RIB Riders

COMBINING STABILITY, STYLE AND SPORTING PROWESS, FRANCES AND MICHAEL HOWORTH LOOK INTO THE EVER CHANGING ROLE THE RIGID INFLATABLE PLAYS IN THE SUPERYACHT TENDER WORLDThe luxury yacht tender market is ever expanding and always changing. No longer are RIBs used to send the crew ashore to pick up croissants and the daily paper. Now they are an essential part of any yacht inventory and increasingly something that gets discussed at the same time as the yacht they are to serve, is being built. There is always a way to find the right match for the client seeking to buy a RIB for use on board. That said, the larger the boat, the more it costs and with garages and superyachts getting bigger so the size of the craft they carry in attendance increases.

Boat builders are it seems constantly devising new and exciting developments in RIB design and the new breed of boat is being put to new and refreshing challenges. Looking back to the times when an inflatable boat was made by Avon and rolled away once deflated, they seem long removed from today’s modern RIB. Today’s rigid inflatables sport features such as drop down bows similar to that of army beach landing craft while others can effectively be folded in half for ease of storage. Surely by now we can safely say that when it comes to their use with superyachts the rigid inflatable boat once derided as ineffectual has truly come of age.

One manufacturer that has always prided itself in staying one step ahead in the innovation stakes is Pascoe. Their Vice President, Tom Southern reminds us “Pascoe were the first to introduce digital switching to the tender market. That progressed to a close relationship with Raymarine whereby we supported their technical team with the introduction of Digital Switching to their displays which is a feature now utilised by boatbuilders worldwide.”

We also talked to Tom about Pascoe’s constant desire to improve the quality of hardware available. Tom explains that “It’s these fixtures and fittings that immediately identify a high quality tender and in the past, ether we’ve worked with manufacturers such as Bluefin and Baily Marine or we’ve simply developed them in-house.”


Anthony Just is in charge of Sales and Promotion at Rafnar a firm that builds RIBs in Iceland. Just has witnessed strong market recognition of the company’s Rafnar ÖK Hull and for the sea, comfort and unusual lack of bounce-and-slam it demonstrates. “We have expanded our luxury leisure design features of both craft to meet superyachting demand,” he tells us. He added, “Our very successful 8,5m Flengur 850 Open RIB, the 11m Leiftur 1100 Open T-Top and the Leiftur 1100 Cabin Explorer RIB, are all attracting attention in this market.”

The greatly extended owner expectation demands innovative solutions and offerings to the market, says Just, adding, “Rafnar is a company unique in filling this need with their ÖK Hull technology.” He believes that with superyachts becoming ever larger and voyaging to the more remote and extreme cruising regions, owners are finding that their yacht tenders and support boats are unable to adequately meet their user requirements with regard to comfort, safety, and functionality. He says, “The same old uncomfortable ride on conventional planning hulls makes it difficult for adventurous owners and guests to travel farther afield in their tenders on adventure excursions, fishing trips, or for long-distance personnel transfers. Our newly designed hulls for RIBs change that.”When it comes to the latest innovations in design America RIB manufacturer, Novurania has always taken great pride in the innovations they introduce to the industry. This past year they have seen a huge influx in more tailored tenders for specific client needs. The most popular by far is their Catamaran series with bow opening ramp. As a semi-custom builder, the company has been able to build many models in this series to accommodate client requests. “No request is ever strange,” they say, adding, “We aim to please and do our best to accommodate what the client needs to make the tender the most fun part of owning a yacht.” Recently, they finished a 28 foot CAT OB designed to transport a client’s racing jet ski on board. A mini garage of sort was built in the tender to accommodate this.In addition the T Top was designed to transport his canoe.

Over the past five years Novurania has witnessed a change inowner profile. They suggest, “Clients that own larger yachts are young and very active – our tenders have been designed to
meet these needs. Removable wakeboard towers to parasail and ski /custom dive tank storage units in the tender for diving and our CAT 28 with bow opening ramp can accommodate an ATV so island exploration is at its best.”

Innovation is at the forefront for Italian RIB builders, Extender. They brought to market the very first collapsible RIB with a rigid keel, designed to occupy small space on board and to provide more space in the water. It folds up easily in less than 2 minutes thanks to the system of closure that can be manually operated or servo-assisted. Even when closed, it floats perfectly so that it can be placed directly in the water and prepared for use. The innovative system of closure ensures, when opened, levels of stability and safety equal to those of a traditional tender of the same size. It is a concept that will clearly be popular with yachts where tender carrying capacity is not great.

Speaking for the company, Carlotta Signani was excited to tell us, “Last year we introduced a new ‘family’ of RIBs including the models EXT 430, EXT 460 and EXT 490. They have been especially engineered to adapt to the requirements of weight and size of sailing boats. While maintaining the key features of higher size tenders in particular passenger safety they are in fact lightweight.” She adds, “Even their internal structure and their design have been engineered to limit weight: a new manual closing system instead of the electrical one, a more minimalist silhouette, whole and not divided tubes.”


