- … this big Scorpion Sting gives us very little not to like.
- … the most important underpinning of a top-flight RIB – a seaworthy, soft-riding, sweet-handling hull design – is something that Scorpion have had wrapped up for some time now …
- With the pair of 260kg Yamaha outboards on the transom, the boat felt so beautifully balanced …
Dave Marsh reviews a Scorpion that, provided your pockets are big enough, appears to have no Sting in its tail …
The next time you go shopping for a big custom-built RIB, spare a thought for the beleaguered designer. No boat’s hull is more difficult to design. Why? Because the builder is actually asking the designer to conjure a dozen or more mix-and-match boats all at once, and to get all of them to work perfectly. Take a boat like this Scorpion Sting. At its most compact, it’s just 8m long. At its longest, in the form our big open test boat took, it stretches to 10m. And all this from the same inflexible hull mould, with the transom positioned to suit.
In truth, that’s the easy part. Those extremes of length may come with, say, a single 400hp outboard that weighs as little as 300kg or, at the other end of the weight spectrum, a pair of 400hp Volvo sterndrives that place an immense 1540kg just inboard of the transom. On a boat that typically weighs just over 2 tonnes without its engines, that would be difficult enough to design for with a conventional hull. But on a RIB, where the extent of the immersion of the tubes can make such a significant difference to the drag (when it’s underway) and to the static stability (when it’s at rest), that is a daunting challenge indeed.
Still, all that mix-and-match malarkey wasn’t enough for Scorpion. The British company, with its manufacturing based on the south coast in Lymington, also offers its owner the choice of a conventional deep-vee hull sporting a wave-slicing 23-degree deadrise at the stern or the same undercarriage in twin-stepped-hull form – yet another design nicety that alters the dynamics of a hull. As does Scorpion’s other option of a single water jet, a system that often finds favour with superyacht captains and owners, who are keen to avoid a flailing drive leg scything through their pride and joy when they crane their tenders back on board in challenging conditions.
I think that just about covers the significant options for the Sting ‒ well, apart from the choice of cabins and cabin tops and T-tops and helm consoles and bow lockers and seating arrangements: jockey or bucket or standing/wrap-around or bench or shock mitigation. Oh, and just to cover all the other possibilities for customisation, Scorpion also offer two other distinct models ‒ the significantly more slender Serket, and the slightly wider and longer stepped-hull Silurian, which we tested on the same gloriously sunny day in May (more of that boat in a later issue).
And yet, despite the myriad challenges posed by trying to please all of the people all of the time, somehow Scorpion have pulled it off. Except for a 10m cabin version of the 10m Open Sting we’ve tested here, over the last two decades I’ve driven and tested most of the variations, stepped and non-stepped, long and short, inboard diesel and outboard powered, in single- and twin-engine form. I’ve circumnavigated the top end of Scotland in an 8.5m open Scorpion, taking in the infamous Cape Wrath, the Orkneys, the Pentland Firth and a trip through the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Fort William. Another memorable Scorpion RIB voyage involved cruising in an open boat from the Isle of Man, down through the Irish Sea and on around Land’s End, to end up in Rick Stein’s restaurant in Padstow. What an excuse for a cruise!
Of course, the boats all felt different and displayed their own handling characteristics, and in really challenging conditions most of us would instinctively opt for the bigger craft. But the overriding feeling has been one of a range of boats that will take care of you when the going gets rough, whatever the size. Putting aside the question of fitness for purpose, forced to pick a single model and its specific incarnation, I’d probably plump for our test boat, the 10m Sting, in its non-stepped form, with a pair of big outboard engines or a single Volvo D6 400hp sterndrive. Hurtling around an almost deserted Solent at up to 56 knots, our twin 300hp Yamaha-propelled Sting sported an incredibly sweet feel in every regard. The steering was light yet always predictable, and whatever the g-force through the corners, the cornering was always very resolute ‒ notable for a paucity of sideways slip. In certain conditions, the narrower Serket models would probably skitter through a messy, confused chop a little more comfortably, but the extra beam of the Sting gives it more dynamic stability and a more planted feel, which I found appealing.
