Avon Searider.indd

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					Boat Test Avon Searider


Hugo Montgomery-Swan tests the latest crop of Avon
Seariders. The RIBs are impressive but there’s a whiff
of controversy in the air. A case of the A to Z of Avon’s
latest commercial designs.

            von’s latest additions to       The new          very conservative. (This model is soon        workboat of moderate specification.
            its commercial range are        Seariders are    to be available with a powerpack,             These new RIBs are anything but
            an interesting collection of                     which it is anticipated, will allow top       Searider; they don’t look like Seariders,
            models - not least in terms     strong but       speeds in the region of 40 knots.)            they don’t appear to possess any
of their design. But perhaps the least      basic boats      The internal layout is very neat indeed       Searider features, and they don’t even
surprising of the three new craft is        by nature.       and in many respects its ergonomics           lie afloat like a Searider. In my view
the smallest, the 5.4m model, a boat        Workmanlike      are its most likable feature. Thanks          these RIBs appear, in everything but
that continues Avon’s long held design                       to the alloy construction of the RIB’s        name, Zodiac Hurricane. Chief design
theme. The characteristically flat          and non-         consoles and uniting, it remains              differences between the British built
profile, traditional angle bow and stable   fussy, they      reasonably lightweight all up at 800kg        Searider and the Canadian Hurricane
sponson-to- waterline quality of the        will suit a      and of course this is critical as the         are that the latter has tubes which
Searider are once again present in this     wide variety     horsepower of 70hp is right on the            stand well proud of the water, a bluff
surefooted diesel powered workhorse.                         threshold for carrying four to six MOD        bow, high decks and in the case of
There are no strikingly new features        of demanding     personnel. Deep decks, through                these new models at least, a transom
to this craft although Yanmar’s latest      roles in the     transom scuppers, beefy steel work            extension which forms part of the
engine technology has undoubtedly           hands of         and heavy duty straking top off the           fabric of the actual hull - something
afforded this 5.4m hull even more           many different   vessel’s specification and present            that I have never before seen on
roles in the professional arena. This is                     her as a very soundly build sea boat.         Seariders.
primarily for the reason that the 4JH3      professional     Performance wise, the surefooted,                   The Zodiac Hurricane design
TE inboard, coupled to a Mercruiser         operators.       soft-riding, ‘stick-to-the-water’             is well proven, and along with the
Alpha 1 leg, is immensely compact,                           characteristics of her hull are once          British built Halmatic, is one of the
lightweight and power efficient at                           again, typically Searider. If not radically   hardest working/widely used military/
just 70hp. In fact, with a payload of 2                      new, this boat remains very likable           coastguard RIBs currently in service
persons and a full tank of fuel, she’ll                      and will no doubt serve a variety of          anywhere in the world. Regardless
push a good 28 knots, a speed that is                        operations very faithfully.                   of how good these vessels may be,
very respectable indeed for a rig of this                         Two brand new Searider models            it’s a shame that investment into a
type. Plus of course, being diesel, she                      - the 670 and 760 have been added             truly new British built Searider has not
not only has the advantage of being                          to the range to provide non-MOD               been made. Mind you, the originator
able to be fuelled by a mother ship,                         type operators a competitively priced         and continuing driving force behind
but also, the 4JH3’S consumption is                          high-performance outboard powered             the Hurricane, Tim Fleming, is an
                                                                                           AVON SEARIDER
Englishman himself. But it appears the        A negative though, is that one
French arm of the group has had great         feels very much ‘on’ the boat as
influence over what must have been a          opposed to being ‘in’ it. This is due
high level corporate decision.                to the high deck and type of tube
                                                                                                 STANDARD EQUIPMENT 5.4m INBOARD
      Dog Phillips, a well-known              mounting employed, and for carrying          5 heavy duty rub strake                                 Internal & external lifelines
professional RIB operator, described          inexperienced personnel at high              Top buoyancy anti chafe strips                          Davit lifting points
the 9m Hurricane he skippered on              speeds in a difficult sea state, it          Twin drain ports                                        12 Volt battery
                                                                                           Yanmar outboard diesel engine                           Mercruiser leg
the Round Britain Challenge back in           could be a problem. Nevertheless,            Tachometer                                              Key Start
the mid-nineties, as giving a “slapsy,        these boats possess good load
hard ride”. The new 6 and 7 metre             carrying characteristics thanks to their           OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT 5.4m INBOARD
models delivered an ultra smooth              freeboard and uncluttered deck space.
                                                                                           “A” frame with navigation lights                        Lifting sling
and outstandingly soft ride. The hull,             The new Seariders are strong but        Twin crew wing seats                                    Extra 5 gallon fuel tank
particularly of the 760, gripped the          basic boats by nature. Workmanlike
water like a leech, ensuring that even        and non-fussy, they will suit a wide         Avon reserve the right to change/amend the price list & specification without prior notice.