Petros Kapleris from Topline is the first Greek RIB builder to successfully present and use stepped hulls, continuously since 1998. He tells us that two years ago Topline began working in collaboration with Velos Design a company based in Austria. Specialising in designing boats and focusing in aesthetic and usability they started with a facelift of the Corsair 33 Tourism and also launched a new model named Atlantic, which is available in 38ft and 41ft. He added, “From this summer we started face lifting the rest of our models.”

British based RIB builder Scorpion is continually improving its product line and is developing bigger models, to improve comfort, sea keeping, fuel efficiency and reliability. To do this they are investigating using hybrid electric/diesel engines, electric operation in sensitive areas, with diesel performance on the open sea.

Things have not been easy for the British based builder. Owner Patrick Byrne candidly admits, “The repercussions from the financial crash of 2008, are still being felt in our market place. The market remained unpredictable for sometime and Scorpion has had to find a place to operate in. The last five years have seen us adapt to find a place for the business. We have only started to find traction in the last 24 months. It has been a long and difficult journey, in which we have gained unique market knowledge, which we are using to build on our future development. For us innovation is a constant process, we are constantly looking for design changes that will improve safety and the quality of our product. Our customer demands have changed, but so has our client base. Is that change due to clients demands or to our different client base?”

Clearly the cost of building RIBs is rising among the well known and established brands. Tenders are becoming more and more expensive year on year, yet it is difficult to pin down quite how much an owner is ready to pay for a tender and even more difficult to establish whether or not there is a limit?

Tenders come in many shapes and sizes including the landing craft type, chase boats, sports boats and rescue tenders. While some are designated crew tenders, others are very firmly consigned to the guest use classification. It is in this category that the limousine tender shines as the star. Typically specified by owners, limousine tenders are often of a rather delicate, some might suggest fancy, design and are not generally the typical robust multipurpose yacht tender many captains and crew crave. Typically the garage space allocated to tenders on many new yachts has not stayed abreast with the fad for limousines, which mostly require increased headroom.

As a result, many limousines carried on yachts under 100m were built around a compromise, which normally means trying to fit too many seats into too small a length, or having to fit them with roofs that raise in order to overcome low slung garage deckheads. These compromises more often impact the use of the tender making them more difficult to handle because they are harder to launch, recover, service and maintain.


Range is not everything when it comes to building the ultimate RIB, they need to be robust at the same time. Increasingly, superyachts are choosing to have a strongly built long range
chase tender to accompany them. The yachts either tow them astern when on passage or deploy them to travel following the yacht on their own bottom from port to port. Chase Tenders need to be tough while being towed or under their own power carrying guests. There is a constant demand on a boat performing this sort of role and there is little room for down time for such a boat.

Larger super tenders need to be supremely solid and stable, allowing them to undertake passages between Monaco and say Porto Cervo independently from their mother ship at the same time as expertly handling all Mediterranean sea conditions. If tenders crossing the Mediterranean or even the South China Sea sounds like a tough ordeal then what must the Explorer Tender need, to do its job? Aluminium is an optional material for Explorer Tenders. It is really resilient and crew can bang out the hull dents with a hammer or make repairs with a simple welding gun. Also customisation is easier in aluminium than GRP if you want to build it strong. Boarding ramps, bow doors and other special features that Explorer yacht owners tend to favour are also easier to cope with in aluminium.

The Dutch boat builder Tzunami construct sturdy aluminium hulls to provide durable and memorable experiences at sea and on inland waters. Designed with a beyond limits, fast and
rough water experience in mind, their boats are capable of attaining a speed of over 60 knots an hour and still giving you optimum safety levels. Hans van Dantzig told us that recently the company completed a bullet proof assault vessel capable of reaching speeds of 100 knots. Quite what it was used for van Dantzig does not say!

Much of the innovation we see is surely driven by customer demands. Southern from Pascoe mentions “Over the past five years we’ve seen a significant increase in the direct involvement of Owners. Yachts are larger and therefore the tenders have grown in size and sophistication. We work direct with owners to ensure that their every whim is catered for; custom AV, high speed data connections, 3D sonar, thermal imaging cameras, the list is endless.” Both Novurania and Anthony at Rafnar comment about the desire of clients needing robust or utility craft as they look to take their tenders into more remote areas. Novurania’s bow opening tender is perfect for launching ATVs and Anthony at Rafnar reminds us that many tenders are now used for longer guest transfers and adventure excursions where the water conditions may be more challenging, meaning the tenders need to be up for the challenge in terms of stability and ride quality in heavier seas.

What an owner expects when he considers a RIB for his superyacht often depends on whether he is purchasing directly or through his captain or management company. Choices vary dramatically now that the RIB has evolved with versions designed for fishing boats to catamaran hulls, landing craft and limousines. The trick is to guide clients towards builders best matching their needs, budget and timescale.