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Maritimo 2023 S-Series LEADERBOARD

Riviera 78 motor yacht ticks every box

by Riviera Australia 28 Apr 2023 12:46 PDT

After a meticulous marketing research project, Chuck and Rania Pipkin settled on a Riviera 78 as their ultimate 'holiday home'. And as it turned out, SandPiper was the very first Riviera 78 to be launched, arriving at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show in October 2022.

When Charles "Chuck" and Rania Pipkin first saw their new Riviera 78 Motor Yacht, "We were not prepared for the emotional response," says Rania.

"We had great expectations after months of research, yet she was even more than we had hoped for."

There were even more special moments after the family took their new Riviera, now named SandPiper, on a voyage to The Bahamas in mid-December. Their 10-year-old daughter is named Piper.

"I had taken out the tender and I turned back to view SandPiper at anchor," says Rania. "It was a real 'a-ha' moment, simply to see her size and styling and to see Chuck standing on the foredeck. He is not a small man, but the foredeck alone dwarfed him. She has a real presence on the water."

Chuck and Rania set out on a mission to create their ultimate holiday home, after Chuck merged his business and stepped away from his day-to-day management role, in mid-2022.

The couple love their comfortable home on the water in Annapolis, Maryland, on the east coast of the United States and had never owned a holiday property. So, they had very specific ideas of what a second residence needed to be.

They enjoy socialising, and planned to invite friends to stay with them, so needed four bedrooms and plenty of spaces for entertaining.

They love Florida, yet the idea of a house for every holiday in that one location simply did not appeal. They wanted to change the scenery whenever they wished. They love boating and have owned several boats, the most recent a 38-foot sports cruiser they bought in 2018, spending many happy days exploring the wide Chesapeake Bay right on their doorstep. The idea of being able to anchor and stay overnight in a stunning cove appealed greatly.

So they decided to purchase a motor yacht. It needed to be a true home away from home - an extension of their lifestyle rather than a glamour apartment on the water.

"The one downside of holidays is packing and unpacking," says Chuck. "I HATE packing. I wanted to be able to have everything I want stored on board, ready when we arrive. The dream was always to simply throw my laptop in a bag, jump in the car, and head to the airport. No luggage."

They began a meticulous research project of the market, drawing up a spreadsheet that listed all their requirements and "nice-to-have" features. They quickly learned that the yacht would need to be more than 70 feet in length to provide the accommodation and entertaining spaces they needed - a considerable step up from their sports cruiser. It would need to be a flybridge model with entertaining space, so guests could join the skipper during a voyage.

The list of prospective brands and models quickly grew. In the end, their spreadsheet included a "top 10" brands and a long list of requirements. Yet, of all these yachts, not one could fulfil every one of their needs. Each had at least one tick missing and most had a number of gaps. Some European designs positioned the galley away from the entertaining space; some had a ladder or narrow spiral stairs to an open flybridge.

Then they spoke with the team at OneWater Yacht Group in Stevensville, just a 20-minute drive from their home. Had they thought about an Australian motor yacht builder called Riviera and a new 78-foot model that was being developed?

"We began checking the features against our list and we could not find a single gap," says Rania. "This yacht even offered features we had not thought about. The galley was in the best possible place, right in the middle of two large entertaining spaces.

"The OneWater team showed us 3D graphic images and a walk-through video. We were blown away. I remember we sat at our kitchen table watching a video on Chuck's laptop and we knew this was what we had been searching for. No other yacht we had seen came close to this Riviera."

"You need to know that Chuck analyses everything to the n-th degree."

Chuck says: "My wish list included a large garage and swim platform. The Riviera delivered both. "I had not anticipated an enclosed flybridge. However, when the team at OneWater pointed out that the 'bridge on the Riviera offered the best of two worlds - open and enclosed, I took a lot of interest. In rough or cold weather, it is much better to be sitting in air-conditioned comfort. When the sun is out and the weather warm, we can open the huge sunroof and large side windows to bring the outside in; it all made perfect sense. I also loved the wide timber staircase to the 'bridge and the fact that the massive helm is in that one place and not duplicated, taking space in the saloon."

Rania smiles. "With all the amenities on that 'bridge, including a bar and entertainment unit, it is rather like a cigar lounge for the men!"

