The Barilani's letters


In the early 1960s, Riva production enjoyed increasing success, particularly with its tried and tested classics, Super Florida, Ariston and Aquarama. These smart, mahogany masterpieces could be admired speeding along the coasts of both the Mediterranean and other seas, with the crème de la crème of the jet set aboard, as well as the rich and famous from both the industrial and financial worlds. Engineer Carlo Riva, who carefully studied the world pleasure boating market, noticed a boom in yachts designed especially for youngsters who enjoyed water sports. Consequently, he decided it was time for Riva to design a new “open” model featuring a spacious interior, for young, sporty users – a “minor” model to flank the more refined, more demanding Super Florida. Lastly, the model had to be sold at a “limited” price, at least compared to the other models being produced at that time. A highly stimulating, but far from easy challenge. Carlo Riva wanted a wooden yacht measuring overall dimensions which could easily be tracked, featuring a central engine in the traditional shafting. It had to be powerful enough (150-180 hp) to allow water-skiing and, most importantly, the interiors had to be reorganized. The enclosed sketches show some of the ideas put forward, which were decidedly innovative at the time compared with those normally in use at the shipyard. After sketching the first few proposals in mahogany featuring the new interior layouts, which basically consisted in redistributing the same, varied elements of the classical models, the designers considered an out-and-out fiberglass “ski-boat” with an in-outboard propulsion (a stern-flanged Riva engine, with Volvo drive). This highly-innovative idea was suggested and enthusiastically supported by Gerard Kouwenhoven, friend of the Engineer and a habitué of the large, fashionable beaches in Florida, U.S.A. where water-skiing was popular. At the time, however, this would have been too much of a revolution for Riva, due to the materials used and the type of motorization. Consequently, the very first sketches (see pictures) were abandoned almost immediately. Another “innovative” suggestion, which I myself liked very much (see sketch of the yacht in motion), was the hypothesis of a sundeck before, central motorization with “rear” drive (almost a modest forerunner of the Sunriva designed by the great Mauro Micheli many years later), and two side thoroughfares protected by sturdy handrails running from the windscreen to the stern (see partial view with women and child). The front connection of the handrail was designed to draw in air to convey to the bilge under the engine. After a number of different hypotheses, a “functional” exclusive design was drawn up which would characterize (see picture) the front ends of the handrail on the standard Junior, re-proposed in the 70s on the fiberglass Rudy. During the development of the preliminary drawings, the Engineer chose to abandon the all-mahogany exterior of the yacht and decided this model would be painted almost entirely white, with an “orange peel” finish. Mahogany was only used for two high, wall-mounted, strips and the transom. This revolutionized Riva tradition, a factor suggested as much by the shipyard’s idea of making the overall appearance of the yacht more youthful, as its aim to launch it on the market at a tempting basic price. Once the solution with the astern drive had been abandoned, the definite layout was decided and featured a front drive, central engine-housing and a cockpit which could be accessed on both sides, from bow to stern. This created plenty of space for moving around the yacht, and the two large handrails provided a “feeling” of safety, even with children on-board. I drew several sketches in perspective for brochures and advertising materials highlighting these features, distributed as a preview to the press and dealers, whilst we were waiting to take the first Junior finished to the inauguration of the February 1966 Genoa Boat Show. Riva’s novelties for youngsters were an immediate success at the Boat Show, and well-promoted in the specialized press through smart, and once again, innovative full-page advertisements. In particular, the launch of the “Riva-Junior: it’s like a bomb for the young!” slogan, said to have been thought up by Mario Poltronieri) proved highly effective, as it accurately interpreted the design philosophy the Engineer wanted for this new “minor” model. (Desenzano del Garda, February 2007)


Looking through the many articles and publications devoted to the flagship of the mahogany production of Cantieri Riva, the “mythical” Aquarama, I am surprised to see that, until a few years ago, no columnist or ship owner had ever highlighted something which, most definitely, could be considered a curious “formal” anomaly, what’s more something that had escaped both me and the site’s Management for years. This is what I am talking about. When, in the late sixties, Mr. Carlo Riva decided to introduce important changes to the Aquarama, Ariston and Olympic mainly regarding the basic lines of the hull and bow, he also decided to redesign the running light / horn holder / flag mast unit on the foredeck and the side running lights that now have to be installed across the boat or on the bulwarks (as requested by the new Ministerial regulations). Only the white running light would have remained at the top of the flag pole with the horn holder on deck, whilst the new side lights (red and green) would have been of the “tapered” type. In place of the “historical” siren (now forbidden), Riva wanted to adopt two tone horns (like that of a TIR!), that were unmistakably “Riva” both in terms of aesthetics and musicality. Therefore, specialized manufacturers of the sector were called in and lengthy tests carried out to find models that not only met the engineer’s “exclusive” requirements but were also compatible with the maximum dimensions that, in terms of design, would fit into the overall aesthetics of the bow area. The main difficulty was that of finding a small “two tone” horn that was sufficiently “Riva” and the curious thing was that the musical engineer (really clever and patient) of the chosen company – that which, in the end, managed to satisfy Riva was called… Paganini (it was fate!). In the end those outlines that have appeared on “all new official profiles” in black and white and color distributed to the press and dealers since 1968 were chosen amongst the various sketches drawn up around the overall dimensions of the two tone horns and submitted to the Management’s attention. It was decided to have our model maker make these models in 1:1 scale for the Aquarama, so as to assess the visual impact on our most important model: then they were passed onto the foundry to adapt these new fittings, as quickly as possible, to the assembly line. In the meantime, “tapered” horn holders and side lights were also prepared for the Ariston and, aware that there was not sufficient time to intervene on the production line in progress (1969) production was postponed to the following year. However, various minor difficulties and above all, preparation times that were increasingly incompatible with the ever more pressing production rate postponed the introduction of these two details, so much so that they were never mass produced, therefore you have never seen them mounted on an Aquarama, whilst they were continuously represented (and never noticed by anyone) on all official technical profiles distributed to the press and customers. The sketches and parts shown here give an idea of the complex and important design of the horn holders, whilst the red and green side lights, never made, were replaced with the drop shaped ones, already designed and mounted successfully at the base of the windscreen of the Junior since 1966; the same installation was also adopted for a few years on the side of the windscreen of the Ariston and Olympic, until new laws imposed “type approved” lights. The various semi-finished test casts of these two details were thrown away immediately, whilst the two original models in wood, that were artistic works of art, were forgotten in a cupboard of the Technical Department until just before I left Riva SpA, in the summer of 1996, and subsequently all trace has been lost. (Desenzano del Garda, August 2006)