when thrown into a full lock at open          variety of demanding roles in the
throttle, it never faltered. Due to the       hands of a many different professional             TECHNICAL DATA 5.4m INBOARD
high freeboard, these RIBs really heel        operators. So, does it matter that the       Length Overall: ..........5.43m                         Engine: ......................Yanmar 4JH3
heavily when the helm’s put hard over,        new 670 and 760 Searider models              Beam Overall: ............2.03m                         ..................................TE Inboard
and though the hull may be very soft          appear, to all intents and purposes,         Tube Diameter: ..........0.5m                           ..................................Diesel
riding and stable underway, the 760           Zodiac by design and have been               Chambers:.................5                             Drive: ........................Mercruiser
in particular lacked a little forward         branded Avons with just a small badge        Weight Incl. Fuel .......800kg                          ..................................Alpha 1
lift directly in the bow. Hence, her          on their sponson cone? Perhaps               Capacity: ...................6 People                   Speed: .......................28 Knots
bow tended to bury quite deep into            not. They remain quality craft albeit
the bottom of even a fairly moderate          distinctly different of course, both               TECHNICAL DATA 670
trough.                                       in terms of styling and handling. But        Length Overall: ..........6.71m                         Weight Dry Incl.
      The twin-engine 760 proved a            could this be the start of a phase out       Beam Overall: ............2.59m                         Outboards .................1272kg
beautifully balanced combination and          of one of the longest serving and most       Tube Diameter: ..........0.53m                          Engine Power: ...........2 x 90 HP
this ensured she not only responded           successful designs the RIB industry          Chambers:.................7                             Engine Max: ..............1 x 180 HP
well to the power trim, but would also        has known? Only time will tell.
ensure an impressive ability amidst                                                HMS
                                                                                                 TECHNICAL DATA 760
difficult head to sea conditions.                                                          Length Overall: ..........7.60m                         Weight Dry Incl.
                                                                                           Beam Overall: ............2.74m                         Outboards .................1954kg
                                                                                           Tube Diameter: ..........0.56m                          Engine Power: ...........2 x 150 HP
                                                                                           Chambers:.................7                             Engine Max: ..............1 x 300 HP

                                                                                                 CLASSIFICATION                                Detail Information supplied by manufacturer/dealer

                                                                                           OFFSHORE                                RACING
                                                                                           LEISURE                                 PATROL
                                                                                           COMMERCIAL                              EXPEDITIONARY
                                                                                           INSHORE                                 CRUISING
                                                                                           DIVING*                                 MILITARY
                                                                                           RESCUE                                  SPORTS
                                                                                           COASTAL                                 ALL WEATHER                                *Not including 5.4m

                                              know - especially a lot of the overseas                                          down to Milford Haven and come the
                                              distributors and contacts that I have                                            day it happened to be blowing hard.
                                              made over the years. For instance,                                               The seas off St Anne’s Head were
                                              Japan, where I still visit to oversee the                                        pretty mighty but nonetheless, it was
                                              work we’ve been doing there. In actual                                           clear to all after about an hour and a