Given the well-known advantages of stepped hulls, i.e. a slightly higher top speed and correspondingly greater fuel efficiency, to go for a conventional non-stepped hull might sound like a missed opportunity. However, one of the notable characteristics of stepped hulls is their very level trim at speed, and their increased resistance (compared with a conventional hull) to altering that trim with the outboard engines or a trim system (this trait was really noticeable on the stepped-hull Silurian). If ultra-high-speed travel is your raison d’être, that can be a good thing because a well-balanced stepped hull will largely trim itself, leaving the helmsman free to concentrate on the driving. However, there are some utterly brilliant trim systems to be had nowadays from the likes of Bennett, Lenco, Zipwake and Humphree, systems that offer all manner of invaluable auto and manual trimming services, such as neutral-g turns, self-levelling and quasi-stabilising functions. To take advantage of these, you ideally need a hull that responds easily and quickly to those trimming inputs, and I reckon in most cases that would mean a non-stepped hull. And don’t believe for a moment that a RIB with trimmable outboards or sterndrives can provide the same level of functionality or the same speed of response as a separate top-end trim system.
The Scorpion team were honest enough to admit that this was the first full-length 10m Open Sting they had sold for a long while. It’s not impossible to work out why: if all you want is an open boat, and not the accommodation that a cabin provides, who’s going to pay extra for more spare deck space? Well, along with the test boat’s owner, me for one. With the pair of 260kg Yamaha outboards on the transom, the boat felt so beautifully balanced, and in rough conditions that extra length puts the helmsman just that little further back from the hull’s impact zone, improving ride comfort. And surely you can’t have too much deck space …
Given how well balanced our Sting proved to be with its 520kg hanging on the transom, it’s highly likely that a single D6 400hp Volvo duoprop sterndrive-equipped boat, with its 770kg sited about a metre further forward, would also dish up sweet handling. A drop from 600hp to 400hp might seem a lot, but there’s a considerable increase in efficiency to be had from the reduction in drag ‒ dropping from a pair of outboard legs to a single sterndrive drive leg. So, given our 56 knots top speed, we reckon that in flat water circa 50 knots should still be possible from the big diesel. Volvo’s duoprops helpfully eliminate any prop torque-induced corkscrewing when you leave the water at high speed, but more importantly the substantial increase in fuel efficiency would make for a Sting with serious long-distance cruising ability.
There’s no escaping the fact that even a bog-standard Scorpion Sting is a pricey thing. But putting aside the vulgar subject of money for a moment, this big Scorpion Sting gives us very little not to like. First, there’s such a high degree of customisation on offer that if there is any aspect of the standard boat you feel is not your cup of tea, then the chances are that Scorpion will refashion it for you. Secondly, the most important underpinning of a top-flight RIB – a seaworthy, soft-riding, sweet-handling hull design – is something that Scorpion have had wrapped up for some time now, and even then you have choices: stepped or non-stepped, long or short.
Boats are often compared with cars, but we should think ourselves lucky that in one crucial regard these two forms of transport are diametrically opposed. You may well be able to hustle a Nissan GTR down a windy road faster than any other ‘sensibly’ priced supercar, but if you want the most comfortable ride in town then go buy a big fat Mercedes S-Class. Happily, boats work the other way round, and it’s the increasingly corpulent cruisers that are likely to rattle your teeth in rough conditions, whereas with a boat like this big Sting, you can hustle fast enough to pick up prizes like the London-to-Monte Carlo record and several Round Britain gongs, but also have a comparatively comfy ride along the way. Perhaps Scorpion’s motto should be: ‘Have your cake and eat it.’
- Length overall: 10.39m (34ft 1in)
- Beam: 3.07m (10ft 1in)
- Deflated beam: 2.57m (8ft 5in)
- Fuel capacity: 900 litres (198 imp gal)
- Water capacity: 90 litres (20 imp gal)
- Draught (bottom of hull): 580mm (23in)
- Draught (bottom of props): 810mm (32in)
- Air draught: 2.18m (7ft 2in) (inc. T-top)
- RCD category: B (for 15 people)
- Displacement: 2200kg (light, ex. engines)
- Design: Scorpion Ribs
- Standard engines: Twin 300hp outboard
- Biggest engines: Twin 400hp outboard
- Test engines: Twin 300hp Yamaha 4.2L V6 outboard
Pottering Gentle cruise Flat out
RPM 1500 3200 5500
Speed 7 knots 28 knots 56 knots
Fuel 18Lph 60Lph 207Lph
Consumption 0.39mpl 0.47mpl 0.27mpl
Range 280nm 336nm 195nm
Speed and range allow for 20% reserve. Calculated figures based on readings from on-board fuel gauges. Your figures may vary considerably.
- Extremely sweet handling
- Vast scope for customisation
- Rough-water ride
- Excellent build quality
- Race-proven hull design
- They’re far from cheap!
Prices (inc 20% UK VAT)
From: £216,000 (twin 300hp outboard)
As tested: £237,600 (twin 300hp Yamaha)
Removable carbon-fibre bimini + custom side boarding steps + custom lifting system + Samson post
Tel: +44 (0)1590 677 080