Chuck continues: "The technology on board seemed really impressive, so I was eager to study it all when we stepped on board for the first time at the Fort Lauderdale boat show. That was the very first time we saw her."

After studying every image, layout drawing, and video of what the yacht would look like, Chuck and Rania decided to sign a conditional order. It would be the first Riviera 78 to be launched by Riviera; they would not see the completed yacht until it arrived at the Fort Lauderdale show in Florida, in late October.

The only item that Rania noted as missing in the images and videos, was a dining table in the saloon.

"I thought 'where will Piper have her breakfast?' When we arrived at Fort Lauderdale, our representative told me he had a little surprise. Riviera had installed a table right where we wanted it!" Rania says.

Chuck adds, "Even after we were given a tour of the yacht at the boat show, we went away and walked through 14 other yachts on display over four days. That time simply confirmed for us that our decision was absolutely right."

Discussing the interior, Rania says: "I care about aesthetics. I love the design and the decor on board - the timberwork, the stone countertops and the fabrics. She is casual, comfortable - much like our home in Annapolis."

Chuck says: "On some of the yachts we looked over, I felt I would need to wear a suit and tie to enter the saloon; there seemed such an air of formality. The saloon of the Riviera invites us to relax and kick off our shoes."

Chuck and Rania spent 10 days hosting friends on board in the waters around Fort Lauderdale during the Thanksgiving holiday, a month after the boat show.

"At one stage we had 21 people on board," says Rania. "There are so many spaces that it never felt crowded - even when everyone came together on the foredeck.

"We have been pleasantly overwhelmed with our new yachting lifestyle on our Riviera. We have been hosting friends and family on the yacht at every opportunity, in addition to trying to keep up with our normal daily activities.

"We finally had a weekend alone, just the three of us, on our lovely SandPiper, and really got to take in all her beauty and pleasure!

"We truly love sharing the joy our SandPiper brings us with all our friends!"

The couple was also impressed by a range of small elements they had not noticed in the documentation, or even during the boat show.

"One of our friends who came on board during Thanksgiving likes to make his own coffee every morning," says Rania. "He expected to have to boil the water, even though there is a hot water dispenser with a micro-filter in the galley. We were all surprised to find the system can deliver cold, hot and even boiling water. The dispenser also provides chilled water and even soda water!"

Their next voyage was to The Bahamas for two weeks in mid-December. As well as daughter Piper, the couple invited another family to join them.

"Our trip to The Bahamas was a complete eye-opening experience for us. We took what we learned, and our new excitement for cruising, and decided to explore the Exumas in The Bahamas for two weeks. The Exumas consist of more than 365 islands, also called cays."

The crossing from Florida to the islands included some relatively heavy weather.

"We encountered six-foot waves during the voyage," says Chuck. "The yacht felt perfectly comfortable with the fin stabilisers.

"We have a full-time skipper who took the helm through most of that voyage with me, sitting right beside him observing the systems. I took the helm at times, and she felt so easy to handle, given that she is nearly 80 feet long and displaces some 62 tons! The four large multi-function displays across the dashboard provided an extraordinary amount of information. I have a pilot's licence and fly regularly, so instrumentation is important to me. I noted she has a wind vane which I had not seen before. It reads both true and apparent wind direction and speed. Impressive.

"I was also impressed by her fuel economy. SandPiper is powered by a pair of 2,000 horsepower MAN diesel engines and the yacht can carry about 2,700 gallons of fuel. We used less than half that on our entire voyage, travelling at an average of 20 knots. We have some great plans, so it is comforting to know that we can voyage a long way before we need to refuel."

Chuck and Rania plan to return to Fort Lauderdale to cruise the area during the spring break in March, then bring SandPiper home to Maryland in May, particularly to celebrate the legendary Blue Angels aerobatics performance over the city, as part of the annual Naval Academy Graduation ceremonies.

Rania explains: "The Naval Academy is a huge presence in many aspects of life in Annapolis. Commissioning week in May is filled with activities and celebrations when the Blue Angels performance is revered as a holiday! Our connection to the Blue Angels is living near the Naval Academy and Chuck's appreciation of the incredible talent those pilots possess - because Chuck is a pilot!"

They will head north to the waters off New England during the summer months.

Perhaps the greatest benefit for the couple is summed up by Rania.

"Chuck is learning to relax!"

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