There are so many boats I would like to include in this snapshot of overachieving RIBs (for tips to help your RIB buying see our RIB buying guide). The twin-hulled, jetski-style C-fury is a bundle of fun, but probably steps out of bounds on account of its conceptual strangeness. Similarly, the ultra soft-riding Paragon Ranger 25 from Sweden is a very fine sea boat, but with its foam-filled Hypalon collar, it can’t legitimately be described as a RIB. More to the point, some of the very best RIBs I’ve ever witnessed (like Scorpion’s world-beating ten-metre Sting, the extraordinarily capable 760 from Sorcerer and Avon’s absurdly entertaining Seasport Deluxe 580 SE) are all now out of production. But never fear. Between the Brits, the Italians, the Scandinavians and a scattering of talented Southern Hemisphere builders, the RIB world remains in pretty rude health...
1. ZAR 85 SL
There are very few RIBs of this length that can match ZAR’s 85 SL either for scale of internal space or for versatility in its deployment. In addition to a full convertible dining area with wetbar in the sheltered cockpit, it offers a second generous gathering space in the hard, beamy bow. It can carry 12 people in comfort, hit 40 knots on a modest single rig and sleep two for a long weekend beneath the console and foredeck. With distinctive looks, a very fresh design approach, huge reserves of storage and a broad range of single and twin outboard options, it’s a fine family boat.
2. Ribeye PRIME SIX19
Ribeye does good business from its base down on South Devon’s beautiful Dart Estuary and it’s easy to see why. It is responsible for some of the RIB market’s most attractively conceived and well-presented turnkey packages; and it has also created some of the most accessible and user-friendly customisation and upgrade routes around. That’s nowhere more evident than in the company’s original PRIME craft, the SIX19, which is superb to look at, extremely well finished and, with its new Adam Younger hull, a treat to drive.
3. Ribcraft 4.8 Professional
There’s something wonderful about a tiny boat that can handle a big sea - and having negotiated 1,600 nautical miles at the hands of Powerboat and RIB magazine in the Round Britain Challenge, the eminently seaworthy, dry-riding 4.8 Professional has proven that it is just such a boat. With its classic high sheer bow and deep-V hull, it’s well suited to rough water operation and has been used for everything from support and patrol to rescue duties throughout the world. Equipped with an outboard of between 50 and 70hp, this robust, stable and confidence-inspiring boat is a fine exponent of the traditional RIB ethos. For more or the same, see Ribcraft.
4. Osprey Vipermax 7.3
I still remember how impressed I was the first time I negotiated the heaped up rollers off Barmouth in an Osprey RIB. While a great many boats of a similar size would have needed to back off or take a tentative zigzag approach, the Osprey backed up its well established commercial and racing credentials with tremendous balance, responsiveness and control. It’s not flash or showy. It simply nails the basic need of the modern RIB fan for a spot of family-friendly comfort, allied to sound sporting credentials and serious seagoing ability when the weather turns.
5. AB Oceanus 28 VST
With predictable handling, a soft, dry ride, an efficient hull, a deep forefoot, elevated tubes, a lofty, reassuring bow, a very stable heel in the turn and construction akin to a tank, the AB Oceanus 28 from Ifitfloats is a top-notch sea boat. It’s rated to 450hp, but even with a pair of 115s on the transom, you can expect 37 knots allied to a cruising range well in excess of 500 nautical miles. Add in a payload sufficient to carry 25 people plus an integrity of finish that will keep you safe and sound on exposed passages and this modest looking platform is as effective a cruising RIB as anything on the market.
6. Goldfish 29 Sport
The 29 Sport was developed by Norwegian builder, Goldfish on the basis of the established 29 RIB Tender (which is used by none other than the Norwegian Royal family). The result is an eight-man, Category B, 68-knot boat with a triple-stepped hull, lightweight, carbon fibre-reinforced construction, a 400 nautical mile range and sleeping for two beneath the console. It comes with diesel or petrol sterndrive from 260 to 520hp, plus impact mitigation, lovely looks and bags of kudos.
7. Stingher 800GT
Having tested four or five different incarnations of the Stingher 800 GT, I know it better than I know my own mother – and I respect it to a similar degree. With a twin rig of 200s, it will comfortably hit 25 knots in four seconds, 45 knots in ten seconds and take you to a top end well beyond the 50-knot mark. More to the point, it will achieve all of that in a very balanced and ergonomically satisfying way and with a level of fuel efficiency that is wholly superior to the single rig. Throw in plenty of space, some impact-mitigation Scot Seats, a decent level of finish and a price that undercuts most of the competition and it’s difficult to complain.
8. Sealegs 7.1
Don’t laugh. I know it’s got wheels, that it’s built from aluminium and that it costs a small fortune in relation to most RIBs of this length. I also know that amphibious platforms tend to represent the wholesale bastardisation of a boat. But the Sealegs 7.1 is a machine of superb quality and proven real-world practicality – and at 7.1 metres, it also happens to be an excellent RIB in its own right. With seating for eight, a very soft and forgiving ride, a safe spot for your kids and the capacity to climb a beach, hit 40 knots and tow a skier, it’s a unlike anything else in the world.
9. Technohull SeaDNA 999 Cabin
If you, like me, lament the fact that there are no longer enough high-performance offshore cabin RIBs in the world, the seaDNA 999 S will come as a very welcome treat. This ten-metre platform can be equipped with anything from a single 250 to twin 350s for a top end between 46 and 71 knots. There is also a diesel sterndrive version available, but whichever you favour, the twin-stepped hull from renowned British designer Adam Younger is a very serious piece of work. Chuck in sleeping for four, a loo in the console and exactly the kind of projectile aesthetics we’ve come to expect from this uncompromising Greek yard, and it’s a very easy boat to enjoy. Click on Technohull for more.
10. Hysucat 23
It’s difficult to argue with twin hulls and hydrofoils when they’re used properly and the guys at Hysucat are masters of the art. The theory goes that, at high speeds, the new 23 runs primarily on the centre hull, using the side hulls as stabilisers. The hydrofoil system in the tunnels between the two ‘demi-hulls’ helps the craft run on the crests through the chop and also helps mitigate the impacts and soften the ride. In addition to a reduced wetted area, you get reduced drag, a reduced wake, reduced fuel consumption and the capacity to operate with much smaller outboards – in this case, between 60 and 90hp for performance of around 43 knots. It’s not the mainstream choice but it’s got plenty to recommend it. For more on the advantages of twin hulls and hydrofoils, see Hysucat.
Read our RIB boat buying guide for more information.