I just had an interesting week involving a variety of RIBs. I was in Newport, RI, USA for a qualification regatta for the US Disabled Sailing Team for my wife. The 25 year old Merc 80 Hp on my Searider had been giving me fits, so we left it at home
I arranged to borrow a 15' Zodiac Cherokee with a 40 hp Yamaha 4 stroke to coach from and use as a tender to get to and from our sailboat where we were staying at night. Fine boat for calm conditions. Though I did a long fast run in some 1'-2' seas into a 12-15 knot breeze and back. That was a bit of an adventure in this boat, as the breeze would want to lift it and flip it over as I came off a larger wave. Required close attention on the throttle. I was really wishing for my 5.4 Searider during that high speed run for spare parts. Bench seating too far aft made it difficult to get the boat planing once it got some water into the hull from over the transom, it hides up under the deck and takes forever to drain to the sump. Took a long time to manually pump it all out! Worst boat of the lot, no surprise.
Also spent the better part of a day in a Zodiac Pro Open, must have been a 550. Center console with a dual jockey seat and a Suzuki 50 four stroke. Not a lot of feedback about this boat, though it was pretty roomy, though hardly dry in similar conditions. The 50 horse was not up to the task of getting the boat planing with 5 sizeable adults aboard and a large deck mounted fuel tank. With a 90+ I suspect it would be a nice boat. Seemed to handle like a bit of a tank, but I suspect that was due to all the bodies on board more than the fault of the boat.
Next up was a Nautica, couldn't tell you the model probably around 5.5-6 mR, but it was an open center console with a bench on the front of the console and a leaning post aft, A frame and a 90 hp two stroke. The 90 seemed be be a bit underpowered for the seemingly heavy boat, though it handled well in slightly rougher conditions 2'-3' seas and 15 knots of wind.
Best of the bunch was clearly the 4.8 Ribcraft. While I was aboard this one in easy conditions, calm seas and >10 knots, it was clearly the class of the field. Rigged with a 50 Honda four stroke, it got three good size adults moving quickly and was really responsive. Nice ride in the powerboat chop. Nicest build quality of all the boats. Much roomier aboard than my bigger Searider. Definitly got me thinking how it would be nice to replace the Searider with one! More room to carry spare sails and parts to the racecourse.
There was another ex-mil 5.4 Searider running around with other coaches aboard, powered by a 70 hp Suzuki 4 stroke. I was looking longingly at it, wishing for Evinrude to come through with a donation of a new 90 E-Tec for the sailing team! It looked a little wet (as I know it can be!) at low speed in the wind and waves, but looked very comfy at speed in the same conditions. I've got come up with a reliable outboard for the boat! We rafted the Pro Open to it on the dock and the difference in interiors was astounding. SO much more room in the Zodiac, but a very secure feeling on the Searider, due to the low deck and large tubes.
Just thought I'd share my RIB experiences and impressions of the week. It was nice to be able to compare so many boats in a short period of time. It was also nice to learn that my Searider is the second best of the lot!