Portrait of Tammy Strobel


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SPORTS CRUISERS offer both the versatility and performance that make them ideal for coastal blasting or weekend decadence, which is something that Australia’s premium brand Riviera has been doing with aplomb for three decades. But with the arrival of the 4800 Sport Yacht, the company may have excelled even itself.

The reasons for my exuberance are several but largely because it’s a neater and cheaper package than the stylish 5400 that I also greatly enjoyed.

With the arrival of the very first hull in Sydney for the boat show last August, I was keen to spend an afternoon on the 4800, which boasted the first installation of the new Volvo Penta D8-IPS800 engines. I was also keen to see if they could break the 30-knot barrier, one of my definitions for a true sports cruiser.

Reflecting the improving global market, the yard is building 100 boats across its flybridge and coupe ranges in 2017 and over 20 of these orders are for the 4800 – impressive figures for this smooth two-cabin sports cruiser.

These craft are built to offshore standards, which means they have a deep-V hull and in the case of the 4800, a sturdy build with substantial keel and watertight bulkheads for taking on the swells.

Slotting in between the entry-level 3600 series and the voluminous 5400, the 4800 has a similar sleek aesthetic to the larger model.

The 45ft hull is extended to 50ft when the bowsprit and hydraulic swim platform are considered, and the latter is a practical extension and entry point. The swim platform is also a private perch at anchor and of course a quay when the garage door is electrically opened to reveal the 2.7m dinghy and twin grill plates above.

Stepping up to the aft deck reveals the portside wet bar and to starboard an adjustable table that becomes a sunpad, with a lounge bench tucked aft. Reflecting Australia’s outdoor climate, Riviera prides itself in creating large cockpits, yet with encompassing sun protection via the fibreglass bimini.

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Indoor-outdoor living

The cockpit flows into the salon when the sturdy stainless door is slid open. The first port of call here is the portside galley, while ahead of it is the steering console with lounge offset to starboard.

The open-plan and low-set furniture style means the area is dominated by the surrounding windows. For that al fresco touch, click open the sunroof.

The tall salon windows and opening side ones are commendable. On sports cruisers visibility is particularly important to the skipper and in my backyard of Sydney Harbour it’s essential if stress levels are to be kept down, rather than continually asking my wife to be a spotter.

The offset port console does lack the visibility found on the centreline-mounted 5400, but there’s not much in it. At the dashboard, screens are shaded by the fibreglass outside lip.

As I sit in the sumptuous leather of the Recaro electric seat, the instrumentation is at just the right angle to view the 12-inch Garmin Glass Bridge screens. Also here is a screen for the CZone domestic system, which uses simple menus to digitally control and quickly fault-check everything, while engine management is via a dedicated Volvo EVC screen/system.

Volvo’s Electronic Vessel Control system is similar to the CZone in being a digital switched backbone, which reduces wiring looms. As a separate system, the EVC means the 4800 avoids having a single point of system failure.

Engine controls sit along the left side with the IPS (inboard propulsion system) joystick, throttles and autopilot all comfortably near your left hand. In addition, the joystick outside in the aft cockpit is ideal for close manoeuvring, as I experienced when leaving the confines of Rushcutters Bay on Sydney Harbour.

Our review boat came loaded with extras including AutoTrim for setting the tabs according to speed and heel angles and Volvo’s DPS (Dynamic Positioning System); the latter ideal for holding position near a fuel berth and other tight spots.

In addition, the overhead fibreglass gantry houses the radar and aerials, and there’s room for a satellite receiver to fit the Dock Unattended system for remote system checking. Nice touches at the console include storage for binoculars, phones and tablets, instrument covers and conveniently located drink holders.

Elsewhere in the salon, the uncluttered layout belies a functional space, such as the elevated lounge/dinette which easily seats six while giving panoramic views. The walnut cabinetry contrasts stylishly with the oatmeal-coloured soft furnishings, although the younger crowd may find this a bit frumpy.

Perishables are stored in cold drawers behind the lounge, so ideal for deck refreshments, especially once the window is swung open. The U-shaped galley adjoins the aft cockpit. Wisely, the twin electric Miele hotplates are at the aft window with microwave underneath. Forward is the single deep sink with chest fridge and there’s a slot beneath for a dishwasher.

Operating these requires running the genset (11KVA Onan), which is also needed for the AC-powered washing machine, located in the day head below decks. My only real gripe is the lack of fiddles in what is an otherwise slick galley that includes deep cupboards with Riviera’s crockery.

