Market differentiators in the burgeoning cruising catamaran market can be difficult to find, yet this is what industry leader Beneteau-Lagoon has achieved with its Excess models, which deliver a livelier and more responsive range.
- Performance is effortless
- Volvo IPS delivers great agility
- High-speed luxury
- Cool styling
- Practical layout
If, as the bumper sticker suggests, the worst day’s boating is better than the best day’s working, surely not much beats a workday afternoon anchored off Waiheke, drinking champagne on a 50-foot powerboat, and calling it research.
This is the situation in which I found myself, checking out Riviera’s new 4800 Sport Yacht. After all, if you’re on a boat designed for super-comfortable cruising, it’s only natural that a responsible writer should thoroughly investigate its potential for relaxation and socialising.
Riviera is a well-known name to New Zealand boaties, and the 4800 offers just what you’d expect from this Australian brand. She’s the second of her kind in New Zealand and is the kind of boat in which you want to arrive at a bay, with curvaceous, modern lines that are definitely going to turn heads. And its twin 600hp Volvo diesels gets to your destination quick-smart too.
There’s no sign of the perennial bad weather on the day we head out of Westhaven, and flat water and bright sunshine make for a dream cruise down to Garden Cove on the north side of Waiheke. On the way I have the perfect chance to see what this boat can do, starting from the ease of manoeuvrability in the marina.
The 4800’s equipped with a pair of Volvo IPS800 diesels, electronically controlled and paired with Volvo’s steerable pod system. Even she’s a big boat – 15.23m long and 4.61m wide, with a dry weight of 15,725 kg – big doesn’t have to mean complicated.
One touch on the CZone panel switches the boat from ‘Dock Unattended’ mode to ‘Cruise’, activating all the power systems, lights, stereo – and air conditioning – we will need for our journey (you can also turn things on and off manually, but why would you?). Likewise, getting the engines powered up is a simple operation: press the ignition buttons for each of the Volvos, then the ‘start’ button and you’re in business.
Using the IPS joystick control either at the helm station or at a second, port station in the cockpit, it’s easy to drive out of the marina berth, back out along the waterway and spin, using the joystick control either at the helm station or that cockpit station. Then, with the touch of another button, control is transferred to the steering wheel and twin throttles and we’re away.
With Volvo’s ‘trim assist’ activated, you don’t even have to worry about adjusting the trim as the Riviera powers up onto the plane – the boat does it all for you, keeping the ride level rather than bow-up. You can, of course, also manually tweak the ride and fuel efficiency when running in more of a sea. And with electronic steering, the helm’s exceptionally light and responsive.
With a boat this size, packing that much horsepower, you’d expect to burn through a fair bit of fuel. Interestingly, though, the fuel usage per nautical mile covered doesn’t vary that much as you move up the speed range.
Starting with 5 knots in the marina, then 12 knots in the speed lane down the harbour, we opened her up once we’d passed Orakei – into the 20s and then 30 knots, leaving the camera boat in our wake (bloody show-offs! Ed). Watching the figures on the big screen, we were burning 6.6 litres per nautical mile at 20 knots, 6.7 litres/mile at 27 knots and 6.8 litres/mile at 30 knots (all in flat water). This Riviera has a cruising speed of 27-29 knots does 35 knots flat out.
Once the camera boat catches up off Waiheke, we make the most of the flat water to do donuts at 25 knots for the photographer. The 4800 is easy to steer into big curves and swoops, and makes short work of its own wake when it crosses it.
But enough of the active stuff; it’s time to anchor up in picturesque Garden Cove and check out what else this boat has to offer – and there’s plenty.
What lies below
The new owners previously enjoyed Riviera’s smaller 3600 Sport Yacht but were in the market for something with a larger second cabin to accommodate guests. The 4800’s quite a big step up, but when they saw the size of the guest cabin, they were sold. They were also attracted by the large ‘garage door’ on the transom. This lifts to reveal the tender storage area, and also creates a sheltered area for the transom barbecue.
