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
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
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