Between the inflatable «aces» and rigid-hulled boats there is an intermediate link that combines the best qualities of both sides. These are rigid-inflatable (or «rigid-hulled») boats. They are also commonly referred to as RIB (rigid inflatable boat) or RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat). In this article we will tell you how they came to be, what makes them different from other types of boats and where you can buy your own boat «RIB».
How did RIBs come into being?
Boats of this type appeared in the late 1960s in the UK. Specialists from Atlantic College developed them by the order of the country's Navy, and later of the Royal National Lifeboat Society.
Unofficially, the father of RIB is considered to be Tony Lee-Elliott, the founder of Flatacraft shipyard, who began work on the concept earlier, in 1965, but was not the first to get a patent for his invention.
Initially «RIBs» were either conventional rigid-hulled boats with inflatable cylinders attached to their sides, or inflatable boats with a reinforced bottom.
One of the first companies to commercially manufacture RIBs was Avon Inflatables.
What are RIBs today?
These days in the RIB segment one cannot complain about the uniformity of models. You can find a boat for any taste and purse if you wish. There are even the so-called «super RIBs»- luxury cabin boats over 20 meters long.
It is not surprising that RIBs are popular with the military, special services and ordinary water lovers.
In modern RIB for connection of the rigid bottom from plastic or aluminum with inflatable cylinders vulcanization, gluing and ultrasonic welding is applied. The space between the bottom layers is filled with water-resistant, dense foam which increases the buoyancy of the boat.
The benefits of RIBs can be divided into two categories: some are related to the rigid bottom and others to the inflatable sides.
- Low draft allows you to get close to shore and not have to worry about shoals. At the same time, if necessary, the boat can be keeled, which improves sailing characteristics.
- Protection against punctures on rocks or ice which conventional inflatable boats can't boast.
- V-shape bottom permits speeds up to 50+ knots. Faster acceleration and planing will contribute to fuel economy.
- An enclosed superstructure, like a rigid-hulled boat, can be fitted on board if desired.
- Cushion the waves
- Work as a crane. When using such a boat as a tender on the wave, you do not need to fear striking the hull of the boat. It is also important when rescuing people from the water.
- High as compared to the boards of usual inflatable boats, so it reduces roll.
- Increase the width of the boat by 20-30%, which also contributes to stability.
- Composed of several insulated compartments, so the RIB is safer than a normal «carcass». Even if something happens to one, the others continue to perform their functions.
- Reduce the weight of the boat, compared to a rigid boat. At the expense of the owner can put less powerful and cheaper motors. And when used as a tender, the boat is easier to launch or lift.
- In this case, the load capacity of RIB is more than a comparable size boat with a rigid body.
- Folding RIB can be transported in the trunk, as an inflatable boat.
«The disadvantages of RIB in comparison with their» forebears are the heavy weight of some models, which forces to transport the boat only on the trailer. And collapsible RIB can require quite a lot of time and effort for assembly and disassembly.
In addition, on compact models up to half of the total and already small width of the boat is eaten by inflatable cylinders. Of course, passengers can sit on them. But the boat's internal space, where you can put your luggage, is very limited.
Who are the main RIB manufacturers?
This French shipyard is not only the leader in the RIB market, but also one of the oldest players in this segment. In 2021 the company will celebrate its 125th anniversary. «Even though originally the company was not specialized on boats, but on aeronautical vehicles, an engineer from Zodiac introduced an original prototype» in the 1930s.
It was Jacques-Yves Cousteau who gave preference to Zodiac boats in the 1970s.
Today, the Zodiac Nautic boats are available in lengths from 3.6 meters (4-seater Yachtline 360) to 8.5 meters (PRO 850, designed for 25 people). The yard offers boats for transferring people and their equipment from the boat to the shore, as well as for comfortable on-water trips, fishing and diving. Depending on the model the base price of the boat ranges from €17,500 to €64,600.
A special model is eJET 450. This is a 4.5m fully electric RIB, designed for seven people.
At an average speed of 24 knots, the boat can move autonomously for 1.5 hours.
