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Humber SportsPro

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Humber have launched what some might say are their finest vessels to date. It made a big impression at RIBEX 2009 and is set to establish the company’s name yet further as a leader in its feild. Paul Lemmer reports….

As the largest and one of the longest established RIB producers in the UK, Humber have etched out an enviable reputation for tough seaworthy RIBs that other manufacturers have for years tried to emulate or surpass; yet today Humber RIBs still lead the way in value-for-money craft that sell worldwide both in the leisure and professional markets.

So Humber is a household name when it comes to RIBs, but until very recently their craft have had a rugged look about them that belied the origins of the hull design. Looking at the high bow and wide beam of these craft, it may come as a surprise to learn that most Humber RIBs above 5m sport the same basic hull design, and that the design originated back in the 70s from a wooden British designed and built 15-foot single-seat race boat that won the roughest Rouen 24-hour powerboat in history. For a time Humber used other hull designs, but none matched the all-round brilliance of the original Attaque hull, which is why today the company has reverted back to the original tried-and-tested formula on most of its models.

Standing at the top of the gangway that leads to the pontoons at this year’s RIBEX show, an experienced ribster and I were looking at the many craft moored before us, and in particular at two white sports RIBs, the larger one sporting twin Evinrude E-Tec 300hp outboards. Neither of us knew what make they were, but we both commented on how attractive and purposeful they looked and concluded that with such striking lines they were probably from the continent.

Among the many RIBs I had to test at RIBEX was the new Humber Sports Pro 1000, and to my astonishment this craft turned out to be the larger of the two RIBs we had admired from afar. Not only was this craft a complete departure from the usual Humber model range, but she also looked absolutely stunning in her gleaming white livery and was causing quite a stir, not only from the visitors but also from other exhibitors.

At 10m long with a generous beam of 2.75m, this is a substantial RIB, yet she does not look that big, her layout, colour and proportions disguising her size; it is only when aboard that one realises how spacious the interior is and how, even with eight adults aboard, the craft still seems uncluttered. The raked centre console with its wrap-around windscreen is positioned just forward of amidships and sports a bucket-type ‘suicide’ seat that hinges to provide access to a storage locker and the dashboard electronics; four stainless grab handles are provided for the brave console passenger, but it is in the aft seating arrangement that Humber have really pulled out all the stops.

The main seating comprises four uniquely styled ultramodern stainless-steel framed suspension seats with thickly padded pear drop-shaped bases and contoured backrests; beneath each seat is an adjustable monoshock motorcycle-type shock absorber with a hinged base designed to provide passengers with a cushioned ride, even in arduous sea conditions. And as we were to find out, they really work.

Aft is a thickly padded full-width moulded wrap-around bench seat with enough room for four adults, although only three head restraints are provided, and behind this is a central stainless-steel ski/wakeboard pole. Proper grab handles are provided for the outside passengers on this seat, and it was good to see that all but those in the centre of the bench had substantial handholds.

Adequate storage is provided in a large locker set beneath the bow V cushion, in the console and under the rear bench seat, and there is a self-contained anchor locker right forward in the bow. The whole deck area is covered in attractive artificial teak; there is a substantial stainless sampson post in the bow, pop-up cleats fore/aft and two angled bathing platforms, together with a bathing ladder for swimmers/skiers.

Altogether, the interior is a thoroughly modern arrangement, yet supremely comfortable and practical, the unique suspended seats proving equally suited to comfortable cruising and serious offshore use, complemented by the comfortable rear bench seat offering a surprisingly dry comfortable seating area. Whether it is the shape of the hull or because of some other dynamic influence we are not sure, but the aft section remains remarkably dry compared with other craft, making the aft seat a comfortable place to sit, even in adverse sea conditions!

The Solent was at its best for the three-day RIBEX show, with a mixture of strong winds/choppy seas, sunshine/cloud and, ultimately, calm seas so that the smaller craft could venture out. For testing a 10m RIB it was perfect on all counts; on the first day the Solent was having one of its wind-over-tide moods, with adjacent awkward steep seas, and the Humber Sports Pro 1000 revelled in these conditions, the thoroughbred hull making a mockery of the waves but more importantly keeping the passengers secure, comfortable and dry. The following couple of days were virtually calm and we were able to chuck this 10m giant around like a small sports boat, the hull gripping with the tenacity of a limpet. If ever a craft had showed its origins, this was it; the ability to switch from lock to lock and throw the boat into tight turns without any quirkiness was staggering, and although one would seldom, if ever, put a craft this size to these extremes, it was good to know that nothing had been lost in the exponential growth of the original race hull that had spawned Britain’s most popular range of RIBs.

The Sports Pro range consists of four models based on the latest 8- and 10-metre hulls and is available in standard or wide beam versions, depending on clients’ requirements, and when testing the standard beam 800 version fitted with a single Suzuki 300hp, we were equally impressed by the craft’s performance and handling. The 800 is laid out in similar fashion to her larger sister except, with her reduced length, she has just two individual seats instead of four; unlike the larger craft, these are rigidly mounted, although the monoshock system is available as an optional extra.

To sum up: talking to the public and the trade at RIBEX confirmed what we had come to expect of Humber RIBs, and that is for purposeful no-nonsense value-for-money leisure and commercial craft that can be seen going about their duties throughout the world in a steadfast, reliable manner. However, what rocked everyone is how a company renowned for its tough no-nonsense ‘orange’ work boat range could, in one swift move, stun the unsuspecting public with an ultramodern approach in the form of the new Sports Pro range; the craft perform as well as they look, offer excellent dynamics/ergonomics, and are based upon one of the most respected offshore hulls in the industry. Congratulations to Humber for their efforts; like the Brawn Formula One story, no one expected to see such a successful transformation.

Paul Lemmer