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Boat Reviews


Redbay Boats Stormforce 7.4
Review by Paul Mahy

Cushendall on the north east coast of Ireland is ideal for serious cruising throughout the neighbouring Scottish coast and islands, but the weather there can change over a matter of minutes, from a fine sunny day to angry skies and low temperatures. Those who do cruise around these seas are always prepared for the worst and the best that weather can throw at them

The Name
Redbay Boats are based here and have been building RIBs for 24 years from 4.5 to 12 metres. Their expertise not only comes from living in such a place but also from the fact that four of the Redbay team are crew and coxswains of the local Lifeboat. So, if anyone should have a good idea of what they want their boats to achieve it"s them. Aiming for those who want to cruise in comfort and safety Redbay recognise a number of factors that make life easier and dare I say comfortable even allowing for the most miserable of days.

Unfortunately, my quest for a test didn"t get me to go to the beautiful scenery of Northern Ireland, but to Essex and Pitsea. My reason was a 7.5 metre Redbay with a 225hp Evinrude Ficht owned by local gent Dave Walford.

The Man Behind the Name
Dave is an admittedly cautious person by nature, so instead of launching himself into the deep end, he has taken care as his experience increased. Like many, he found himself taken with the benefits of using a RIB via a friend, which eventually led him to his first purchase of a Cobra. Gaining experience and taking RYA instruction he learned how to handle his boat and began to fine tune his requirements. As family use was paramount, Dave wasn"t in the market for something that blasted around at 50 knots and after a few family trips discovered just how much the wet and cold can ruin a day out. After much deliberation Dave found himself in Cushendall talking to Tom Mclaughlin, owner of Redbay Boats.

Redbay have long extolled the virtues of canopies in conjunction with protective wrap around consuls, affording those on board more security and protection from the elements and it was primarily for this reason that Redbay were chosen, not to mention their substantial commercial specified hulls and rugged build quality. Moving up a metre in size, it was decided that the best option for Dave at this stage, was the 7.5m wrap around version, with a 225hp Digital Ficht engine from Evinrude.

Hop On
Sitting smartly alongside a yacht on the estuary was the 7.4, looking bigger than her actual length due to her canopies being fully rigged. Her tubes a refreshing green, she seemed to be sitting to attention waiting for our test. On boarding, I got my first taste of some of the unique aspects of this RIB. As I had to climb down from a yacht, I expected the tubes to deform slightly with my weight, but as the console uses up the internal beam amidships and one then has to use the tubes for access forward and aft, Redbay have fitted a "C" cup that encompasses the tube along the console section, on top of which a solid deck sits offering a secure walkway when needed. Not only providing security, the cup also serves to hold the tube far more securely, a point that is reflected at the stern, as the after end of the tubes also have a smaller section, to cut down on tube movement and once again hold the tube firmly.

Once Inside
The rear section of the canopy was stowed, the warps let go and off we went for a ride. The consul is laid out for simplicity and practicality. All the controls are ergonomically well placed and readouts and equipment well sighted. Stowage for the necessary charts is all provided on the dash and in stowage nets placed in the relevant places. Sitting on straddle seats the driver and crew have plenty of room to enjoy. Even if kitted out in full foul weather gear, the consul sides are near enough to lean on, but not so close that they would cause injury if the boat were being thrown around in a nasty sea. With the canopies still up we started some speed runs. To say they are effective is an injustice, keeping all the wind out they can be completely closed to the weather without any hindrance to the boat or crew. And for those winter days there are even a couple of heaters installed to take away the chill. With seating for four inside there is a bench seat aft for two and though still outside, the canopy still offers some small amount of shelter.

Redbay like their RIBs uncluttered so, in addition to a practical layout, they have made sure there is adequate storage for equipment. The top of the bench seat opens to reveal a small chest, while the seat bases and consul supply the rest. After a short while we dropped the canopy, an effortless exercise that took two and a half minutes and naturally her looks changed significantly. Although not designed to, she looked quite sporty, enhanced by two double stainless steel "A" frames, one in the customary position aft and the other over the consul to support the canopy as well as house the aerials and antennae.

Weighing in at around a tonne and a half, this is a substantial craft, but the Evinrude got her on the plane quickly and she shot up to her top speed of 38 knots. Using very little trim, she sat firmly in the water and required little trim to plane, or compensation once there. In turns, she was nimble but not lively. There was not a tendency to skip or slip and before long I was revelling in locking her over at full speed easing just a couple of hundred revs before locking in and powering those "G"s" back on to exit the turns. For a while I forgot this was a cruiser!! Even with the canopies down, the console and screen did a masterly job of deflecting wind and I realise now why even living on the Essex coast, Dave is now no stranger to Calais! There was absolutely no wind, or even a ripple on our test day, so the best parts of this craft I was unable to test, but reports from Dave and others confirmed what I had thought, that these are capable of dealing lousy weather.

Creature Comforts
There are some really nice touches on the Redbay. On the front of the console are drop down steps port and starboard, so you don"t have to stretch to mount the side decks. Other niceties include waterproof console storage, interior lights, treadmaster decks, heavy duty wear and tread patches on the tubes and 3/4 length safety lines.

All in all the Redbay is a very well set up RIB, the canopy really extends the cruising capabilities thanks to the reduction of elemental exposure and in turn makes even cold rainy days fun. I asked Dave what he would have if he didn"t have this particular RIB," he said " An 8.5m diesel Redbay of course!


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