Piero Rivolta is a man of many parts. He was born in Italy and spent his early years designing and building some of the most famous cars in Europe. Now, he lives in Sarasota, Fla. where he has become a boat builder, real estate developer, banking impresario, novelist, poet, gourmet cook and the visionary who dreamed up the Rivolta 43 Vintage.
Last winter, Rosie and I met up with Piero in Fort Lauderdale where the 43 was moored following the Miami Strictly Sail show. From first glance, it is easy to see that this Stephens Waring design is something unique. The boat has old fashioned sweeping lines, a huge cockpit, a large sunning bed aft of the cockpit and enough varnished teak to make her gleam in the bright Florida sun. The boat has long overhangs forward and aft, a fairly full bow and narrow stern and teak decks. For lovers of traditional yachts from the days of wood construction, the 43 Vintage will make your heart jump.
We got underway and motored out the long channel to the open sea. The 43 has a 75-hp. Yanmar that throws a fixed three-blade prop. With a displacement of only 17,300 pounds, the 43 has ample power for quick motoring and handles easily around the docks. As we headed seaward, we had the wind on the bow so it was a perfect time to hoist the big mainsail in-between the lazy jacks. The sail is designed with a square top that is held out from the mast with a short angular batten; this design adds a lot of sail area and power where it does the most good.
Once clear of the jetties, we fell off the wind, trimmed the mainsail and rolled out the jib. The 43 was conceived as a boat that could be easily single-handed so it has a self tacking jib that sheets to a track and car mounted on the cabin top forward of the mast. With the sails drawing nicely, we skipped out toward the Gulf Stream making over eight knots of boat speed in 12 knots of true breeze. The sea was choppy and we were getting some spray on the foredeck as we powered to windward. But, because of the hull’s full sections forward, the bow did not plow deeply into the waves, leaving us completely dry back in the cockpit.
We reached off for a while and could feel the boat spring forward. Despite the traditional-looking hull, the design under the water is thoroughly modern. This was hull number one and fitted with the optional lifting keel; the keel is a deep, high-aspect fin with a bulb that draws six feet when down and three feet six inches when raised. The saloon table doubles as the watertight keel box. Because of the shoal draft when the keel is raised, the designers opted to give the 43 twin rudders that are linked together with a rack and pinion steering system. These give the 43 fingertip steering control and help the boat track as though on rails.
After a couple of hours of sailing out by the Gulf Stream, we spun the 43 around and broad reached back to Fort Lauderdale. At 150 degrees to the wind, the 43 really scoots along nicely because you can still keep the blade jib full and drawing; if you sail deeper than that the sail twists off at the top and loses its drive. You really need a multipurpose downwind sail for reaching and running that will fly from the short bowsprit. The 43 pleasantly surprised us with its sailing ability and performance. The boat looks like a classic but sails like a modern, moderate displacement sloop.
Piero built and owns a 90-foot, luxury cruising sloop that is presently in Italy. The 43 Vintage was not created to replace the experience of big boat sailing and cruising; it was designed to give you some of the best elements of a big boat without the need for crew and without the headaches of running a complex vessel brimming with systems. So, the 43 was given a cockpit as large as you will find on many much larger yachts and a sunning platform aft on which three people can stretch out. The cockpit is deep and has very comfortable backrests so you feel as though you are in the boat and not perched on top of it. The bench seat behind the wheel is a great place from which to sail the boat.
Like the Morris M-Yachts and the Alerions, the 43 Vintage has been laid out for simple and pleasant sailing by one or two people. All of the cockpit winches are electric so you can trim and ease effortlessly. The mainsheet winch is aft of the cockpit where it is easy for the helmsman to manage while still tending the wheel or autopilot. The cockpit and cabin house sides are trimmed with varnished teak that has the luster of a proper old fashioned yacht. The laid teak decks, which are wide and easy to move about on, add to the yacht’s style and offer excellent non-skid properties.
Down below, the 43 has a simple elegant layout. The trunk for the lifting keel runs up the middle of the saloon and has folding table leafs on both sides so a party of six can eat in style. The galley lies at the foot of the companionway steps to starboard while to port there is a double quarter cabin with a folding door for privacy. Forward, the master stateroom has a large queen-size bed on the centerline and plenty of storage and hanging space. The head lies to port while a separate shower stall is built in to starboard. The interior finish is a pleasing combination of tradition mixed with stylish modern touches. Most vertical surfaces are white with varnished wood edging and trim. Yet, the cabinet doors are built with intriguing metal weave that add light and sparkle to the interior.
Throughout, the 43 has been fitted out with the best hardware and systems available, often of Italian or European design. Piero designed the boat for fun. Whether daysailing with the family, weekending as a couple or entertaining friends, the 43 Vintage offers the style and comfort that make a very distinct statement about quality of life. It should be good.
The 43 Vintage is a special boat for sailors who want to enjoy sailing without having to bring along a hard working crew. It sails well and fast and moves through the water effortlessly yet can be handled by one person. And while the boat has a traditional look and feel, it is built to the highest modern composite standards. The hull is vacuum-bagged vinylester and E-glass with a high density foam coring. This makes for a very stiff but light hull, which in turn enables the builders to keep the displacement to a minimum. At 17,300 pounds the 43 is a light boat and that explains her excellent sailing qualities. The lifting keel reduces the boat’s draft to three and half feet. This feature will come in very handy on Florida’s west coast, the Keys, Bahamas or in the shallows of the East Coast.
Although mechanically complicated to build, once in the boat the system is easy to use and sets the boat apart from others in this class. Piero Rivolta had a vision for this new boat that combines many of the best aspects of the cruising life and big boat amenities, all boiled down into a package that is easy to sail and manage.
The Rivolta 43 Vintage is the fruit of that vision and works very well as an elegant daysailer, weekender or coastal cruiser for owners wanting something truly unique.www.rivoltayachts.com.
Rivolta 43 Vintage
Displacement 17,300 lbs.
Ballast 5,600 lbs.
Sail area 927 sq. ft.
32 South Osprey Ave., Ste 201
Sarasota, FL 34236