Whether on the real Riviera or the West Coast Riviera, one can’t help but notice the 63 Virtus.
Riva is an old brand, 170 years old, in fact. It carries the kind of caché that comes from years of fine craftsmanship, association with beautiful people and a constant presence on the sun-kissed shores of the Italian Riviera, where the champagne is cold and the boats are sexy. So it was only a matter of time before Riva made it to the U.S. West Coast, the California Riviera, where the beautiful people are also plentiful, the champagne is equally cold and the sun shines in abundance. It was surprising that it took so long, and I was excited to get aboard the Riva 63 Virtus, only the second one to grace our Western shores.
The 63 Virtus picks up where the Vertigo 63 (launched a decade ago) left off. They share the same hull and much of the semicustom interior layout. The difference is that the Vertigo is a Coupe and the Virtus is an Open — probably one of the biggest Opens on the market, and one nobody will likely miss when the boat and all its muscle glides by. Even as the California Coast Yachts crew (the West Coast reps) and I idled out of Marina del Rey, at 600 rpm and 5.7 knots, it felt like eyes around the marina were watching. In fact, if you like being seen, this is the boat to be seen on.
Once past the jetty, we were met by a surprisingly flat ocean and basically no wind. Sensing something was about to go down, dolphins sidled up, ready to play in the wake. Itching to get going, we quickly came up to wide-open throttle where we kissed 40 knots at 2300 rpm, at which point the MAN engines were burning about 146 gph. Trials in the opposing direction had us up on plane at 14 or 15 knots in 11 to 12 seconds, around 1200 rpm with the upgraded 1,400 hp engines. Just above plane, at 16.3 knots, fuel burn was 45 gph, and at 24.1 knots, it was 69 gph. A fast cruise of 30 knots and 1800 rpm burned around 90 gph at 75 percent load. That’s a pretty thrilling speed on an Open boat with 30 feet both ahead of and behind the helm. It could get us to Catalina in just over an hour and look mahvelous doing it.
The helm was light, but the turns at speed were wide. Even with all this power, the captain is unlikely to get in trouble by throwing the wheel over. With the tabs adjusted, there wasn’t much bowrise out of the hole — just a steady acceleration after a moment’s hesitation as the engines ramped up and the props dug in. Visibility all around, from the bow to the aft corners was very good. The Böning engine display offered helpful digital “floating tab” suggestions as to where to place the trim tabs to optimize the ride. Watching them became addictive.
We had no chop to speak of, so I circled back into our own wake to get a sense of how the boat rode in a disturbance. There was a bit of a roll when broadside to the waves but nothing dramatic. (A Seakeeper gyrostabilizer is available.) As we hit one of the larger wakes, we did come down fairly hard, probably because the hull’s 12-degree deadrise is only slightly deeper forward. One would want to slow down against sloppy seas, but our flat day made for nothing but fun. We just needed a drone and a celebrity on the foredeck sunpad.
63 Shades of Gray
The standard hull color is white, but that would defeat the purpose of having a sleek Riva. Instead, following the family aesthetic, our test boat was painted a metallic Thetys Gray. It’s an option that makes the Virtus look intimidating, like a shimmery wet shark coming at you — at 40 knots.
The boat is all bow the way a colt is all legs. Adding to this perception, the bow pulpit angles forward, away from the deck, as if leading the charge. It’s a fitting design choice but makes it difficult to lean against the railing for anyone working with the windlass or catching a mooring. The generous foredeck has an extra large sunpad with a hidden cabana and plenty of space for deck chairs all around, for the inevitable harbor cruise.
The glass-topped dome of the Vertigo has been replaced by a canvas Bimini that folds away with the push of a button and hides inside long cubbies along the edges and under the giant windshield.
Helm & Cockpit
Of course, this Riva is meant to be run topless, but for imperfect days, the Bimini will provide cover for the helm and for most of the cockpit, with the exception of the two seats that abut the newly added satellite antenna tower. The Bimini does obstruct the view a bit, and I had to duck and weave to see to the side when driving. However, the cover was sturdy and didn’t creak, strain or flutter, even at top speed.
