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)