Llanelli, where the Avon boats are built, is the spiritual home of RIBs, as it was in this south-western corner of Wales that the whole RIB revolution began. So when the news came out that Zodiac, the umbrella owners of Avon, were planning to close the Llanelli factory, it was like a limb had been cut off the boating body.
Despite this surgery the animal will live on, of course; the boats will simply be built elsewhere, but this is where the first production RIB came into existence, and was one of the reasons Zodiac bought Avon in the first place. On the commercial front Avon still use their own hulls, but on the leisure side of things they have both collaborated on hulls for some time now. The Adventure range uses hulls that are built by Zodiac but that were designed with input from the Avon design staff. The Adventure 8.5 is the newest in the range, and this was her first time on the water in anger. We were there to give her a shakedown.
Being overcast, the weather wasn’t brilliant for photography, and at times heavy rain reminded us of the unreliability of the British summer – don’t you just love it! The wind was a steady Force 6, with gusts to much more than that from the southerly quarter. This gave us some excellent testing conditions with some really snotty water, far in excess of what anyone other than a serious masochist would choose to go out in for sheer pleasure. It is, however, reassuring to know that the boat can handle rough water when your cargo is as precious as loved ones.
The ethos behind the Adventure range is comfortable family boating. The larger the boat, the more comfortable it can become, and with the 8.5m there is room to spare to fit luxuries that on smaller craft would be intruding into the deck space, or would have to give way for something more fundamental. With nearly 24 feet of open deck to play with, the inclusion of a galley unit doesn’t impact on the room for stowage, because there is already more than enough.
The galley unit is housed in the main seat and requires the seat back to be swung forward to use it. In the interest of safety the burner ring is of the soaked rock wool type, burning meths. This system virtually eliminates any possibility of fuel spillage, certainly from the burner, and it also cuts out the chance of flare-ups as the wick material acts as a flash guard.
Alongside the burner there is a small sink with fresh water and a chopping board cover for slicing the lemons on. The inclusion of this on a RIB elevates it from an open day boat, for just getting from one place to another, to a more self-contained unit with the ability to rustle up a hot drink or even a simple meal. Many, if not most, RIB users will go ashore for a meal, but the ability to make one in a remote spot where there are no shore facilities is a useful asset to have aboard. In this al fresco galley unit there is also a freshwater shower head which can be used for the sink, or the long shower tube allows water to be taken to the stern to wash the salt out of your hair.
The layout of the Adventure is all about leisure boating, both cruising and exploring, and watersports. The ‘A’ frame is going to have a replacement option in the form of a raked mast, mounted where the current waterski towing pole is situated. Whichever scaffold you choose, there will be a waterski towing eye or bollard to keep the boardriders, plank jockeys or children in their ringos amused, and the tow rope up and off the outboard.
There are some very practical touches, too, like the removable gear bin from the forepeak – you can use this to stow all that portable gear you take each trip but don’t like leaving aboard. Simply pick up the whole kit and caboodle and put it in the boot of the car. Next time you go, it is all there, ready for you. The fuel filler is also under the forepeak hatch cover, neatly hidden away. The filler and vent are surrounded by a well, which ensures any spillage is contained, and drains overside. The hatch lid over the compartment has a lockable hasp on it for security. These practical niceties crop up in just the right place, showing that a tremendous amount of thought and experience has gone into the fitting out of the Adventure 8.5.
Under the deck skin, which supports all this domestic harmony, lies a Zodiac hull developed in conjunction with the design team at Avon. It is nice to know that the innovators of RIBs are still involved with the development of new hulls. Both Avon and Zodiac have about the most experience of all makers of RIBs, and when you put the two heads together, hopefully you get the combined wisdom. It would certainly seem that way because the Adventure rides very well indeed, even if she is a little sedate despite the V8 300hp motor providing the propulsion.
Comfort rather than speed has been the watchword, and the greater wetted area of the beamy, mild hull gives just that. Even at 8.5m, 300hp on a sports-orientated hull should see the other side of 50 knots – the Adventure managed 42.1 knots but was as stable as a house. The rough water we went to play in didn’t unearth any awkward moments either, and it was far more snotty than any family would choose to go out in for pleasure. The Adventure could still manage nearly 20 knots through it with the sea on the nose. With the effective wavelength increased by putting it at a more kindly angle, she was keeping up over 25 knots and not throwing us about. Sure, with the wind off the bow we got a few showers from the spray being whipped over, but that was remedied by going just a bit faster and leaving it behind, or easing off a bit and not hitting the waves quite so hard.
The steep, following seas were taken with respect with due regard to safety. I feel that this is how a boat test should be done rather than being all gung-ho and risking filling the boat with water, which is all too easy – it just requires the throttle lever to be moved forward. Possibly the boat could have been driven harder and jumped off the crests, but at the expense of comfort, and my back is beyond that kind of treatment now. I expect that many purchasers of the Adventure would be of a similar mind and have the comfort of their passengers at heart. The Adventure is a sensible boat for sensible drivers, with solid seakeeping and a whole host of practical features for family day cruising, and it leaves the flamboyant, high-performance antics to the more rapier-like craft with no amenities.