The helm is much improved over the Vertigo’s version. Instead of a single seat with awkward foldout winglets, there is now a double seat with a bolster, so the driver can stand or sit at the wheel. The angled dash was topped by twin 16-inch touchscreen Garmin displays.
There are two depth sounders: one amidships and one aft by the shafts. Among the controls at the dash are the windlass remote and chain counter, all lighting, including below the waterline, and three systems displays. Strangely, the VHF is mounted outboard and far to port, so the driver will need to reach across her companion to get to it.
A very clever feature that was introduced on the Vertigo remains. The starboard side settee moves inward on rails to join the portside foldout table and form a dinette. There are even convenient cubbies behind the settee to hold bottles of fresh beverages. The whole cockpit has air conditioning and heat available, so with the top up and the climate control on, the captain and guests will likely remain comfortable in any weather.
The aft end of the boat has several boarding options worth mentioning. A Besenzoni hydraulic passerelle extends out from the transom steps, and as it telescopes out, it lifts stanchions connected by a line that serves as a handhold. Med mooring isn’t used much here, but the passerelle and the aft windlass winch (the port one is standard while an additional one to starboard is optional) may come in handy when tying up stern-to in Mexico. Also, a very substantial hydraulic swim ladder extends out of the transom hull.
The Guts of the Machine
The engine room is accessed via a hatch in the cockpit sole. The ladder goes straight down between twin MAN V-12 diesels with V-drives. Standard power calls for 1,200 hp engines, but our boat was fitted with the optional 1,400 hp motors that add about four knots at the top end.
In the engine room, I noticed the Idromar water-maker to starboard and the Kohler genset farther aft on the same side — both standard. And before we get too much further, lets address the standard/options issue. For the U.S. market, a package of extras is lumped together as “standard,” and that includes things such as a stern thruster, satellite TV, and a cockpit galley module with a grill, sink, refrigerator and ice-maker. All the extra goodies are reflected in the price, which is around $3.5 million, including delivery to the West Coast.
Tailor Made Inside
Beautiful people will bask in all the reflective surfaces below. The rest of us will speed dial the gym, because inside there is not a corner without a mirror. (Children with sticky hands will love it too.) Of course, all these mirrored doors and walls add light and elongate the spaces, so the Virtus feels much bigger below than its 63 feet suggest.
The Virtus interior is a semicustom affair. The basics include three cabins with en suite baths and a day head. But owners can leave their mark on how the generous space below is used.
The VIP cabin is in the bow and includes an island berth, a head with a small circular shower and a large hatch overhead for light and air. Stowage space is in drawers below the bed and in a hanging locker.
The master stateroom is amidships and three steps down. The head runs along the entire starboard side and has a toilet, a bidet, a vessel sink and a nicely proportioned shower. The bed lies athwartship and forms the seat for a vanity desk that folds down out of the corner below the Samsung flatscreen TV. A small refrigerator may be added here to keep the chilled champagne at hand. Nearly the entire aft bulkhead is mirrored.
The midsection of the boat ties the interior together and simultaneously provides more opportunities for personalization. A third cabin to port comes with over/under bunks in an L-shaped configuration. It’s great for kids, but owners can make this space an office or additional stowage. The day head opposite can be eschewed for a pantry or a closet, and a washer/dryer can be fitted under the companionway stairs — one owner opted to add a wine cooler.
A long, L-shaped settee dominates the starboard side of the salon, with additional free-standing chairs providing comfortable seating for eight. The straight-line galley is to port and, as has been the trend in décor, hides or camouflages everything functional. The four-burner Bosch stove is tucked under a heavy cover. A pin to lock it open would be nice. Below the counter are two Isotherm refrigerators (one can be a freezer) and a small dishwasher.
Riva is a Category A build (offshore in excess of 40 knots), and the boat comes with two life rafts under the port cockpit settee as standard equipment, so Mexico and Alaska aren’t out of the question. At 10 knots with 845 gallons of fuel, the boat may achieve a 500-mile range in the right conditions, but with no reserve, so it would take some planning.
But what Riva excels at is making a statement, and the Virtus can do that just as easily on local cruises. It says: “I’m a beautiful boat, carrying beautiful people on the ‘other’ Riviera. Notice me.”
And really, how could you not?