- The Tohatsu BFT60 on the transom is plenty of engine, despite the fact that the hull is rated for 80hp.
- The hull is a well-proven shape from the Zodiac stable, with a curved forefoot and a single, straight strake that is accurately moulded with sharp, clean edges.
- As the boat rode over even steep breaking waves, it did so with far less drama than I was anticipating.
- This isn’t a boat meant to be driven like a mad thing, and when used in a more sympathetic manner to the sea conditions the boat rides perfectly well and comfortably.
Europa 5.2 RIB
Affordable boating has never been more available. Simon Everett takes a look at the Europa 5.2 RIB with a Tohatsu engine.
The Europa 5.2 is a compact RIB that is light in weight, so it only requires a car of 1400cc or so to tow it. The sea capabilities of a RIB increase the operational possibilities and the confidence of the user. This Zodiac-derived hull is surrounded by a 520mm-diameter inflatable PVC collar that consists of five separate air chambers with pressure relief valves. The buoyancy this provides is sufficient to give the craft a payload rating of 10 adults – not that you would dream of going to sea with 10 people aboard, of course, but it puts the massive reserve of buoyancy in perspective.
The hull is a well-proven shape from the Zodiac stable, with a curved forefoot and a single, straight strake that is accurately moulded with sharp, clean edges. The hull works well – it should do, as Zodiac are synonymous with RIBs – and the lift generated from the tapered strake puts her on the plane effortlessly with so little weight to raise. Once on the plane, driving hard in the chop, the handling is a little flighty with very little weight in the bow, but with that generously cut collar the stability is fine. That inflatable tube provides a shoulder to lean on and restricts the degree of rolling to well within comfortable limits. This isn’t a boat meant to be driven like a mad thing, and when used in a more sympathetic manner to the sea conditions the boat rides perfectly well and comfortably.
The main console has a double jockey seat with a well-padded and supportive backrest that comes into play when riding two up. Solo at the helm you have to support yourself, but the seat padding is sculptured and the jockey pod is a comfortable width to straddle – some would say narrow from a stowage point of view, but you can’t have it both ways. The portable fuel tank is housed within the jockey seat, only leaving room for stowage of personal gear on top. There is a covered anchor locker in the bow moulding with an internal drain onto the deck, but it is only built to take the ground tackle and warp. The aft seat box provides the final stowage area, under the seat base, which lifts under the swinging backrest. The stainless steel A-frame carries the navigation lights, and provides a high point to mount a VHF aerial with the cable running through the wiring conduit. One aspect of a RIB that requires consideration is the reduced amount of stowage and available deck space due to the tube encroaching inwards from what would be the gunwale in a hard boat. There is always something to have to juggle with.
As the weather was pretty benign I took the 5.2m Europa out into the Hurst race, which was working well with an ebb tide against a force 4 south-westerly wind. The sharp, peaky waves were a good test of the way the RIB handles in the chop. I was pleasantly surprised actually – I thought the motion would be more violent than it was. As the boat rode over even steep breaking waves, it did so with far less drama than I was anticipating. I was able to get her airborne happily, but the take-off and landings were well cushioned by the tubes and hull shape.
Driving the Europa wasn’t a life-changing experience, but it did do a pretty good job of dealing with the waves thrown in its way. The hull is capable, rather than special, but even following seas didn’t upset it, and for the kind of use it will be put to it is more than adequate. The PVC tube has a short overhang that puts buoyancy beyond the engine with full-diameter plain ends that sit just on the water on the plane, giving the support they are supposed to and lifting the stern before there is a danger of being pooped.
The Tohatsu BFT60 on the transom is plenty of engine, despite the fact that the hull is rated for 80hp. In fact, I would say that a 40hp would be an ideal partner for the club user that is not carrying heavy payloads and is running at moderate speed. We achieved 30.4 knots with 15 litres of fuel and two men aboard, and I would still expect a 40hp to give 27 knots and a cruising speed of around the 20-knot mark. If you are operating often in tide race-type situations, or rough waters such as crossing the Solent on a blustery day, having the power on tap from the bigger engine will help with boat handling, as the power is there when you want it without having to wait for engine revs to rise. The acceleration response is more important in that kind of situation than it is for simple pleasure pottering, where the saving in original purchase price can be put to other aspects of your boating.
If the thought of going exploring the more remote parts of our coast appeals, then here is a boat that will allow you to do it on a reasonable budget yet still provide the means to deal with wild water if you encounter it. Only time will tell if Korean build and quality of components can stand scrutiny against the more established brands, but the starting point is getting better by the year. For the price of the package, you can have an awful lot of fun for not a lot of outlay.
- Length: 5.2m
- Beam: 2.07m
- Dry weight: 206kg
- Max. payload: 1350kg
- Max. persons: 10 adults
- Max. rated power: 80hp
- Tube: PVC 1100 dernier with 5 air chambers
- Bare boat: From £5995 (inc. VAT)
- As tested with Tohatsu BFT60: £14,495 (inc. VAT)
M.E.S. Marine Limited
Zone 1, Unit 64, Deeside Industrial Park
Tel: 01244 289977
Excel Voyager 520
Another, more refined RIB, which is slightly more expensive being built in Korea. The hull is a more modern warped deadrise designed by Excel in-house. Has a console and separate seat with more stowage space.
Powered by an E-Tec 75hp, the Excel Voyager 520 comes in at £13,548.
Contact: 0121 323 2333
Humber Destroyer 5.3m
This is a wider-beam RIB than the norm and built in Britain by one of the most established RIB builders in the industry using Hypalon. The extra deck space and high bow make it suitable for using in extreme conditions and it takes up to 90hp.
Price: From £15,550
Contact: Humber Inflatables on 01482 226100
With South African heritage, this RIB built in the Menai Straits is constructed to cope with surf launches and extreme rough-water handling. It has a variety of console and seating options available with 90hp for offshore capability.
Contact: Menai Marine on 01286 677445