Spillage or wet feet aren’t a problem, as underfoot is hard wearing wood-effect laminate, which I’ve seen used successfully on other premium boats; it’s robust and grippy.

For entertainment, the Fusion stereo is near the aft door and a pop-up flatscreen television is forward. The finish throughout is superb, ranging from the 316 stainless doors to the impeccable cabinetry that showcases the work by Riviera’s in-house craftsmen.

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Underdeck lounge

Two large cabins are below, with the underdeck lounge ensuring privacy between the forward owner’s area and midships VIP cabin. The wide steps and atrium effect from the overhead salon windows create an airy yet private lounge for the kids or guests to relax in. Also, it’s ideal for watching the integrated flatscreen television without glare. 

Cupboards throughout the corridor and elsewhere mean this boat can easily cope with those holiday cruises. Underfoot is the same hard-wearing, wood-effect laminate as in the salon; carpets are reserved for the cabins.

The wide flared bows benefit the master cabin, allowing ample walking space around the queen-sized island bed. Due to the pod drives, no thruster lurks beneath to disturb you. Instead there’s plenty of storage, easily accessed via the gas-sprung cover. 

Riviera is well aware that ventilation is required in warm climates, so there’s a large opening skylight and portlights. The soft-close cabinetry moves easily – testament to the in-house joinery team – and smoothly finished with sturdy metal fixings. Other quality features include the cedar-lined wardrobes and matching grain exteriors. 

Practicalities abound, including hatches behind cupboards for electrical access, while the neutral-coloured headboards won’t give you a headache with cleaning. Ablutions are equally well taken care of with a large separate shower. 

The VIP cabin uses the full 15ft beam to create ample space for the three adult-sized beds, with the two portside electrically joined when required. There’s standing headroom on entry and abundant natural light from the rectangular portlights with opening portholes (which are alarmed to avoid water incursion). 

The VIP bathroom is in the corridor so doubles as the day head and is similarly laid out with separate shower. Its linen cupboard has a convenient bi-fold door that conceals the optional washer-dryer. The bathroom has a Corian floor, which is easily cleaned, and has portlights and skylights for ventilation. Key points such as good shower drainage and the electric Dometic head fitted as standard are typical of the detailed Riviera approach.

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Sleek hull and deck

The topsides combine stylish aesthetics with practicalities, with items such as sturdy handrails (316 stainless throughout) and thick teak underfoot in the aft cockpit. 

Also underfoot is the dinghy garage. Simply submerge the hydraulic platform with a button click then open the large electrical door to launch the dinghy. Should you need to anchor beforehand, this is also well taken care of with wide decks guiding you to the sizeable Muir vertical windlass/capstan at the pulpit with a hefty Ultra anchor. The full bows allow for a wide double sunpad here as well, with backrests and a handy pull-up bimini for shade. 

Looking at the innards of the hull, it’s been newly designed and optimised for pod drives with deadrise between 15-20 degrees aft, that sharpens forward to give a fine entry with flared sections for minimising spray and adding volume. 

The hand-laid fibreglass build is solid GRP below the waterline and cored above, including the deck, for insulation and lightness. The 4800 has good power-to-weight ratio given its 15,725kg displacement. 

Hull rigidity comes from a solid GRP keel with hard chines and deep bilges where tankage is placed to aid stability. The lustrous exterior comes from two coats of epoxy undercoat while underneath are double coatings of premium quality anti-foul paint.

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Pod manoeuvrability

Traditional power boaters may groan when confronted by the forward-facing propellers of the Volvo IPS pod drives, as opposed to the backward-facing design of competitors Cummins Mercruiser Zeus and ZF Marine. “Acceptance of them is a challenge for us,” Riviera’s Peter Welch admitted.

Nowadays, though, these Volva Penta IPS engines are the market leader and well proven, as is Riviera’s experience after fitting more than 500 boats.

The IPS contra rotating twin propellers on each drive operate in relatively undisturbed water to maximise thrust but does leave them vulnerable to debris or lobster pot lines (although they do have line cutters inbuilt).

Opening the large aft deck hatch and climbing down the ladder brings me face-to-face with the twin 600hp six-cylinder Volvos (upgraded from the standard 550hp models) and IPS-800 gearboxes.

A five-year warranty on all Volvo Penta systems is now standard with the 4800 Sport Yacht (and every new Riviera and Belize). This warranty spans the Volvo Penta helm stations, steering and propellers, as well as the major componentry of the drivelines and engines.

