Piranha RIBs first appeared on the UK boating scene back in the summer of 2009, when Nick Edgington, based at Sparkes Marina on Hayling Island in Portsmouth, began importing a range of very affordable boats from China. It was at a time when the world economy was slowing significantly - and while most boat builders were looking to sell larger craft for more substantial profit margins, Piranha attacked the entry-level market very hard. Its RIBs were brazenly affordable for those on modest budgets and eminently accessible, even for those with little or no experience of boating.
But in the form of the new 8m craft, we see a pronounced shift in the direction of Piranha RIBs. Built in Poland, this is the first Piranha to enjoy a serious sea hull. Rated to Category B Offshore and used in large numbers as a commercial hull by the Swedish Navy on the challenging waters of the Baltic, it has none of the recreational soap dish fatness of the leisure-friendly Chinese-built Piranhas. Instead you get a very tapered bow shape, a narrow beam and far more aggressive hull angles.
The posturing of the inflatable collar looks very purposeful indeed. It sits high, way above the water’s surface even at rest - and while that does nothing to improve the boat’s stability when stationary, it does suggest that the tubes will keep well out of the way until called into service, either to steady a turn or to provide buoyancy and stability under a heavy load. It’s not always what you see on a leisure RIB aimed at the (often dumbed down) family market, but both in terms of efficiency and practicality, an elevated collar like this is precisely what you want.
The helm unit is also very good. From the sturdy T-top to the firm lateral support of the leaning posts and the arrangement of the dash equipment, all is very well sorted. Visibility is first rate and yet protection is excellent in all respects - whether from lateral forces, from spray, from wind or from the worst of the sun.
Further aft, however, the 8m could do with a far more prolific array of grabbing points. The centrifugal forces of a fast run do help press the aft passengers down into the bench seat but there is currently no decent provision for steadying yourself by hand. In the past, Piranha has been a staunch advocate of the stainless steel tube-top guradrail, so it would be good to see the same provision here.
The boat’s storage spaces could also do with a bit of work. There are decent spaces inside the bow moulding and the helm console, but the rest are rather compromised. Under the aft bench are two separate spaces, which is very useful, but getting into them requires the removal of the seat cushions, which are secured with devilishly unyielding metal poppers. The space inside the driver’s standing post is also very much under-utilised, housing an excessively complex swing-down table for the aft passengers and generating none of the extra storage you might expect. And as for the frontal section of the helm console, that is occupied by the battery and the oil reservoir for the Direct-Injection ETEC outboard.
In short, this feels like a commercial RIB that has not yet had the full leisure boat makeover. And yet this is ‘Boat Number 1’ so if precedent is anything to go by, I have no doubt Piranha will be very fast and proactive in adapting and upgrading the 8m as continuing on-water feedback demands.
A mixed bag underway
It is immediately evident that the 8m is at her best when running hard in a lumpy head sea. With sizeable swells on the bow, you can push on without fear that your nose will run light or get out of shape - and all the while, that tremendous softness of ride (allied to the powerful hull construction and the robust helm console) leaves you very relaxed, comfortable and confident at the wheel.
With that ETEC outboard on the transom, straight-line performance is also very acceptable. It takes about 3.5 seconds from a standing start to reach a planing speed of 13 knots at 2,500rpm - and from there, you can push on (through a useful cruising sweet-spot of 29 knots at 3,500rpm) to a top end of around 43.5 knots at 4,900rpm. Plainly, this boat is more about seakeeping ability than outright pace - and it offers plenty of very useable performance for the leisure user in that regard. But as a commercial-spec 8.9-metre boat with Category B Offshore classification, I can’t help thinking it deserves an extra ten knots or so of pace - and arguably, it would take very little tweaking to achieve that, because as things stand, the 8m runs very nose-heavy…
In a following sea, there’s not much you can do to elevate that nose, either with a squirt of the throttle or with additional trim. Instead, the bow remains resolutely low, periodically dipping the frontal regions of the hull, slowing the boat and washing off your momentum. To help remedy this weight-forward bias, the fuel tank (which can add anything up to 200kg under the helm console), would be better positioned in the cavernous space beneath the aft bench. Should you choose to stick with the two-stroke route, the oil reservoir could then be positioned aft, not just shifting a huge amount of weight toward the stern where it belongs, but also freeing up the storage space in the helm and minimising the need for trunking. This would improve the weight distribution and also enable the fuel filler to be relocated from the front of the console (where deck spillages are likely) to a more appropriate spot aft of the transom.
This is an excellent hull with an excellent helm and an excellent price. It is already by far the most capable boat in the Piranha range - and you would expect nothing less of a boat with such resounding commercial heritage. But it is currently hampered by an imperfect weight distribution and a lack of polish in the fixtures and fittings. With the tank located aft and some more rigorous clarity in the thinking behind the location, capacity and ease of use of the grab handles and storage spaces, the 8m has the potential to become a class-leading family leisure boat.
Tube diameter 0.52m
Deadrise 24 degrees
Max load 1,800kg, 8 people
Max engine power 250hp
Fuel capacity: 200 litres
Price: from £39,995