Maiden voyages buoyed by style

The Sydney Boat Show will showcase how female input on interior design has paid off for luxury boat builder Riviera, writes David Lockwood.

The Sydney Boat Show will showcase how female input on interior design has paid off for luxury boat builder Riviera, writes David Lockwood.

Boat builders are waking up to the fact that women are involved in the boat-buying process. For proof, look no further than our big shows, where's there's a paradigm shift from boats bundled with lots of blokey bits, such as big-game fishing kits, to showing more sophisticated craft with improved interior design, more comfort and modern conveniences.

A recent visit to Riviera's Gold Coast factory revealed the extent of the switch to comfort above all else. For the first time in the boat builder's long history, it's created a full-sized mock-up of a new boat to garner input from would-be owners, including the female co-signatories (presumably) of the cheque book.

Now, after more than a year of opinion gathering, the information has been distilled into what is surely the most-considered Riviera ever. The 50 Enclosed Flybridge (from a little more than $1.4 million) is to make its debut at the Sydney International Boat Show, from August 1.

Our introduction to the boat begins with a walk-through of the cockpit traced on the factory floor. Here, you can get an idea of the available space for options such as an outdoor dining table. Then you step into the virtual interior, built to the same high standards as the eventual boat (except for the mock views stuck on the "windows"). Here, Riviera's investment in seeking opinions is reflected in the modern interior.

A year after buying Riviera, its new owner Rodney Longhurst says he remains committed to building the best boats money can buy. His passion for perfection, and the recent announcement that the Longhurst family has acquired Riviera's 5.6-hectare boat-building site (debt free), are a further vote of confidence in the revived brand.

Longhurst has returned former Riviera chief executive Wes Moxey to the company helm. During his sabbatical, Moxey used a virtual boat-building model out of Taiwan to build Belize boats.

Longhurst also enlisted Italian designer Georgia Drudi, who previously worked for luxury Italian yard Ferretti, to create the new Riviera interiors. The moulds for the latest Riviera were made in Taiwan before being shipping to the Gold Coast.

The result of the fresh input, and the meeting of designer and owner minds, is a Riviera like no other. With contemporary light-oak joinery, new levels of attention to detail, along with the utility and practicality that has made Riviera so popular, the new 50 Enclosed Flybridge (EFB) is bound to be a big hit.

The new 50 EFB has been designed to sleep an extended family in true comfort, while remaining manageable for a couple to command, thanks largely to the standard propulsion of twin Cummins 600-horsepower Zeus pod drives coupled with a joystick.

But Riviera has gone away from a full-beam stateroom to create a more equitable family boat where each of the three cabins is truly something to enjoy.

Meanwhile, Australian long-range motor yacht builder Bill Barry-Cotter, the founder of Riviera and now Maritimo, has enlisted industrial designer Dave Stewart to add interior flare to his competing boats. With a new multi-stage quality-control program, handled by independent surveyors, Barry-Cotter's interiors have stepped up.

The new M50 cruiser, tested on these pages recently, now comes in a C50 Sport Yacht variant without flying bridge. The first boat off the production line, apparently built for Barry-Cotter, featured a premium appliance package including a full-size dishwasher. The boat sold to a Sydney buyer at last month's Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, before Barry-Cotter got a look in.

Another brand selling the dream, Horizon, recently unveiled a new interior-design centre in Taiwan where the focus is on quality fittings. Add the latest French boats, and the big British marques such as Princess and Sunseeker, who are going the extra distance to make their presence felt at the Sydney Boat Show this year, and buyers have rich pickings in the luxury-boat fleet.

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