The engine-room layout has filters conveniently on the centreline and ample walking space between the Volvos, while the Onan generator is also on the centreline aft, which reduces noise. Bilge space is good, in case of water incursion, and the pod drives are accessed by dedicated hatches, with the CZone switches up high near the starboard pod.

Power controls for the 24-volt electrics are both here and in the cockpit. Batteries are just above bilge level for stability. The smallish tankage (400 litres) mean adding a watermaker is a good idea, but there’s plenty of space and the only thing lacking is a slot for the stabiliser; something the bigger 5400 offers. Usefully, sight gauges are fitted to the fuel tanks, rather than these annoying LED console ones.

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Surfing Sydney Heads

Clearing the dock is the tricky part for most skippers and I’m no exception, especially with a light breeze, as we had. But like many skippers nowadays, I’ve used a number of pod drives over the years and Volvo’s latest IPS is as smooth as they come.

In the aft cockpit, I gently pushed the joystick to clear the dock, twisting it occasionally to maintain the bow parallel to the pontoon. I’d have used the high-power mode if the breeze had been stronger.

Once beyond a boat length off, I then turned the joystick in the direction I wanted my bow to go, spinning the 50ft Riviera easier than a dinghy. This new Volvo IPS allows a wide arc of 34-degree rotation when you push the joystick fully, which means precise slow-speed manoeuvrability when you need it.

Once clear of the pontoon, we weaved our way through the moorings to open water on Sydney Harbour. Out here, the southerly swell could be seen rolling in through the Heads, running at about 6ft as the waves crashed over the rocks, which made me wish I’d brought my surfboard.

No skipper seeks out heavy weather, unless you’re a journalist doing a sea trial, so off I sped despite the apprehensive looks from the company representatives. As I was at the wheel, the Recaro electric seat absorbed the bumps while a quiet growl came from the 600hp Volvos as I stirred them into action.

Effortlessly getting on the plane at 16 knots I glanced around for the usual armada of jet boats, marine police and low-lying kayakers – easily done through the large front windows from the clear views astern.

After gaining the feel of the 4800 by turning the wheel to cut some S-turns, I sped up to the 25-knot cruising speed. By now we were among the swells inside Sydney Heads and being thrown about, but despite the motion very few groans came from inside the hull and the beefy wipers dealt easily with spray.

Turning side-on to the swell showed stability to be good, which gave me confidence to then run with the waves. Looking forward, the auto trim was in need of a tweak to push down the bow, a fact that Riviera noted.

Feeling even more at home on the helm, I glanced at the instrumentation that showed the key data clearly. The analogue LCD readouts on the Volvo screen indicated 2,500rpm and fuel consumption of 165 litres per hour as we slid over the waves at 25 knots. Ideally an arm rest on my right side would have completed the ergonomics.

I then went for the final test of a sports cruiser – breaking the 30-knot barrier. With throttles fully down and another tweak on the tabs, the gunmetal-grey hull shot forward, the Harbour Bridge growing larger in my view as the numbers rose to 30 and then 34 knots.

At this speed, you pay for your fun, with the diesel tank emptying at 210 litres per hour. At least you’ve got it if you need it, I thought, before throttling back to cruising speed.

At 25 knots, it’s less than an hour to the stunning cruising grounds just north of Sydney, I realised, something the Riviera 4800 is ideally built for. And you’ll arrive stirred rather than shaken, like a smooth martini.

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Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht (2016)

LOA* 15.23m / 50ft

Hull length 13.93m / 45ft 8in

Beam 4.61m / 15ft 1in

Draft (incl. props) 1.18m / 3ft 10in

Weight (dry) 15,725 kg 

Bridge Clearance 3.64 m / 13ft 3in

Fuel Tank 2,000 litres

Water Tank 400 litres

Holding Tank 151 litres

Engines** 2 x Volvo Penta D8-IPS800 600hp

Engine type 6-cylinder turbo diesel, Common Rail fuel injection

Propellers Volvo NS4 counter rotating

Maximum Speed 34 knots

Cruising Speed 25 knots

Cruising Range 285nm at 25 knots

Guest Cabins 2 for 4-5 people

Exterior Design Riviera

Interior Design Riviera

Builder Riviera


A$1,134,300 Base boat ex-factory Australia

 A$1,290,509 Review boat

* LOA includes swim platform and bow sprit

** Engines used on review boat; standard engines = 2 x D8-IPS700 405kW/550hp