At a slower speed of 5 knots you will need 8 hours of battery life. The maximum speed the eJET 450 can reach is 30 knots. The model's base price is €125,000 (including VAT).
The Zodiac prides itself on its automated thermo-welding process and its patented Strongan Duotex material which is stronger than PVC.
The history of Ukraine shipyard Brig as well as the history of Zodiac is indirectly related to aviation. After disintegration of the USSR, the founder of the company Vyacheslav Rodionov gathered aviation engineers who had been left without work inKharkov. Together they started to produce inflatable boats and RIBs. Today, 27 years later, Brig is one of the major RIB producers in the world.
The company produces 22 models ranging in length from 2.9 meters (4-seater Falcon Tender 300) to 9.95 meters (Eagle 10,designed for 12 passengers). «The boats are divided into 4 lines, each with their own» tricks: the ability to turn quickly on the spot, increased stability on the wave, which protects passengers from unnecessary splashing, energy efficiency for economical fuel consumption when towing water skis and wakeboards. Depending on the model the base price ranges from €10,000 to €200,000.
The yard's flagship was a finalist for the 2020 Motor Boat Award, but lost out to its 7.9m smaller sister, the Eagle 8.
This company is one of the leaders in the tender market and has been producing RIBs specifically since 2002. Its portfolio includes 14 models from 2.79 meters (Minijet 280) to 7meters(Evojet 70). These boats can carry from 3 to 13 people. Depending on the model, the basic cost of the boat varies from €21 to €208 thousand (including VAT).
The Williams boats are divided into 5 lines. Some of them are intended primarily for use as tenders, while others are more powerful and maneuverable, but a little less comfortable.
An online configurator is available on the yard's website. So before placing an order, potential customers can explore all the possible options and choose exactly what they need.
ThisColombian shipyard builds RIBs for both recreational and service purposes. One of the peculiarities of AB Inflatables is the fact that the company produces not only fiberglass boats, but also the rarely used aluminum RIBs. On 7 models the company installs water-jet engines instead of outboard engines.
In total, the company developed 16 lines with 85 models ranging in length from 2.39 meters (Lammina 7.5 UL) to8.33 meters(Oceanus 28 VST),designed to carry from 3 to 25 people. Depending on the model, the base price of the boat goes up to €117,000.
About a quarter of the yard's RIBs are service boats for rescue and special services. Among the remaining models you can find both the simplest boats even without a control console and boats that are suitable for daytime holidays on the water, when some guests swim and some sunbathe on the bow sunbed.
The youngest model AB Inflatables is a 3-seater with 40cm diameter cylinders and weighs only 30kg.
It is probably the lightest RIB among all the boats of the companies mentioned.
The boat draught is less than half a meter.
The draft of the shipyard's flagship also draws attention. Weighing almost 1.3 tons, this 8.3-meter RIB has a draft of only 70 cm, which is even less than that of the 7-meter flagship Williams.
The Italian shipyard Castoldi was founded in 1930. Today she produces 11 models of different degrees of luxury equipped with their own propulsion systems. The length of the boats varies from 4.28 meters (7-seater Jet Tender 14) to 8.34 meters (Jet Tender 27, designed for 16 people).
The water jets allow even the younger 4-meter model to accelerate to 32 knots when fully loaded.
Castoldi boats are used both as tenders and as haulers for water skis and wakeboards. The walkaround layout makes even wearing an evening gown comfortable.
The boatyard's range includes not only classic RIBs but also rigid-hulled boats in which the inflatable tank is maximally reduced and serves only as a stationary crane on the boat's perimeter. Unlike most of the company's models, they are suitable for going beyond the coastal zone.
Another special Castoldi feature is the boatyard's production of several versions of its models equipped in accordance with SOLAS international convention for Safety of Life at Sea. Such boats are officially approved to be used as lifeboats.
While 8-9m is the length limit for previous companies, for Technohull boats are the minimum. The company produces only 7 models, but compared to the manufacturers we mentioned above, the company focuses on a different market segment: from 7.2 meters (6-passenger T688) to 13.8 meters (20-passenger Omega 45).