                                              fact, that particular project has been                                           half that the boat was a brave little
                                              very rewarding for now we are making                                             beast and could look after herself in
                                              substantial progress with regard to the                                          a very capable fashion indeed. To my
                                              supply of Avon RIBs to the far east                                              great delight and relief, Parster then
Hugo Montgomery-Swan interviews               military and coastguard market.                                                  turned to me and said, “this is for the
Geoff Tetley: the key man behind the                                                      “...if I                             Navy and I’ll say now that we will be
professional arm of Avon Inflatables,         That’s interesting. Over the course                                              putting the Searider into service but
as he talks big RIB development,              of those 20 or more years, to what          didn’t do                            it’s a dry boat and I tend not to like
special forces and the pros and cons          degree has the market expanded for          it I would                           dry boats!” Whereupon he promptly
of company buy-outs.                          Avon?                                                                            scooped up a load of water and then,
                                              Well, here’s a little story for you. I      miss the                             feeling satisfied that the deck was
HMS: So Jeff, how many years have             can remember when I joined Avon,            boats and                            sufficiently self-draining, placed the
you been working at Avon?                     going to the Ministry Of Defence in                                              Royal Navy’s very first order for a RIB.
GT: 29 years now                              Bath, banging on the door and saying        miss the                                   Since that time, I think we’ve
                                              “we’ve got this boat, its called a 5.4m     people that                          sold 450/500 RIBs to them over the
That’s quite a stretch, but did I             Searider”, their reply was a blunt,                                              years. But Avon were also the first to
not hear that you were thinking of            “we’re not interested!” They let me         I know.”                             sell RIBs to the US Coastguard and
retiring or semi-retiring?                    know in no uncertain terms that they                                             were the first company to put inboard
I am semi-retired now, and I work             were simply not going to budge on                                                diesels into RIBs - in fact that was for
about 3 days a week at the company’s          their use of hard boats. I went there                                            a contract to the US Navy.
South Wales plant.                            regularly for a full 2 years, campaigning
                                              our new rigid inflatable product, and                                            But today is a special day I
Such is your love that you can’t stay         then eventually I met a Commander                                                understand because of the launch of
away from the place!                          Ron Parster who said, “I’m interested                                            2 new Searider models. Can you tell
A love/hate relationship I think you’d        in this, I’d like to come down to                                                us a little about those?
call it. But if I didn’t do it I would miss   Milford and trial this boat of yours. Can                                        Yes we’re in the throws of launching
the boats and miss the people that I          we do it next week?” So, we took it                                              two new models; a brand new 760
Interview Geoff Tetley - Avon

                                                  very closely with the RNLI on the new 16ft         company is to be in there right at the start.
                                                  inflatable which has now just into service and
                                                  I believe had its first public airing at RIBEX     Very interesting, so the professional RIB
                                                  this year. But we also make the tubes for          market according to Avon definitely has a
                                                  the Atlantic series and much of the vessel’s       substantial future ahead of it.
                                                  ancillary gear too.                                Definitely. Furthermore, 10 years ago most
                                                                                                     professionals thought that 8½ metres was
                                                  Going back to the general market,                  about the biggest it was ever going to get.
                                                  obviously since the very early days of             And then the Dutch came along with their
                                                  Avon other companies have come into the            monster, all-weather, cabin RIBs, then
                                                  frame such as Delta and Halmatic. What             the Finnish Boomeranger and the New
                                                  effect have these other companies had on           Zealanders with their Naiads, plus of course
as well as a 670 RIB. These are designed to       Avon’s market share?                               the RNLI themselves became involved in
broaden the options within the Searider range     I always remember maintaining market share         big RIB development under the guise of the
and complement the existing 6.4m, 7.4m and        to be hard, we’ve always had competition           Medina project. These lifeboats showed what
8.4m models which we have been using for          and business has never been easy. But over         potential there was in big RIB technology.
many years. The new boats are also designed       the years one sees companies come and go.          At 20 metres, the Delta Ark is probably one
to suit the requirements of the mid priced        Of course, my work is strictly on the military,    of the largest commercial RIBs afloat at
sector of the market. The traditional Seariders   professional and commercial side and I think       this present time and proves that in some
tend to be a specialist product and their price   it’s true to say that there haven’t been so        respects there’s no limit in terms of size
reflects the high level of customisation they     many new competitors emerging within that          as the RIB concept becomes more widely
generally carry. But the 670 and 760 have         sector - unlike the leisure industry. As for the   understood and employed. Fitouts are
been designed to allow Avon to make inroads       inflatable market, I remember London Boat          becoming far more complex today too with
into the non-military commercial market           Show 13 years ago when there used to be            multi-linked navigational systems, on board
- which as you can imagine is a market of         Beaufort, RFD, Metziller and Avon. Today,          accommodation, twin and sometimes triple
considerable size.                                there is no Beaufort, no RFD or Metziller.         engine installations, plus of course when it
                                                  Others have filled their shoes.                    comes to military use, weaponry. This means
You mean operators like the Police,                                                                  those building very large and complex RIBs
professional divers, commercial tourist           Would you agree with that the RIB market           are now really involved in the business of
operations and so on?                             continues to expand?                               shipbuilding.
Yes, that’s right.                                Yeah, and I think its interesting that there are
                                                  still new areas opening up for RIBs. The Asian     Besides the boat making side of your
I understand the Avon’s involvement with          and other overseas markets are coming to life      activities, I understand that Avon are also
the RNLI goes back a long way. Can you            and the questions these people are asking          becoming more heavily involved in tube
tell us a little bit about this aspect of the     about RIBs are exactly the same questions          manufacture and tube servicing etc.
company’s history?                                professional operators in the UK were asking       Yes, the re-structuring Avon has undergone
Very much so, they continue to be one of          20 years ago. So new markets are definitely        at its South Wales plant now allows for the
our major UK customers, and we’ve worked          emerging all the time and our aim as a             production of many more products and
Interview Geoff Tetley - Avon

