Written by Scott Alle
Andrew is telling me about his day. “Beautiful,” he enthuses. It has involved one of those dazzling runs along the New South Wales coast, the kind of day which evokes all the best elements of being at sea: feeling the pulse of the ocean’s raw power, the opportunity to witness its many moods, to simply enjoy the sensation of carving through swell lines on a boat which is at the very forefront of marine design and technology.
The owner of Riviera’s first all-new 68 Sports Motor Yacht knows that his gleaming and statuesque vessel is the envy of all bluewater devotees, myself included.
Only a few days earlier, I was fortunate enough to be on board the newest offering from Australia’s well-known luxury boat-builder, as the 68 loped offshore from Sydney Heads to Pittwater.
As we settled onto the flybridge’s very comfortable L-shaped lounge or one of two NorSap helm chairs, the boat was easily and expertly manoeuvred off the dock thanks to the Twin Disc electronic joystick system (EJS). There is also a very helpful EPS function that automatically enables the boat to maintain station via GPS co-ordinates; great for keeping position in a fuel dock queue.
Riviera’s extremely capable Chief Skipper, Mark Dawson, usually sets the three Garmin 22-inch screens respectively with sonar, GPS/plotter and a video source able to switch between seven camera feeds, including engine room, cockpit and anchor locker. We reclined on the lounge, which runs the entire starboard side facing the helm, skipper and an entertainment unit.
There is a two-setting electric sunroof for salty ambience, but the space is so quiet – free from banging, thumping or rattling underway – that we felt there was no need to open it.
A solid but very nicely finished central overhead grab rail was not required at all in the harbour, but would be useful in an unpleasant seaway. This boat is so well-balanced and engineered, though, you would be confident no matter where the bow was pointed. A really clever feature here is a generous double bed which slides from underneath the lounge and takes the 68’s sleeping capability to 10 in enviable comfort.
A robust, stainless steel framed glass door and hopper window open up to the flybridge where there is a large aft deck and alfresco dining area with an L-shape seating area. Welcome amenities include a wet bar on the port side with a sink, icemaker, drawer fridge and drawers for glass storage. A small watertight battery box inside the wet bar unit provides emergency power for the electronic navigation and control systems in the flybridge.
Engine controls, a stainless steel wheel and EJS joystick are built into the aft end of the wet bar. A second joystick is located on the starboard side.
A thoughtful and wise safety feature imported from commercial shipping is the aft rail of the flybridge containing integrated life rafts and emergency flares.
The 68’s sweeping lines with fine bow entry by renowned naval architect Muster Design are so sweetly proportioned that it is not until you are up close and boarding via the transom that you fully realise the boat’s imposing, 55-tonne presence.
The 12.38-square-metre cockpit offers a seamless mix of water sports and entertainment possibilities. There are four large deck hatches, with the outer two providing storage or fish bins and the others affording quick access to the voluminous lazarette, as well as the steering system.
A large outdoor galley includes twin barbecue grills on the starboard side, a central sink with mixer tap and an insulated moulded icebox to port. The sink unit is hinged to provide access to the engine room.
Complementing the alfresco experience is an undercover dining area on the mezzanine terrace. A hinged window extends the space into the plush saloon which is a study in style, with moulded walnut and stain finishes. There is also the choice of cherrywood or wenge and, in keeping with Riviera’s concerted push into global markets, the soft furnishing and lounge finishes can be tailored to suit differing tastes in export markets across Europe and the US. The forward area of the saloon is a highlight, offering expansive views from the lounges, and a dining area that can seat up to eight around a lovely high-gloss table. A 55-inch TV forward of the galley rises via push-button controls and is comfortably viewable from both lounge and dining areas. There is even a magazine rack built into the arm rest of the port side lounge. The entire space is quiet and refined, courtesy of sound-dampening fabric and leatherette panelling.
The central, U-shaped gourmet galley is a focal point and the bar with icemaker and two swivel stools that tuck out of the way are a cool, neat touch which owners will really like. They are more evidence of the yard’s substantial efforts to incorporate feedback about attention to detail which sets the 68 apart.
Premium appliances include a four-burner induction cooktop with pot keepers, range hood, a large microwave convection oven and a dishwasher. There is ample refrigeration to cater for longer stints offshore with four drawer refrigerators and two freezers. Forward of the galley on the starboard side is a liquor cabinet with recessed holders for bottles and glasses.
Through a door on the port side of the mezzanine, a staircase leads down to the day head and shower. Adjacent to this is a utility room or optional crew cabin with direct access to the engine room.
Below decks, there is the choice of a standard four-cabin layout or a presidential configuration with a larger owner’s ensuite in place of the fourth cabin.
The master stateroom with ensuite bathroom along the starboard flank spans the boat’s entire six-metre beam. It is spacious enough to accommodate a king-size bed, a feature headboard and bedside tables with leather inlays and more than generous storage underneath. Cedar-lined hanging wardrobes on either side of the stateroom complete the luxurious appointments. Opening portholes and fixed hull windows draw in natural light and fresh air.
Choosing the presidential suite gains a private sitting area on the starboard side which can serve as an informal workstation, vanity or breakfast retreat.
The VIP stateroom forward features a walk-around, queen-size bed with storage underneath and wardrobe space either side, outboard cupboards with positive locking hardware, a premium entertainment system and a private ensuite.
The third guest cabin has twin single beds which can slide together to form a double; again, versatility and design choices to suit multi-functional use. The classic layout includes an additional fourth guest cabin with full-size Pullman-style beds, cedar-lined hanging wardrobe and bedside table. The two cabins share a bathroom located on the port side, forward of the twin cabin.
Riveria’s CZone digital switching has proved very popular, and underpins the 68’s serious tech credentials.
The system is fully able to be run from an iPad with features such as the spectrum feature lighting, the saloon and master stateroom entertainment systems as well as the optional camera, and every internal electrical outlet also has a USB charging point.
The emphasis on class-leading technology extends to the engineering and engine systems. Despite its size, the 68 is exceptionally nimble, the large rudders helping to deliver a two-turn lock to lock in just 8.5 seconds. The smooth power delivery comes from twin 1,550hp V12 MANs coupled to V-drive Seatorque shafts. The enclosed, oil-filled, self-contained shaft system uses rubber mounts to attach to the hull structure with flexible connections or universal joints to the gearboxes and engines.
The Seatorque system enables soft mounting of the engines and separate transmissions, reducing shaft-line noise and vibration. It is extremely noticeable how the 68 powers along with an almost disconcerting lack of accompanying noise.
The engine room includes acoustic and thermal insulation, full-height head room and eye-height engine systems monitors and remote controls.
Back upstairs, wide walk-around side decks backed by moulded bulwarks contribute to the boat’s exceptional seagoing manners. With the tender off the bow, the optional foredeck seating flips down to create another social area and there is even a shade canopy option. With moulded fender lockers, the profile remains clean and uncluttered.
Hull designs for the 68 were tank tested at one of the most advanced facilities of its kind at the University of Southampton in England. The result is a new Riviera hull that is capable at varying speeds and in a wide range of offshore conditions.
In its sweet spot, slicing through two-metre swells at 23 to 24 knots, the ride was extremely dry and smooth. Marry this with a range of 2,000 nautical miles at nine knots, the absolutely first-class level of engineering, appointments and fit-out, and you have a boat that will spearhead Riviera’s reputation as one of the world’s true premium bluewater motor yacht builders.