Once they were tenders, work vehicles or, at most, B-series boats. So much so that for a few years the word rubber dinghy was little loved by those who produced them when it came to larger and more expensive models. They preferred to use more politically correct terms such as pneumatic boats or rib, an acronym derived from the English rigid inflatable boats, rigid inflatable boats (which seems a bit like an non-sense). Today no Italian inflatable boat manufacturer is ashamed any more to call its “gommoni”, “gommoni”. Because regardless of the name ribs have become the real alternative to traditional motor boats. And also a good driving force for exports: in the world, the pneumatic pleasure boat is Italian.
Success is due to several factors. Some practical: many yachtsmen have verified the difference between an inflatable boat and a traditional boat in terms of stability and safety, a phenomenon that becomes striking especially on hulls up to seven, eight meters in length. Ribs have a lower centre of gravity and are lighter. This means that even without taking into account the stability reserve given by the floats, they are less prone to pitch and roll and with the same engine they are faster. In addition, they have floats that protect in maneuvering and limit the sinking of one side in turn or at anchor and the entire hull.
The above also affects the number of people who can be transported: for the same length, an inflatable boat loads about three times the number of people who can be transported on a rigid boat. This has also had a weight in the world of day charter: a dinghy is more profitable because being able to carry more people can be rented to larger groups. It therefore becomes more affordable even by those who are not very available, further favoring the market.
Other reasons are more hedonistic: if you enter the port with a 15-metre flybridge you are one of many, if you carry out the same operation with a 15-metre inflatable boat you have all eyes on you. In this sense, the founder of this pneumatic movement was the Novamarine HD Seventeen, a 17-metre black that Roberto Cavalli showed off in the summer of 1999 on the Costa Smeralda (and that he still loves to surprise on the boat today), making the possibilities and advantages of the mega rib obvious.
If we talk about larger dimensions, even when we refer to those specimens that remain tender to superyacht, by their nature they are more user friendily: even the owner of the megayacht has fun and feels confident to steer his megarib to go swimming, perhaps arriving in areas far from the port of roommate or mothership, so much so you travel at 50 knots. Attention, the two phenomena: important tonnage and speed, can put in crisis the tubulars subjected to major stress due to water pressure and therefore require special attention. But this does not seem to discourage owners who look at the top of the price list. The big sizes are the ones that are pushing the market, now they sell inflatable boats from seven meters up and more and more those over 10 meters. More for economic reasons than for reasons of comfort.
In fact, even the medium sizes have increasingly complete arrangements (kitchens, refrigerators, tables and especially the toilet room), while the cabin is no longer so sought after: those who have the dinghy live it as dayboats, regardless of size. At the very least, he spends his weekend outside, no more. Because the defect of the inflatable boat compared to traditional boats, is the smaller internal volume available. What differentiates the rubber boat from the “normal” motorist (bringing him closer to the sailor) is the care he dedicates to his boat. Those who have an inflatable boat tend to take care of it and follow it more than the owner of a motorboat does (it’s a statistic, don’t make a personal case if you treat your open better than your wife).
As with yachts, the size of outboard equipped inflatable boats is growing because the available power has increased. Then it’s always nice, going back to the above hedonism, to show that at stern we have a battery of two, three or even four engines of 350, 400 horsepower.
The next step that all major manufacturers put on the agenda is the conquest of the U.S. market: still the dinghy is seen as a means of support and has no dignity of stand alone. But it seems appropriate to underline: again.
From 7,90 m
From 11,00 m
From 14,11 m