Among the various findings of all kinds I have accumulated in my cellar over the years, I put my eye on a small solid mahogany model, probably to scale, attracting my curiosity. On taking a better look, I deduced that it was certainly a Riva prototype, modeled with the unmistakable skill of our model-maker, Piero Frettoli, and therefore one dating to the end of the sixties. A second thought then came to me. As the shape was particularly precise, the model-maker must have received the construction drawing for the boat in a 1:10 scale, but until today I have been unable to find this document, which is now probably lost. Later other documents with various dated sketches and views confirmed to me that this was in fact a probable new Ariston-Open. As we know, at the end of the sixties Engineer Carlo Riva was making considerable functional and aesthetic improvements to all craft in production (the "V" shaped opening in the hull and consequent sharp edge, the better "rake" of the stempost, new noses, etc.), and on the occasion, on the wave of the commercial success obtained with both the Aquarama and the latest versions of the Triton-Open, the development of a new "open" version of the Ariston was decided on as well. This project however had to maintain the same on-board comfort and overall length with an adequate solarium; finally, and essentially, also the same elegance and overall formal balance. Very soon however, the various necessary technical variations (above all the need to raise the deck line to obtain the space necessary for arranging the solarium above the engine), and also the formal difficulty of not lengthening the hull, forced us to redesign the inclination and opening of the stern board, making it visibly different to the standard Ariston. At the end, all this persuaded the Engineer at the time to abandon developing the project, and the probable Ariston-Open remained only as a scale model. In parallel, and slightly later however, almost all the proposals and details developed up to the time, such as the nose, the air intakes/side deck boards, the new fold-down hood, the two large surrounding reinforcements towards the stern, the horn support and navigation lights (these details were largely already designed in the perspective view of the "open") were adapted and went into production in the new Olympic model, the last mahogany Riva model. The preliminary material remembered further above was the basis which permitted me to create today this unseen perspective view, which is therefore intended only as a historical memorial "scoop" for lovers of the classic Riva models, which we wanted to call an "Ariston you have never seen". (Desenzano del Garda, June 2006)


A) – The “crocodile eyes” nose (1962-1971) The Riva flagship Tritone’s increasing commercial success at the end of the fifties inspired the engineer, Carlo Riva, to plan new functional and aesthetic improvements assessing the information collected by various sales agents and “harbor” managers from skipper comments. Four main points were raised that will be discussed and developed further on. As always, the first step was that of putting down some rough sketches that, once studied and discussed with the Engineer, formed the basis for drawing up more detailed and feasible designs: then, as each theme developed, the idea of designing a totally new model, in parallel, took form and, that is, the Aquarama. Of the above-mentioned points, the proposal to house the anchor in an appropriate forepeak created some problems, including that of providing appropriate ventilation both in the cabin and forepeak in order to prevent any miasma. This provided me with a great opportunity to design something quite different and demanding compared to the traditional chrome-plated fore-plates that can be seen on the majority of runabouts of that period, that, even though of different shapes, are very similar. Whereas, I wanted this end piece to look important and multifunctional. Therefore, I fitted two semi-oval air-vents (useful section of around 110 cm2), connected in the middle by a large central fairlead, whose flow contributed to reducing any inconvenience. This piece did not look very different in the plan to those made up until that point however, the side and front profile, binding the large new mahogany anti-slip saxboard and due to the two air-vents with their imposing central fairlead, required a variable thickness and therefore the piece was made casting bronze and brass, finished off with shiny Riva chrome-plating. Even just to look at this “bow hat” seemed like a valid anti-collision protection. The size of the wooden structural part of the bow wheel also needed changing to house the air vent. The new design was nicknamed by us bow hat with “crocodile eyes”; it was fitted to the first Aquarama and all crafts for a few years, until it was replaced by the new version, at the end of the sixties.