The Italian Solaris 47 is intended to meet both sides of the performance-cruiser equation – and reward the discerning sailor.
- Upmarket RIBS
- Fast and stylish
- Well finished
- Built as superyacht tenders
- Finding favour downunder
- Built in Whangarei
- Luxury commuter
- Gen II wide-bodied
The words ‘luxury’ and ‘RIB’ are seldom used together, but innovative Kiwi boatbuilder JP RIBS is making a business of producing and selling high-quality, high-powered luxury RIBs to discerning boaters all over the world.
The boats were initially designed for and pitched at European clients, primarily as superyacht tenders, but the company is now also producing versions for the New Zealand market. Father and son team Johnny and Phil Edgar have pooled resources to set up JP RIBS, manufacturing luxury superyacht tenders and sports boats in Whangarei.
Phil is a competition yachtsman with many high-profile events under his belt. A retired boatbuilder, he was talked into helping son Phil realise his ambitions to produce a series of high-quality RIBs that reflected Johnny’s 15 years’ experience working on superyachts.
Johnny currently splits his time between New Zealand and Europe, where he works for a well-known yacht management company, while Phil looks after the JP RIBS’ manufacturing process in New Zealand.
“I wanted to build stylish, customisable RIBs equipped with the best gear available that would be easy for crews to use and maintain, while providing the looks and performance to appeal to European buyers,” explains Johnny.
Boating NZ travelled to magnificent Matauri Bay just north of Tutukaka to sample a pair of JP Custom 800 RIBs, both Generation Two wide-bodied models, but configured differently. The main
subject of this review is a JP Custom 800 with a single Mercury Verado 350hp outboard.
It’s destined for a South Island owner who will use it to commute to his Tasman Bay beach house. This RIB is one of two New Zealand orders for JP RIBS, complementing boats already delivered to customers in Europe.
Warren Hay Marine in Whangarei is responsible for rigging the boat, although the second RIB on display, equipped with a new 400hp Verado, was set up by MarineWorx in Auckland. The company will also rig subsequent vessels.
The Nelson boat differs from the other in a number of areas. It’s a wide-body design with different deck mouldings and bimini treatment with D-section pontoons aft to give it a more workable boarding platform and a larger cockpit to better suit the New Zealand boating lifestyle. The tubes extend a little further aft than on the sports boat and this version is around 200kg heavier. Under the floor is a 260-litre fuel tank with the filler outside the boat.
The Custom 800 impresses on a number of levels. The standard of fit and finish is high, as is JP RIBS’ attention to detail. The Edgars have used considerable care in designing the deck and cockpit mouldings, lock-up console/cuddy and bimini.
Make no mistake, these are stylish boats. The black stealth look is complemented by colour-coordinated upholstery, shiny stainless steel bimini posts and polished metal accents, including
retractable cleats. Although the boat is walk-around, achieved by sidling around the cabin on the pontoons, the console is full-width, providing excellent weather protection and ample real estate for
large-screen electronic displays. There’s lots of dry storage inside the console, which is accessed via a large lockable acrylic door. There’s easily enough space to fit a toilet inside if required.
The helm station is another area where this New Zealandbound boat differs from the other. A Furuno TZ Touch 12-inch MFD interfaces with the Mercury Verado, complementing the Smartcraft gauges and able to display the full range of engine and performance data.
There’s lots of console space , so plenty of room for the flushmounted VHF radio, Fusion sound system, Mercury gauges, 12V and USB outlets and a row of rocker switches for the boat’s pumps and electrical systems. The moulded GRP bimini top looks smart with its polished stainless steel supports; clears can be fitted for all-weather protection.
Rather than the leaners of the sports boat, this version of the Custom 800 features fold-down seats with bolsters and a clever rear module containing storage, cup-holders, sink and a bench area in solid teak. A 70-litre freshwater tank supplies the sink and freshwater washdown.
All the seats are upholstered in high-quality, leather-look marine vinyl. The rear bench seat is comfortable; the middle backrest can be removed to facilitate walking through into the cockpit, or the seats removed altogether for more cockpit space.
An underfloor locker is big enough for dive gear and there is a saltwater wash down. There is a drop-in transom-mounted ski pole for tow sports and a shorter pole for the bait station and rod holders. A pair of flooding rear lockers in the swim steps can easily be turned into live bait tanks if desired. Like the cockpit and foredeck, the boarding platforms either side of the outboard are Flexiteek, which looks and feels classy. There’s another windlass control and a solid cleat on the transom so the owner can anchor the boat off the beach, bow and stern, and then easily adjust the warp tension without going forward.
In front of the console a deeply-cushioned, contoured seat is a great place to enjoy the ride on a nice day. Batteries – one house and one starting – are housed in the cabin where they are completely protected from the elements. LED lighting is used throughout the vessel, including in the cockpit, navigation lights, under the water, and under the hardtop.
Getting into the boat from the water is easy with a folddown stainless steel dive ladder on the port side of the cockpit.
Anchoring duties are normally performed from the helm and JP RIBS has adopted the elegant solution of mounting the custom plough-type anchor through the GRP hull – the warp and chain is deposited directly into the chain locker rather than coming over the bows as is more typical. The anchor is secured by a rubber gasket in the hull that prevents any water getting into the boat.
The Custom 800’s strongly-built GRP hull is supplied by Miller-Moyes Seacraft, makers of Haines Hunter GRP trailer boats. All the other GRP mouldings are by JP RIBS. The matteblack hull comes from the well-proven, blue water Haines Hunter 725 model, modified to accept Hypalon tubes manufactured in New Zealand by South Pacific Marine. JP RIBS has also raised the chine for a supremely comfortable, dry ride. A moulded flange precisely locates and secures the tubes on the hull.
These RIBs are definitely high-performance sport boats, especially the 400hp model which is good for 54 knots with neck-snapping acceleration. But they are also tractable, responsive to the helm and easy to drive. The boat reviewed here with the 350hp Verado has a top speed of just under 50 knots – but cruises comfortably and economically at 30 knots for fast passages in most sea conditions.
The Custom 800 is responsive to engine trim inputs and feels stable at speed. Mercury Verado power steering coupled with electronic throttle-and-shift make conning the Custom 800 virtually effortless and the seats are well-positioned to helm the boat from both seated and standing positions. The hull tracks very well, so it pays to hang on tight in the turns, and the boat is a very dry runner.
Depending on where the boats are going, Custom 800 ribs can be supplied on a custom-built, braked tandem-axle trailer. The tubes can be deflated to bring the beam inside 2.3m. On the trailer
they weigh-in at around 2000kg. The RIBS are also CE-compliant.
GROWING THE BRAND
JP Ribs have obviously found a niche for high-quality RIB yacht tenders/sports boats, with several craft already in the hands of owners in Europe. The boat reviewed here is for a New Zealand client and the company has more New Zealand orders.
There is also strong interest from Australia. And while there is obviously a demand for premium RIBs such as these, JP RIBS is considering offering a more basic, lower-spec range for the New Zealand and Australian markets, without compromising on performance or build quality.
Watch this space.