The folks at Riviera tend to get pretty excited when they release a new model. Press releases, dripping with superlatives, race across the wires from their Queensland canal-side base while boating magazine staff, on both sides of the Tasman, queue anxiously to be the first to be invited on board.
Yet, even for their highly oiled PR machine, the publicity accompanying their latest offering points to something rather special.
Although the new 53 Enclosed Flybridge is yet to hit the water (that is scheduled for March next year), the company is already hailing it as one of their most innovative ever.
According to the company's concept design manager, Neil McCabe, the new 53 was designed in-house "from the keel up" following nearly two years of detailed consultation with boat owners across the globe.
"While the new 53 flybridge retains the distinctive Riviera styling, it incorporates a new generation of technology and comfort," he says. "There is a lot of boat for its length. For instance, the new 53 offers more cockpit length and beam than a Riviera 61".
The 53 is also the first Riviera Flybridge in the 50 foot range to offer a full-beam master stateroom, with king-size bed and large en suite. It is also the first to offer an enclosed flybridge with seating for 10.
Perhaps the most innovative factor, however, is that the new 53 has been designed entirely around pod drive and engine plant configurations - and not just one specific pod drive system, either.
Owners can choose between Volvo Penta's forward-facing IPS drives (either twin IPS 1200 units or three IPS 600 units) or the ZF 4000 system, with its twin counter-rotating Nibral (nickel, bronze, aluminium) propellers facing aft. (Those choosing the ZF system can select either a Caterpillar or MTU power plant).
With the standard IPS drives, Riviera estimates that their new 53 will have a top speed of around 35 knots. Its cruise speed will be between 25-28 knots and its range about 400 nautical miles on a 3500-litre fuel tank, depending on engine options.
Those wanting a higher top speed can marry the ZF drives with a pair of powerful 1015hp Caterpillar C18s.
By designing the 53 around pod-driven systems, Riviera has been able to position all of their major engineering equipment well aft. This has paid off in greatly increased internal living space, with enormous gains being made amidships. They have also installed mid-ship fuel tanks that run from the keel up to the saloon sole. These double as a sound barrier between the master bedroom and the engine room as well as helping to deliver better trim when cruising.
McCabe describes the 53's lines as "both powerful and noble", noting that the strong sheer forward and raised topsides create the same freeboard as a much larger vessel.
"It creates a very strong presence on the water and feels like a big boat, yet it will be easily handled by two people," he says.
McCabe says the 53's hull lines run straight aft from maximum beam, "creating a powerful lift and planing surface along with great stability".
The new design also seems to boast a little Kiwi influence: the U-shaped galley has been placed aft so it can easily service both the saloon's entertainment space and the cockpit. Another touch of Kiwi appears in the 53's galley inventory: included among the stock of appliances is a Fisher and Paykel dish drawer.
The design team obviously saw this as something of an entertainer's boat: not only does the flybridge cater for parties of 10, so does the C-shaped settee in the saloon. When the party's over (or perhaps just winding down), there is also the option of a large wide screen 50" TV that electrically rises from the dash.
Access to the flybridge is internal, from just inside the saloon/cockpit door and very handy to that aft galley. Owners have a choice of two helm stations: forward for long-distance cruising or aft for sport fishing. Among its many other features, the flybridge also boasts a wet bar with drawer fridges and hand basin and a sliding electric sunroof.
Accommodation, apart from the full beam, amidships master cabin, is in a guest stateroom, with a queen-size bed and wardrobe, and a third cabin, with two single berths. The master has its own en suite while a separate en suite serves the guest accommodation and doubles as a day head.
In what they say is a reflection of the large number of Riviera boats that now cruise in hot and humid tropical climes, the design team have also installed a massive 96,000 BTU capacity air conditioning system.
This will no doubt keep those on board the 53 nice and chilled. Whether the new 53 is as cool will have to wait until boat No 1 hits the water in about six months' time.
Riviera 53 Enclosed Flybridge
What: Riviera's latest offering
Special features: Entirely pod-driven, big internal volume, full beam master cabin, powerful air con system
Due for launching: March 2010By Mike Rose