot point is directly beneath the helm, so it doesn’t take long before you begin to relish the Ranieri’s handling characteristics. With a little time and a little concentration, you find yourself gleefully exploring the dynamic balance between grip and slide to fine effect - and it really is tremendous fun
Push her to the top end and you will see a very commendable 48.5 knots on the carbon-backed speedo and that is exactly where most buyers of this boat will want to be. But apparently (despite their reputation as committed petrol-heads), the Italians tend to spec the Voyager 19S with much more modest powerplants than this. The DF100 is very popular, as it saves considerable amounts of money (around £3,000 in the UK) and yet it is still able to provide an easy-running 35 to 40 knots. And believe it or not, you can even drop the ante as far as the DF40, which turns this overtly sporting boat into a very stylish 20-knot runabout.
A Mediterranean fit-out
As you might expect, the 19S is explicitly configured as a Mediterranean boat, with a walk-through transom for easy boarding, and a pair of benches offset to starboard, giving you an unbroken passage all the way down the port side from the swim platform to the bow locker. The entire front end can also function either as a sunbathing platform or as a dining area - and the forward space is quite practical too, with a huge and very well appointed bow locker.
The seating is equally impressive - usefully laid out, very solidly built and great to look at. And while the modern, low-profile cushions are certainly harder than I would like, they lend the fit-out such a stylish, modern and distinctive look that it is a foible you can easily forgive.
Ranieri Voyager 19S: verdict
While the Voyager 19S is obviously not in the same bracket as the most fabled Italian brands, it possesses enough of the classic Italian traits to excite in a way that few boats at this price level can match. It is a well-built, beautifully styled, efficient-running boat with a proper driver’s helm and an impressively uncompromising hull. The standard Voyager 19 may be the best selling craft in the Ranieri fleet, but if you want that vital extra dose of Italian sex appeal, the ‘S’ version is difficult to ignore.
For more details contact Reddish Marine.