From icon to legend: the Riva Super Aquarama that won the London-Montecarlo

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Riva Super Aquarama Zoom (n 427)
Riva Super Aquarama Zoom (n 427)

There are, in history, icons that ascend to the level of myth., and a small Pantheon is also reserved for pleasure boating, where undoubtedly the rainbow crown is reserved for the jewel of Lake Iseo: the Riva Aquarama.

The Riva Super Aquarama that won the London-Montecarlo

Rarely, however, does it happen that the myth, the icon, beats itself. And there is no doubt that this is one of those cases, because when a Super Aquarama won the London-Montecarlo, exactly that happened.

It was the 1970s and the challenge featured in this story was unprecedented: the London to Monte Carlo, a 14-stage speed race. Cowes, Brest, La Rochelle, Bilbao, La Coruna, Oporto, Cascais, Portimao, Marbella, Almeria, La Grande Motte. And finally the Principality, Monte Carlo. A total of 2650 nautical miles between Atlantic and Mediterranean., miles fought between major engines, racing hulls.

And then a small Riva Super Aquarama standard, number 427, greeted by the British press with the fateful phrase: “You will not get to see the sea, the Thames is already too long for you.” Phrase that history will prove immensely wrong.

Riva Super Aquarama - Victory London Monte Carlo
Riva Super Aquarama – Victory London Monte Carlo

Riva Super Aquarama – From Dolce Vita to Motor Sport

Riva, needless to say, is the shipyard of class and luxury par excellence. Riva is the icon of the dolce vita, the ‘Rolls Royce of the seas’ , the unparalleled symbol of an era and of the quality of made in Italy. But it was never part of motorsport, or synonymous with racing hulls, racing boats. And certainly few, if any, could have imagined the outcome of this race.

Even just scrolling the list of holdings, already only the average length of hulls was included 30 to 40 feet. While engines exceeded 700 horsepower, to the 1000hp of the favorite, favorite indeed: Tim Powell’s Bertram 33. And then our little Super Aquarama, just 8.28 meters long, and motorized, as standard, with Two inboards of 320 horsepower each. Yet, the Riva dealer in Monte Carlo (the one who had decided to participate), had seen it through, and with just a few modifications made the Jewel of the Lake into a boat worthy of the podium.

In fact, for the occasion, in addition to clearing away all the superfluous, it is first of all reinforced the keel, such as the broadside, stiffened by marine plywood panels. On the hull, to improve trim in rough seas, they were installed flaps, good for also improving the overall trim, which has changed due to the change in power-to-weight ratios.

Tanks and engine were also subject to upgrades. First, with the upgrading the two engines to 350 hp, for a total of 700 hp, and then with increasing the fuel tanks to 1,050 liters. Finally, a whole series of small arrangements, such as the creation of a small aft wheelhouse, or the translation in height of the tanks, in order to have better access to the propeller shafts in case of failures. And then the race, the centerpiece of this story.

Riva Super Aquarama Zoom
Riva Super Aquarama Zoom

Riva Super Aquarama – The London Monte Carlo

On June 10, 1972 the Thames is enveloped in a thick fog, a typical feature of the British capital. But the race starts anyway, with reduced visibility.

The Thames and the English Channel thus claim their first victims, aided by poor visibility, currents and the long wave that relentlessly batters the jagged cliffs. In fact, by the halfway point, the fleet will have already been cut in half. Among the underdogs was also the highly favored Tim Powell, while Super Aquarama continued undaunted, ranking stage after stage, always on the podium.

Past the halfway point, the Zoom boys (name of the little Riva), to everyone’s surprise, continued their charge at over 100 kph, the only non-English crew still in the race.

With the Portimao – Marbella stage, the Strait of Gibraltar is finally left behind. But the clemency of the Mediterranean leaves something to be desired., so much so that crews will regret the ocean as soon as they enter a Mediterranean whipped by the Mistral. And then all those little dangers of our sea, unmarked tuna traps included, very risky if centered at 50 knots… But the Super Aquarama holds out, and in Marbella engineer Carlo Riva also shows up, and with him two new tanks, to replace the ones on board, damaged by pitching and weather.

The succession of podiums culminates in Barcelona., where the Super Aquarama earns the top step, despite 226 miles of force 4 seas from S/W.

Riva Super Aquarama – The Monegasque Victory

The next leg also turned out to be a victory for the Monegasque boat. That leaves only the final catwalk, the leg between La Grand Motte and Monte Carlo: 117 miles where, however, the Mediterranean continues to be inclement, causing the first real breakdown. One tank comes off cleanly, severing fuel lines and tearing part of the electrical system, with associated short circuits. Zoom basically becomes A bomb ready to explode. A makeshift repair allows them to continue in near-safety, still earning a third step on the Monaco podium.

Overall, a second place overall, and a first in class. A small Italian miracle (Monegasque collaboration) that will thus go on to deserve the rainbow crown and the icon of myth. Prince Albert and Princess Grace Kelly will be the ones to present the trophies, etching the Riva Super Aquarama name into history, once again… with probably good resentment, on the British side….

 

Riva Super Aquarama Zoom
Riva Super Aquarama Zoom

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