To understand the Rivolta 43 Vintage, it helps to spend some time with sailor, industrialist, real-estate developer, novelist and poet Piero Rivolta, who took his ideas for a proper sailboat to Stephens Waring Yacht Design in Belfast, Maine, and then turned to his son, Renzo, director of Rivolta Yachts in Sarasota, Florida, to transform the naval architect’s drawings into reality. But perhaps one really should go back further, to post-World War II Italy, where the family’s enterprise, Iso Rivolta — run by Piero’s father, Renzo, and later by Piero himself — crafted high-end bicycles, motorcycles and sports cars. The sailboat introduced at the 2012 U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, draws heavily on that lineage of fine design, elegantly displayed.
Rivolta Yachts produces a range of luxury powerboats, and in addition, built the Rivolta 90, a sailing maxi yacht with a cutter rig and retractable keel. In introducing its 43-foot-long sibling, Piero said he hoped to capture the big-boat spirit in a more easily handled sailboat that requires no paid crew and fits the hectic lifestyle of one who can afford such a vessel.
One thing is certain: The 43 Vintage can sail. Stephen Waring’s office has earned its reputation with a succession of Spirit of Tradition designs — built in wood and composites — that have brought home their share of the hardware on the classic yacht circuit. The 43 Vintage, with its spoon bow, lovely sheer, narrow beam, overhanging counter stern, carbon-fiber mast and enormous, full-battened, square-topped main, is a close relative to Waring’s traditional offerings. But the 43’s fiberglass and foam-cored vacuum-bagged hull was intended instead to launch a line of production-built cruisers.
In a breeze of 12 knots, we glided along at 7.7 knots, and thanks to the self-tending jib set on a Profurl recessed furler, we tacked effortlessly through 90 degrees. The helm — twin rudders tied together by Solimar rack-and-pinion steering — was very smooth.
As beautifully as the 43 Vintage sailed and looked with its teak decks and cabin-top sides, I found the boat a bit unconventional. Aft of the enormous cockpit is a sun deck with an equally vast storage locker below, a space allocation that makes the boat’s interior seem tight. To be fair, though, it’s intended to be a weekender, not a long-range cruiser. I also found seating at the drop-leaf table that boxes in the lifting keel (operated by hydraulic rams) to be cramped. This, though, easily could be addressed by setting the leaves higher or choosing the fixed-keel option.
With a sail-away price tag around $800,000, the 43 Vintage is not an option for every skipper, but as Piero notes, for the sailor who longs for the “glory days of sailing a bigger, more sophisticated vessel,” the 43 delivers a sweet ride on a smaller scale.
This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Cruising World.