The Back Story
The Riva factory is situated at the south end of Lake Iseo, just 20 miles (as the crow flies) east of Lake Como, playground and summer retreat for many of Italy’s wealthy families the last hundred years or more. The Riva family history and involvement with boat building goes all the way back 1842 when 20-year-old Pietro Riva impressed a local fisherman with his ability to repair boats. He was commissioned to build several row boats, and the rest, as they say, is history.Sometime around the turn of the 19th century Pietro’s son, Ernesto, built his first motorboat and turned it into a tour boat on Lake Iseo. In 1919 his son, Serafino, built a boat with an outboard engine made in Genoa that went 24 km/hr. With that, the Rive family was off to the races, which was a sport in vogue at the time both in Europe and North America.
In the late 1950s and ‘60s movie divas, protagonists of high society from actors to crowned heads, from playboys to sporting champions “all had a passion for Riva boats, irreplaceable status symbols in all fashionable marine locations,” says Riva's official history.
In 1969 Carlo Riva sold his shares to the American Whittaker corporation which owned Bertram and Trogan yachts. For over 20 years Riva continued in the innovative and stylish direction begun by Carlo Riva under a succession of Italian managers. The crushing U.S.10% luxury tax of 1991 forced Whittaker to sell its marine holdings and Riva was bought by Rolls Royce. Then it 1999 Riva was sold to Stephen Julius who a year later re-sold Riva to the Ferretti Group, where she remains today, back in the hands of one of Italy’s most talented boat builders.
Curvaceous and Toned
The past is prolog. When it comes to Riva, its past lives in every boat the company builds. Its history and tradition give every Riva boat its dignity. And the new models are the latest examples of man’s finest marine fantasy. If you have ever had the urge to just rub your hand across the curvaceous fiberglass hull and superstructure of a Riva, you are not alone. For most yachtsmen we know, such a tactile sensation is second only to the real thing. That is the sort of reaction Riva’s have always elicited. They are simply the sexiest boats on water. The Rivale’s sweeping high topsides curve gracefully inward towards the cockpit. Her sheerline incorporates the curves of her integral air intakes, and just below, the portlights are blended into a black accent that offsets her hull color. Access to the cockpit deck is via the rounded swim platform that offers entry steps both port and starboard.
The entryways flank a massive sunpad that is overseen by a stunning radar tower. Rather than the usual arch, this tower is a very interesting, and visually appealing use of space. It consists of twin curving towers topped with a horizontal mount for the electronics arrays. Under the electrically actuated sunpad is a garage housing a low-profile Avon RIB.
Praise The Sun God
The cockpit features entertaining options that aptly enmesh the Rivale’s place in the Mediterranean limelight. A quarter-round settee/dinette lies to starboard that has guests mixing with the aft bench seat occupants. The usual accoutrements of sink, refrigeration, barbecue grill and storage are located to port midships and starboard forward. Externally, the Rivale is a wide open layout that offers a lot of possibilities, and if you’re a sun worshipper, then you’ve found your dream boat. In addition to the pad aft there is another on the bow. If you are of the more fair-skinned variety, you can still have that functional layout, but an electrically actuated Bimini will serve you well.
The Riva Rivale measures in at 52’11" (16.12 m) which gives her a couple of options in the layout, basically, either a three stateroom or two staterooms, plus crew quarters – if you want to live with your crew. Thus, the third cabin is more aptly described as customizable, whether you’d like a single berth with ensuite head, or twins with no head.
The engine controls are connected to your choice of either standard MAN 900-hp V-8s or optional 1100-hp V-12s. Riva reports speeds for the V-8's of 37.5 knots max and 34.5 knots cruise, while the V-12's deliver a reported top end speed of 40 knots with a cruise of 36.5 knots. We have not tested the Riva Rivale so we cannot verify these performance numbers. When it comes to a Riva, performance is not a big issue: the fact that you simply own one is proof enough that you have arrived.The Rivale is no lightweight. Under that slim exterior is solid muscle. She weighs in at 44,092 Lbs. (20 tons) dry or 52,101 lbs. (23.63 tons) fully loaded. Props are tucked into tunnels to reduce draft, and the rudders are also in the tunnels to maintain the clean lines of the hull. Looking lengthwise at the hull reveals a warped geometry ending in a 15-degree deadrise.
First Class Comfort
Moving below, the main salon reflects the curving lines and stylings found elsewhere onboard the Rivale. The layout lends itself more to entertaining than fine, full-course dining, and that’s probably appropriate for the mission of this boat. Another quarter-round settee/dinette lies to starboard with the galley off to port. The galley is fully equipped, and as if to reinforce the entertaining heritage, when not in use, the sinks and appliances are hidden from view. The master takes up the forward space, and the guest/crew cabins are aft.
The forward master features an island berth and generous storage above the portlights. Natural light is entering from the overhead hatch, and the now obligatory mirror is mounted to the headboard (designers seem convinced that this makes the space look larger than it actually is). The master head features the same chrome and glass vanity and bulkhead-mounted faucet that are seen in the day head. With a generous 15’1” (4.6 m) beam, the Riva Rivale allows for plenty of room for guests while not making them feel crowded or confined. Her lines and styling speak volumes for her ability to hold her own in the classy and stylish ports of the world, and that nearly always has more to do with a boat’s popularity than performance and handling.
The Riva Rivale is not a cheap date, to be sure. With a base price of €1.6 million ($2.3 million), she is well grounded in the realm of the well to do. If you are looking for a value for money, there are a lot of attractive 53’ express cruisers that you can buy that are far less money than this one. And, if speed is your thing, we can show you some boats in the class that are much faster. If you are looking for something glitzy that is a bimbo magnet, then again, you can do better elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have just sold your hi-tech company for a gazillion dollars and you are wondering what is the most prestigious day boat to buy for cruising the docks of St. Tropez and Cannes, then you have come to the right brand. The name Riva will hold you in good stead with both old money and new, as both appreciate the name, however for different reasons. Perhaps as you can tell by some of the low production numbers given above in “The Back Story” that even Riva’s small boats in the past did not sell in great numbers. Each year it only builds a relative few number of boats. Given the times, those numbers are probably lower than ever before. These days Riva ownership makes one a member of a very select yacht club, indeed.
Standard and Optional Features
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!
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