There are tough go-anywhere RIBs that are designed to take on the harshest environment, and there are those that look amazing, with their abundance of teak, stainless steel, and deep-buttoned upholstery, but it is between these two extremes that the largest market lies for the general public.
Looking around at the number of makes in this sector of the market is enough to confuse anyone, especially now that continental RIBs have become so popular here in the UK, but one make that has been around longer than most is Valiant RIBs.
Initially, Valiant were a breakaway from Narwhal, the son of the owner of the Spanish Narwhal company deciding to go it alone by starting Valiant RIBs across the border in Portugal. Taking the best ideas and dropping the not-so-good features ensured that the Valiant product was bang up to date, and with a new factory, and financing available from EC grants, Valiant quickly established themselves as a major player in the European RIB market.
Not satisfied with the old gluing technology used by virtually all the other RIB manufacturers, and using the latest polyvinyl/polyurethane fabric instead of the then more popular Hypalon material, Valiant invested in the latest computerised fabric-cutting and welding machinery to produce volume at relatively low cost. With a new range, fast clean production, competitive prices and good distributors throughout Europe, Valiant RIBs soon became a household name, and their success was not only noticed by the public but also by the giant Brunswick Corporation in the USA. Being the owners of Mercury outboards and Mercruiser sterndrives, Brunswick were looking for boats to put engines on, and what better way than to own a modern RIB company to ensure that every one of the craft was fitted with their brand of engine?
Today, Valiant produce a significant number of leisure and commercial RIBs, and for our test we were given one of the most popular sizes to test, the V620, fitted with the latest Mercury Verado 150hp.
Looking at the craft in its attractive dark-blue/light-grey livery, there is nothing unusual or particularly outstanding about its design or layout, and this may be one of the reasons why it appeals to the conservative British public. Sporting a typical continental interior layout, with a two/three-person bench seat helm position aft and additional seat on the forward part of the steering console, there is plenty of room, but curiously only fixed seating for four people on the test boat. When I queried this with the distributors, they explained that the craft was missing two GRP moulded lockers with cushions that butt up to the anchor locker to provide additional seating. Evidently these are standard equipment on this model, as are an infill and additional cushions that convert the entire bow area into a sunbed.
All the right equipment is standard within the craft’s specification: starting in the bow there is a GRP moulding with a stainless-steel fairlead/mooring cleat and a raised anchor locker that neatly houses the fuel filler. The entire deck area is covered in artificial teak to give the craft an air of quality, and there are internal and external lifelines to add security for the forward passengers. Aft there is a large GRP moulding that incorporates the rear seat, with an engine splash that features a couple of small bathing platforms; additionally there are two platforms either side of the engine attached to the transom, one of which houses a retractable boarding ladder. There is a 40-litre freshwater shower located behind a small hatch in the splash well, two pop-up cleats and a removable ski pole that slots into a recess behind the stern seat, and dominating this aft section of the craft is an enormous GRP moulded ‘radar’ arch that carries the navigation lights.
This arch really is huge, and to me gives an otherwise reasonably attractive craft a top-heavy appearance; if there was a practical reason for it then perhaps one could see the thinking behind it, but it is not even strong enough to wakeboard from, so it only carries the lights and presumably a couple of antennae – mmm!
On the water the performance was as expected: safe and secure and unlikely to frighten anyone. Having said that, with the latest superquiet and smooth Mercury Verado 150hp on the transom this was never going to be a slow boat, and our top speed of nearly 45 knots was better than I expected, particularly from what can only be described as a very conventional hull design.
Because the buoyancy tubes are mounted close to the water, they provide excellent stability both underway and at rest, and the craft barely banks on the turns as the tubes prevent the craft from leaning far; whilst this is fine on a calm sea, it can create a ‘busy’ ride in waves, unsettling the handling and giving a harder-than-usual ride, but fundamentally this is a safe family craft that makes no pretences to being an offshore racer.
To sum up, the Valiant V620 is a popular, well-finished family RIB that offers plenty of space and comes complete with all the extras, apart from navigation equipment, at a reasonable price. If chasing the waves, nipping across the English Channel or looking for an offshore challenge are your preferred uses, then best you look elsewhere; if, on the other hand, your needs are for a safe, steady family boat that offers plenty of space in which to relax on calmer seas, then the Valiant makes a lot of sense.