When you have a large, extended family of boaties, the best way to celebrate special occasions is on a comfy, spacious platform that accommodates everyone’s needs. The Leopard 43’s a sleek solution.
- Good looking boat
- Easily adaptable to different roles
- Solid, quality construction
Rigid hull inflatables (RIBs) used to be the preserve of serious sailing coaches and Optimist mums but their comfort, safety and sparkling performance have got them noticed by a whole new market of boaties wanting flexibility and fun on the water.
In the 5m range, a RIB is a lightweight, easy-to-tow proposition for the family or bach owner who wants a sea-kindly nature, superb stability and ability to perform multiple functions. At this size they have a Swiss army knife, one-boat-does-it-all appeal that is beginning to be noticed by local manufacturers.
King Watercraft has been manufacturing quality RIBS for over seven years. While the smaller jet ribs have been at the forefront in recent times, the Canterbury-based company is now applying some of its design and styling to the growing outboard RIB market. The latest of these is the custom 5.5m and fills the niche of a light, nimble, versatile boat with room for everyone.
This compact King RIB has the attention to detail you’d expect from a company that prides itself on finish quality. From the comfortable 6mm U-Dek floors to the well-engineered, welded PVC pontoons, the boat is a well-finished package.
With 18° of deadrise at the stern carried through the deep-vee hull, rough water performance is good; any spray picked up by the hull is deflected by the chines or the pontoons – so it’s a relatively soft and dry ride.
The pontoons themselves sit on an alloy flange. This allows a large proportion of the tube to sit outside the chine, making for a comfortable internal beam. At rest, the aft sections of the pontoons are well immersed in the water, resulting in good stability for fishing or picking up divers, skiers and wake-boarders.
The pivotal feature of the 5.5m RIB is its central console. Unconventionally, the console is split into two halves with walk-through access in the centre and two seat/console combinations outside.
The starboard console is the helm station – dominated by the Simrad chart plotter and fish finder and augmented with GME VHF, engine gauges and a Fusion stereo system. Both consoles have small acrylic windscreens and storage lockers beneath.
Above the consoles is a substantial bimini with stout uprights made of 38mm stainless steel tubing. These are also great handholds and the bimini protects you from the worst of the sun. At either end of the boat are a variety of seating arrangements – for social bow-riding to the more intimate stern seats.
It is perhaps the bow area that converts this RIB into something different. With that centre access the bow area takes five adults comfortably and places them where the weight is most useful for hull trim.
With the foot well covered with an insert, the bow area becomes a large double lounger. But in seating mode, there is comfortable space for up to nine people – outstanding for a boat of this size.
The 100hp four-stroke Suzuki provides more than enough power and its fuel economy (fuel carried in an underfloor tank and a spare tote – 80 litres in total) means this is a boat that can be used all week from the bach without having to hover near a fuel bowser.
Transferring the power to the water is a 14 x 17-inch prop, which seems to have quite a wide mid-range that can handle extra bods aboard with ease. Cruising speed is around 26 knots – 42 knots is possible with the taps opened up.
With five chambers in the PVC pontoons mounted on sturdy flanges, the 5.5m King has stability and reserve buoyancy to handle the worst a New Zealand summer can throw at it.
On the water, the boat had the comfortable ride of a RIB with a distinct high riding, dry feeling at speed; the deep-vee hull soaks up the bumps of brisk nor’easterly chop.
King Craft’s design pedigree has enhanced this unique reinterpretation of the family RIB. Whether fishing, skiing or diving the boat’s versatility will make an impact on the simple and affordable summer fun market./>