                                                                                                    Zodiac marriage has undoubtedly given us
                                                                                                    the opportunity to develop new products like
                                                                                                    the 5.4m inboard diesel as well as the new
                                                                                                    670 and 760. Nevertheless, it may surprise
                                                                                                    some to learn that although Zodiac and Avon
                                                                                                    are now part of the same operation, in most
                                                                                                    respects both companies are run as separate
                                                                                                    entities, work independently and eagerly
                                                                                                    compete against each other for the contracts
                                                                                                    in the overseas markets. In my view that’s a
                                                                                                    healthy way to work.

                                                                                                    Am I right in thinking that due to the
                                                                                                    recent internal reconstructing of the
                                                                                                    company, the commercial arm is now
services to the professional market. And in        sold by the Avon group, and were acquired        going to take preference over the leisure
keeping with that we recently opened an            by a company called Sinven, a venture capital    side of things?
all-new service centre - repairing not just        company, and like all these organisations, its   No, leisure is still going to continue at full
Avons but also any make of inflatable or RIB.      chief aim was really to make its money by        force and I think it will still be a very strong
Besides re-tubing, we will also undertake          means of realising a healthy sale.               part of Avon and the brand as a whole.
electrical fit-out work as well as the supply          Hence, investment in hi-tech tools,          But it’s true the factory in South Wales will
and installation of fuel systems and state         product development and the like didn’t really   concentrate more and more on professional
of the art electronics. So, in some respects       feature very high on the agenda. So when         and specialised products.
we’re offering a RIB re-fit centre. Actually I     Zodiac purchased us I think there was a great
must just add that we can also offer clients       fear that, especially as they were our biggest   So finally then, where do you think the
the option of having foam collars fitted. More     competitor, they might rape the business         commercial/professional arm of Avon is
and more people are considering foam collars       and then close Avon down. But it’s clear         going?
these days, and even though they don’t offer       that Zodiac’s view of the Avon acquisition is    Largely, I think we will see a growing demand
all the same benefits the inflatable alternative   that of an indefinitely lasting venture. They    for specialised products and our ability to
is known for, it’s definitely another option and   purchased the company to acquire its expert      serve individual markets as in the case of
one that we at Avon can now offer.                 workforce and respected product range - as       the special forces and the like. If Avon can
                                                   well as seeking the opportunity to assist in     continue to stand by its reputation for service,
How has the marriage with Zodiac                   developing further the valued position Avon      and its ability to provide solutions to the
changed things, since 1998 when they               held within the international market.            challenges our clients face out in the field, it
came on board and the two giants of the                On the commercial side, my team get          will be around for a very long time yet - long
inflatable world merged?                           pretty much left to their own devices - as       after Geoff Tetley’s hung up its boots - that’s
I think you will really want to go back a little   long as we produce the profit - they’re happy!   for sure!
bit beyond that, when Avon Inflatables were        Hence, on the military/professional side, the                                                HMS

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