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September 10, 2009

Riviera 43IPS Offshore

Riviera's 43IPS Offshore Express lets you chase fish in style.

With good marketing and worthy products, Riviera is one of the few foreign boat builders that has been able to get a bit of a foothold in the United States. The new 43IPS Offshore Express is another example of their ability to deliver an updated product on a desirable platform. There's only so much you can do with an express layout that makes sense and keeps the basic functionality and favorable assets of the design.

The game changes, however, when you build a new model around the Volvo Inboard Performance System (IPS). By integrating IPS into the design, Riviera gave the express boat more accommodations, more interior space, the ability to carry more fuel if needed, and generally better performance. IPS makes it easier for an inexperienced boat handler to control a boat around a dock, and it transforms most boats into better fish-fighting tools. Put in the hands of the right driver, a boat with IPS is capable of outperforming any boat in its class.

I had the opportunity to test the new 43IPS out of Palm Beach, Florida, with HMY Yacht Sales, the Riviera dealer there. A stiff easterly breeze at 15 to 18 knots, pushing against the outgoing tide in the Lake Worth Inlet, made for a dusty exit and provided good conditions for an offshore run. Having run several IPS boats in the past, I knew I'd like that part of the performance and handling, and I wasn't disappointed. She had a solid feel and landed soft when running into a head sea, with little rattling or squeaking down below. She ran the trough with ease, and when I pushed her up and let her stretch her legs a bit, she handled very well at speed, tracking nicely and outrunning her own spray.

The IPS really makes boats turn - everyone had better be hanging on and ready if you make an overzealous adjustment at speed, because the boat turns immediately. This agility makes for great fish-fighting, as the IPS is so quick to spin, back, turn or run to stay with a big fish. The added maneuverability is especially handy around the dock, where the joystick operation of the system allows the operator to quite easily crab sideways or move slowly into the current or wind. It takes some time to get used to, but without question, the system improves drivers.

The other big advantage IPS gives builders is extra interior room, as the engines and drives are placed under the cockpit sole. Riviera took what used to be engine-room space and hit a home run with the 43 by adding a queen berth athwartship, as well as a single berth in the full-beam aft stateroom. Having the extra berths changes the boat's potential into a real traveler with accommodations for a large family or a fishing team. All the way forward, the master stateroom contains a queen-size island berth and ample storage. A single head with two entrance doors and a large shower comes well-appointed with a vanity and, around the shower, a neat multiple-door system that folds away to keep the space open and easy to clean.

The galley is set to starboard at the base of the companionway stairs and features an undercounter freezer and refrigerator, with several storage cabinets below and above the counter, which has a stainless sink with cover. There are even two pullout trash bins built into the undercounter setup. A two-burner cooktop with retainer for cooking at sea complements a microwave oven, making this a fully capable galley for a live-aboard setup. Across from the galley to port, an L-shaped, leather-trimmed lounge contains loads of storage underneath, and there's also hanging rod storage above, along the hull. A glossy wood table on a high-low pedestal completes the dinette area with space for five diners.