Simon Everett is a man who appreciates that small can often mean beautiful, and 5m boats were where RIBs began to make their mark and where their popularity was forged. Here, he tests the Italian builder Selva’s version of this tried-and-tested type and analyses not only the craft itself but its potential application and uses.
Smaller RIBs can sometimes be overlooked by the press as people get swayed by the temptation of larger, ‘flagship’ models, but the 5m RIB is where it all began and where this breed of boat earned its colours. And despite the enormous development in design and sheer variety, a 5m RIB can still remain a strong contender when it comes to choosing a boat for family fun and coastal exploring. There are so many advantages to having a smaller boat: they are going to be lighter for trailering, removing the need for a big vehicle to tow the heavy, braked trailer and all the additional maintenance that involves; it is easier to store at home, as including the drawbar it is about the same size as a family car; and rigged with a 70hp outboard it is extremely potent, but puts a smaller carbon footprint on the world, should you have concerns in that direction, and will be far less expensive to buy and run. Ah, but what about the limitations of a smaller boat, I hear you ask. Well, of course, there are some, but the majority of families don’t go out in really rough weather, so while not able to run at the same speed as a bigger boat in a given sea state, the high-angle deadrise and large-diameter tubes mean she can take far more sea than most people would be keen to operate in. I would venture that the limitation is more likely to be in your imagination, as even fuel range margins can be increased with auxiliary tanks or spare fuel cans.
What do you want a RIB for? More and more people, hopefully being inspired by the adventurous stories documented in these pages, are prepared to go a bit further than just for a picnic run, which the Selva is proven at, while others are really pushing the boundaries. The Selva D500 is from the company’s Evolution line and sports a sharp keeled hull that will accommodate either requirement and has the sporting credentials for water sports capabilities. The interior layout is clean and simple, with four stowage compartments, a small chain locker that will happily take sufficient warp and ground tackle, and a main stowage hold that will swallow all your beach kit or camping gear. There is more stowage below the aft bench seat, where the fuel tank and battery are housed, with room for another tank should you require it, plus another locker below the jump seat on the forward end of the console. Access into the console interior can also be gained through a flush-fitting hatch below the wheel. It is minimalistic but it has just what a small RIB needs, with the majority of kit stowed low down on the centre line to aid handling and keep the decks clear.
What I really liked about this Selva was her handling, helped in no small measure by the 21-degree deadrise, which gives her the chance to really carve through the water and heel as far as the tapered Hypalon tubes will allow. Her stance on the water is one of poise too ‒ with the tubes just touching the water aft and a high prow above the progressive curve of the bow, she looks good, and I think the grey suits her, although black material can be specified. The D500 has the flexibility for the entire forward cockpit area to be turned into a sunlounging deck, so she covers many bases in a minimalistic way.
There was no really rough water to try her in, but the ride was secure in turns thanks to the support provided by the tube, and the strake gripped hard even at full heel. What bit of chop we did find was dealt with summarily, and spray was kept low and wide. I would expect the high-volume tubes, coupled to that sharp centre line and the high, raked bow, to provide some real wave-taming ability. You can hardly call her a driver’s boat, but a driver will certainly be able to get some endorphin activity going with her zest. She is a simple, no-frills but fun boat that sticks to her line and remains secure on the heel ‒ I didn’t get any release whatsoever as we put her hard over. The break of the water was well aft when on the plane, keeping the cockpit dry. There is a limit, of course, and that limit is provided by the tube position ‒ the wide collar provides plenty of security and keeps the spray under control, so the passenger experience is drier than on many similar-sized boats, although she is very obviously lacking a grab handle for the aft passenger. Forward there are hand loops along the top of the inflatable collar, but with passengers forward a much more sensitive approach to helming should be used as there is no seating there other than on the tube itself or the step of the deck. Selva have put the effort into making the main components well, rather than adding frills, and Hypalon tubes and a really good hull are a sound starting point.
