Quite probably, the image of the French Riviera in the 1950s is overly romanticised, though what is undisputed is that for the international jet-set of the time, it was the place to be seen.
Times change of course: Jet-set means little in an age when everyone can fly; and fame these days is frequently sordid – in this age of social media, there are too many celebrities for whom tawdriness is a sole attribute.
In the ‘50s though, celebrity meant something else. Certainly, beauty was a part of it, but talent counted a great deal too, and with those came fame and money. But the A-list of the time stood out for something else: style.
At a time when celebrity endorsement was generally a B-list activity and product placement was a mere twinkle in a Madison Avenue advertising exec’s eye, the jet-set chose for themselves the accouterments suited to their stylish lifestyles, and in boats, that meant Riva.
Prince Ranier of Monaco owned one, as did Aristotle Onassis, Sophia Loren, Richard Burton, Peter Sellers and Brigitte Bardot. The most stylish people on the planet owned the most stylish boat.
While celebrities come and go, what has remained constant since then is Riva’s unmistakable style.
The new 76’ Bahamas is a great example. Based on the technical platform of the 76’ Perseo, the Bahamas expands on the popularity and function of the convertible 88’ Florida and coupé 88’ Domino Super, by combining the charm of the convertible and weather protection of the coupé into one yacht.
The key is Riva’s patented “C-Top” system, the basis of which is a retractable carbon fibre roof. Twin carbon fibre struts on each side pivot the roof from its coupé position – connected to the windscreen forward and the roll hoop aft – forward over the windscreen to cover the bow dinette area. The whole process takes around 90 seconds.
The usual roof-mounted antennas, radar equipment, and navigation lights are mounted on the roll hoop.
While the layout of the technical areas such as engine room, crew cabin, tender launch and retrieval systems, and movable beach platform are carried over from the Perseo, the layout of the other spaces and the interior styling are all-new for the Bahamas.
Aft of the base of the roll hoop, the cockpit features a large sofa to starboard and a chaise longue to port, as well as a large sunpad aft overlooking the beach platform. Access to the beach platform is via stairs either side with clever integrated gates for safety while underway.
Access to the forward deck is via gangways either side, with a large dinette area ahead of the windscreen – available when the roof is in coupé mode – and a sunpad at the bow.
The salon is the main entertaining area on board, with an L-shaped sofa and table for eight on the starboard side and a cabinet to port with a sink, grill, ice-maker and refrigerator.
The helm station is to starboard, with pilot and co-pilot seats mounted on a stainless-steel bridge – an interior styling decision taken to improve the feeling of lightness in the area. To port there’s a matching seat and a dormeuse deckchair facing aft.
Between the two and under the sweeping double-curved laminated glass and polished stainless steel-framed windscreen is a sliding hatch for access to the lower deck.
Here a lounge area with L-shaped sofa and glass-topped dining table faces a mirror-panelled bulkhead with a television screen. The galley is on the starboard side.
The full-beam master suite is aft, with a small lobby area with storage and washer/dryer units. The bed faces forward towards a wardrobe, while on the port side the large ensuite bathroom is divided into three spaces.
A twin cabin with ensuite is located forward of the galley, and there is a double VIP cabin with ensuite in the bow.
Crew accommodation is aft of the master and accessible from the cockpit through a compartment under the port side sofa, and features a double bunk and bathroom.
Power is courtesy of a pair of 1,550hp MAN V12 engines driving VIM adjustable-pitch propellers through V-drive transmissions for a maximum speed of 32 knots and a cruise of 28, or buyers may opt for 1,800hp engines and a 37 knot top speed and 32 knot cruise.
Also on the options list is a Seakeeper NG16 gyro-stabilizer for increased comfort at anchor.
What comes standard, however, is a sense of style like no other yacht. The polished stainless steel, teak, obsidian varnish, rift-cut white veneers and leather are combined perfectly to reflect a modern aesthetic that only Riva can achieve. It transcends fashion or fads, and will surely stand the test of time as well as the classic Rivas of the 1950s.
Riva 76’ Bahamas
Length overall: 23.25 metres
Beam: 5.75 metres
Draft: 1.98 metres
Unladen displacement: 52,300 kilograms
Fuel capacity: 5,600 litres
Water capacity: 840 litres
Power: Two MAN V12, 1,550hp/two MAN V12 1,800hp
Max speed: 32/37 knots
Cruising speed: 28/32 knots
Cabins: Full beam owner’s cabin with ensuite; one twin guest cabin with ensuite; one VIP cabin with ensuite; one twin crew cabin.