The boarding platform can be lowered to create additional headroom under the garage door, and even further to 700mm below water level, facilitating the launching and retrieval of the tender. An electric winch helps with pulling the tender back aboard. Inside the garage is a custom rack for dive bottles, and a water blaster (using desalinated water from the watermaker) which can reach right around the boat. The Riviera’s decks are synthetic Permateek, so a high-pressure hose-off won’t damage them.
A couple of steps up either side from the boarding platform and you’re in the generous cockpit. There’s a large seat across the transom, and an L-shaped settee to starboard, up against the rear bulkhead of the saloon. A removable table here creates an outdoor dining space, with a large, hinged window on gas struts above.
The cockpit has a small hardtop. The shade it provides is easily extended with a vinyl cover running almost to the back of the boat, and the open sides of the cockpit can be covered with clears for extra protection from the weather.
To port is a wet bar, with sink and fridge with ice-maker and a small bench with a handy flip-top rubbish bin. A sliding door leads into the saloon – over a small step onto pale oak flooring, with a longitudinal galley to port and a slightly raised, U-shaped seating area to starboard. A flat-screen TV pops up from the cabinetry forward of this.
A two-hob ceramic cooktop and a combined convection/microwave under-bench oven, with drawer-style fridge and icebox are the main features of the galley. A drawer-style dishwasher is an option.
The saloon windows – curving down to a point at the back to maximise viewing – still allow for eye-level cupboards above the bench. In the front of the saloon a huge sunroof opens up above the helm – at the touch of a button. This Riviera is a ‘left-hand drive’ model rather than the more traditional starboard helm configuration. This means the throttle and joystick controls are at the driver’s left hand, leaving your right hand free to dial up the information you need on Volvo’s ‘Glass Cockpit’ – a multi-display navigation and performance-monitoring system.
When you touch the engines’ ignition button the two large Garmin screens in front of the helm power up, as well as a smaller screen lower right. Between them, you can dial up GPS, chartplotter, fishfinder, radar, engine information or any other combination of information you fancy. The helm seat is a sporty, double Recaro creation and it’s electrically adjustable.
The boat has high topsides, but the exterior’s visual impact is reduced with clever styling. It’s not until you’re sitting at the helm that you realise how high up you are, and not until you head down below that you appreciate the scale of interior volume.
Four steps down from the saloon and you’re in a second living area, with an L-shaped settee facing a second flat-screen TV. This is a perfect area for the kids on wet days, or a cosy spot for curling up with a book. Opposite is the day head, with a generously-sized shower, and a washer/dryer tucked away in lockers above the head.
The master cabin’s in the bow, with a large en suite bathroom and plenty of hanging locker space. But the real surprise – and the deal-maker for the owners of this boat – is the second cabin, aft of the stairs.
Using the boat’s entire width under the saloon, it has a single, starboard berth running fore-and-aft and a pair of singles running athwartships, which can be pushed together to form a double. There is a long, rectangular window each side, and the mirrored rear bulkhead adds to the sense of spaciousness. This space is both unexpected and delightful: kids will love it, and adults guests would be more than happy to be assigned it.
Sturdily-constructed, the 4800 boasts an exceptional finish. The stainless cleats at the rear of the cockpit are sizeable and solid, as are the removable rails on the boarding platform.
There’s an easy walk-around both sides, with good handholds, to the generous forward deck with its double-lounger featuring independently adjustable backs – it’s a great spot for enjoying the sunshine and scenery. Up at the bow a Muir electric anchor winch does the heavy lifting; you can raise and lower it here, or remotely from the helm station, monitoring its progress on screen via the bow camera.
It’s a shame to head back to port, but all good things must come to an end. Our afternoon on the Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht reinforced the things many Kiwis already know about this marque: practical layout, quality construction and plenty of power for getting where you want to go.
The IPS drives provide fingertip control and ease of manoeuvring for such a large boat, and the accommodation provides plenty of space for relaxing, especially in the Tardis-like second cabin. Now, I think I just need one more day out on the water to really check it out properly./>