Riva – A Boat, A Symbol, A Legend

Whenever I am out on Sydney Harbour, when I have rest from grinding winches or adjusting sails, I hope to see the icon that showed that world that machines can in fact, have a soul.

Riva have influenced many brands such as Frauscher vessels which we featured earlier this year, however today TVG looks at the pinnacle of wooden boat building and explores what is referred to today as the most beautiful machine ever made by the hand of man and the company behind it celebrating its 170th anniversary this year.

In November 1962 the Italian boat builder Riva and its owner Carlo Riva, premiered its newest innovation to the world. This new boat was to become the gateway to the highlife, the epitome of luxury and elegance.

Inspired by the American built Chris craft, the most famous Carlo Riva’s designs, the Aquarama was to become, over time, more than just a boat.

The unquestionable flagship of Riva, it is celebrated as a nautical legend, unmatched in beauty, craftsmanship and performance that has rarely been exceeded and is commonly referred to the ‘Ferrari of the sea’ or the ‘Stradivarius of boating’.

Its evocative name assured its legendary status and is inspired by the American ‘Cinerama’ style movie screen popular in the 1960s, which reflected in the boat’s distinctive wide wrap-around windscreen.

Production of the Aquarama began in 1962 and only having ceased in 1996. In that time only 769 where made. Not many by today’s standards, larger manufacturers such as Sea Ray can produce over 10,000 boats per year. Each boat was built with such high standards that Carlo Riva was rumored to have taken an axe to a boat that had fallen short of his production standards.

The hull was hand crafted from mahogany and hand varnished over 30 times to the famous mirror finish with twin Chrysler V8 engines ‘Tuned by Riva’ ranging from 185hp to 350hp giving the craft a top speed of well over 40 knots.

Able to berth two people in a forward day cabin with the iconic sun-bathing pad on the aft deck and a convertible awning that stowed behind the hind seats akin to a European cabriolet. This boat became the perfect synergy of versatility, style and quality.

Customers of Riva where the high rollers, the movie stars and the wealthiest in the world, Sultans, musical artists, stars including Brigitte Bardot came to Riva for her mahogany gateway. These boats frequent the exotic Mediterranean destinations such as St. Tropez and Monaco with their well-heeled owners.

There is something about this vessel that captivates everyone wherever it is seen. Perhaps it’s the mirror like-hull, or the angle of its prow entering the water that appears to be near flawless. Or maybe the quiet rumble of its twin V8’s subtlety showing off it’s raw power, undeniably sexy. Or maybe the fact that the boat was made by only primitive methods, no adjustable trims tabs or the like, just twin V8’s, rudders and a 28ft mahogany hull. Whatever it is, I can only describe it as being flawless. Still today an early model Aquarama can still catch an astonishing €800,000

Since the production of the Aquarama ended in 1996, Riva has transformed in many aspects except for its core mantra created nearly 170 years ago. It has been acquired by the well-known Ferretti group and now builds motor yachts ranging from the new 27ft Iseo all the way up to the flagship 115ft Athena but still maintaining its links to its legendary predecessor. Riva Yachts are still built on lake Iseo in northern Italy where it started all those years ago. Each being hand built with many models being draped in the mirror like mahogany finish inspired by the Aquarama.

I struggle to find other words to describe this boat, Iconic and soulful being my preferred adjectives. As much as these boats are sought after there is a feeling of sadness knowing that today’s production techniques are mainly focused on quantity-over-quality, consequently it is unlikely that the legendary Riva Aquarama will ever be beaten and marks the poignant end of an era.

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