The helm consists of a wheel on a binnacle-style console, with two drinks holders taking up valuable surface area on the console that could be better utilised for mounting a compass and other navigation instruments. I am sure a quiet word from the dealer to the factory would result in them acting to free up this surface. The screen does half a job, being narrow and not very tall, but gives some respite to whoever is at the helm so they can have a view forward. With the performance available, the added weight of a Flexiteek deck wouldn’t really impact on normal use but would make the boat look much smarter and give a sense of la dolce vita that is otherwise missing on the standard presentation.
Sitting at the helm there is plenty of legroom, provided you keep your knees bent. If you want to straighten your legs you have to stand up, but under normal helming manoeuvres this is no real detriment ‒ in fact, most of the time I prefer to stand to helm anyway. Real hard charging requires you to tuck down on the bench seat, but with the console offset from the tube there is no lateral support from anything and you have to self-support with just the wheel and throttle for comfort. Any passenger sat beside you doesn’t have that luxury, and it was very quickly an apparent oversight. True, there is the steel tube surrounding the windscreen, but the upright section of it is too far forward to reach unless you lean forward and sit on the edge of the seat. Even at high speed, running with wider-radius turns, the transition is smooth enough not to throw you about, on flat water at least. I am not so sure how secure the position would be in more agitated conditions. For family boaters, this will hardly be an issue, but find yourself round the headland and in need of a rough-water passage home and it could become one ‒ the boat is certified for Category C conditions.
The 70hp on the transom, I feel, is as much as the boat needs, even though she is rated to 90hp. I came to this conclusion when we trimmed well up to get the fastest possible recording on the GPS ‒ she became a little flighty as the hull lost the support of the waterflow along the strake, but by trimming back a touch everything became stable once more. If you were looking to save the best part of £600, you could opt for the Selva 60XSR and lose maybe 0.7 knots off the top speed and virtually nothing elsewhere, as there is only about 4hp between them. That said, if you are constantly having to carry additional weight ‒ the payload is 900kg ‒ then the bigger motor will come into its own to propel the extra half tonne, or whatever it is. For general use, the 60XSR or 70XSR is plenty.
The owners of the test boat use it extensively on the east coast, where the shallow water very quickly chops up, and they have no issue taking a group of people, usually four of them, and their barbecue equipment to remote beaches up the coast. They love the fact that the deck is clear and they can bury the majority of their kit below decks, leaving passenger legroom in the cockpit. On other occasions the sporting qualities are put to good use as a waterski tug for their daughters, both on conventional skis and inflatable toys, and the 70hp gives enough get-up-and-go to provide shrieks of enjoyment and happiness all round. The all-over cover and sun awning provide protection for the boat and those aboard from the main heat of the day, and all for a reasonable budget of under £22,000. The Selva D500 comes with a five-year guarantee on the engine and three years on the boat, so peace of mind doesn’t have to come at a huge price.
Selva might not be quite as well known as the household names, but their pedigree is extensive and the production is carried out in Italy on modern production lines to old-fashioned principles, as only family firms can. If you are on the lookout for an affordable, stylish runabout, then the Selva is a worthy contender.
- LOA: 5.02m
- Beam: 2.35m
- Dry weight (boat only): 305kg
- Max. persons: 8
- Tube dimensions: 51cm – 57cm
- Tube compartments: 5
- Material: 1300g Hypalon
- Power options: 50hp – 90hp
- Recommended power: 50hp ‒ 80hp
RPM Speed (knots)
- 700 idle 1.7
- 1000 2.1
- 2000 4.8
- 3000 plane 12.9
- 3500 cruise 17.7
- 4000 fast cruise 21.0
- 5000 28.1
- 6000 34.2
- 6200 max. speed 37.5
As tested with Selva Murena 70hp: £21,478 (inc. VAT)
With 60XSR: £20,860 (inc. VAT)
Test boat kindly supplied by 68 Marine Solutions Ltd.