And the very type of these boats is already different: not«reinforced inflatable boats», but«cabin boats with a life ring on the edge of the board». It is a choice for those who are looking for a RIB that is not only roomy but also fast.
Even the junior model is capable of speeds up to 56 knots. Even their flagships are not capable of it.
At that, fuel consumption does not exceed 0.8 liters per 1 nautical mile.
The models have a base price of up to €480,000.
As with Williams, the Technohull website has an online configurator.
This Italian shipyard is «daughter of» of Pirelli, the well-known manufacturer of car tires. This fact alone gives one no reason to doubt the high quality of the boats produced. The brand, of course, strictly follows the Pirelli standards and does everything possible not to damage not only its reputation but also that of its parent company.
Tecnorib, together with Novamarine and SACS, is the main supplier of luxury RIB boats.
Tecnorib today produces 18 RIB models, divided into 4 ranges. In the assortment of the shipyard you can find the simplest tenders as well as powerful high-speed boats. The length of the boats varies from 2.8 meters (Pirelli S28, for four people) to 18.5 meters (Speedboat Pirelli 1900, 20-seater, accelerating up to 45 knots).
The J-Line range is fully duplicated in a special design conceived in collaboration with the Italian Azimut shipyard specifically for Azimut yachts.
The base price of the largest and most luxurious models that can be used as independent yachts exceeds €1 million.
Italian shipyard SACS is one of the old timers in the modern RIB market. The company exists since 1989. Today it manufactures 11 models divided into 2 lines.
In fact, the SACS products are much more diverse. A special division of the company is responsible for maximum customization of boats (including hull extensions, as it turned out with Strider 20) according to the owner's request. Most custom models have been conceived in conjunction with automotive brands such as Ferrari, Jaguar, Abarth and Lancia.
In the basic SACS lineup, the most compact boat is the 6.96-meter Strider 700. Despite its relatively short length and width of less than 3 metres, this RIB can accommodate up to 16 people on board.
The yard's flagship is the 18.13-meter Strider 19, which seats 22 people. The model has even better acceleration than the Tecnorib Pirelli 1900: up to 50 knots.
The starting price for SACS boats is €83k.
Another one of the top Italian RIB shipyards, Novamarine has been in existence since the 1980s and has made a significant contribution to the development of these boats. The company has now gone so far as to label 90% of its production not even as RIBs, but as a separate class of vessels on its official website. The main reason for this is that instead of inflatable cylinders Novamarine uses blocks of foam. However, they don't differ from other RIBs externally.
In total, the yard produces 3 series that includes 11 boats from 8 meters long (12-cabin RH800 that can reach 50 knots) to 22 meters long (Black Shiver 220, capable of taking onboard up to 30 people) . They are suitable for both recreational and semi-professional use.
The base price of the models goes up to €2.5 million. This is the highest figure among the companies represented.
In addition, Novamarine has a separate production of RIBs of Defence series for the military.
Which Russian shipyards produce RIBs?
This company fromthe Leningrad region appeared in 2001 and is in fact the main manufacturer of RIBs in Russia. The company also builds special purpose boats, which are used for patrolling in the Arctic.
Today the yard produces 14 models in total, both with inflatable sides and with foam sides like Novamarine. The length of the boats varies from 3.8 meters (5-seater «Scout C-380», designed specifically for hunters and fishermen) to 7.3 meters (7-seater «RIBMaster RM-720») Price for these RIBs starts at 135700 rubles.
The smallest of the boats has a draft of only 17 cm, which is an absolute record for all the shipyards mentioned.
An empty boat at the same time weighs only 95 kg.
Forza Marine company located next to the Mobile Group in St. Petersburg has been manufacturing RIBs and inflatable PVC boats for 20 years. Today the choice of models of rigid inflatable boats is insignificant. There are only 4 of them, ranging in length from 3.7 meters («Navigator 370R» for 5 people) to 4.65 meters (6-seater «Navigator 460R PRO»). All of them are designed for fishing or transporting people and cargo.
The base price varies from 68 to 152 thousand rubles.