Stingher 800GT Sport Custom
This is indeed an impressive and desirable RIB, a true GT of the sea but rather than writing about her strengths, I will leave that to Alex Smith of Powerboat & Rib Magazine who headed for Drivers Wharf in Southampton in March 2013 to undertake tests on the new ‘Sport Custom’ version of MRL’s Stingher 800GT…
MRL, the sole importer of Stingher RIBs, is justly renowned as something of a pioneer. Not only has it been forging ahead in its bid to transform Redbay’s ultra-durable Stormforce into a desirable leisure boat, but it also seems to be taking the lead in making basic necessities (like anchors and compasses) standard fare. As for its boats, the current MRL fleet comprises everything from glamorous, Mediterranean-style Stingher and Predator craft to bulletproof Redbay RIBs and stoic Sea Champion fishers. And yet, having tested the original Stingher 800GT back in April 2012, it is the new ‘Sport Custom’ version of this family RIB that I am particularly keen to test…
Laudable attention to detail
On first acquaintance, my enthusiasm appears justified, because stylistically, the new 800 is a triumph. From the moulded nose and the clean, teak-lined foredeck, the tapered, carbon-style collar leads back to a beautifully swept console and a raked radar arch on attractively muscular haunches. It lends the boat an impression of potency, which is aided in no small way by the crimson colourways, the clean, aggressive hull mouldings and the dynamic dip of the second rubbing strake, which runs aft from amidships on the ever-widening tubes. Add in the sun-trap glitter of stainless steel fittings, plus a tinted screen and some carbon fibre trim and this boat is an object lesson in how attractive a modern RIB can be.
Happily, the sophistication of the styling is matched by the maturity of the features list and the quality of the finish. The Flexiteek decking is beautifully laid and generously appointed and the gorgeous collar fabric terminates at the edges of the deck with a faultless line of transition. In fact, look more closely and you will discover that even the screwheads in the storage spaces are arranged so that their exposed grooves are aligned fore and aft in perfect parallel. You might of course suggest that it doesn’t matter, but for me this is a very satisfying indication that the builders care just that bit more about getting things right - and the evidence for that keeps coming…
Down in the storage spaces, for instance, the drainage is provided not by a hole the same shape as a lazy rigger’s drill bit, but by a large-capacity aperture, properly positioned and attractively terminated with a flush-fitting brass ring. The stainless hardware is also excellent, from the stylish hinges to the robust catches and the grab handles, which are not just C-shaped wedges of metal, but curved, tapered and elegant, making them a pleasure to see as well as to use.
Elsewhere, the fuel filler is positioned outboard of the transom, precisely where it belongs and the solar panel, which perches on top of the radar arch, helps alleviate the burden placed on the twin battery bank by keeping things topped up. The electrical burden is further eased by the wholesale use of LED lights, both for the deck and for the storage spaces - and the excellent coolbox (which is strapped inside the console) is an equally modern device. You can either plug it into the console’s 12V socket or carry it home, connect it to 240V power and then return it to the boat full of chilled food and drink.
The good news doesn’t stop there. In addition to a dash-top compass as standard, you get a selection of flush-fitting cushions to turn the entire bow into a vast sunbathing area. And when the cushions are not in use, they too can be popped in their own zip-up carry bags and either stowed beneath the bow deck or taken home to help prevent unnecessary mould, wear or damage.
Despite all the changes, the new 800GT Sport Custom exhibits precisely the same dynamic traits as its predecessor. The wheel and throttle are beautifully rigged and offer the keen driver all the accuracy, controllability and lightness of touch he could want. When you push on, the surge is rapid, unremitting and impressively linear at every point in the rev range. Arguably, a top end of 46 knots is a touch modest on an eight-metre hull with a 300hp outboard, but it is folly to judge this boat on figures alone, because her sea manners are excellent. The ride is soft, dry, composed and thoroughly well sorted - and although the 800 is more a fast cruiser than an all-out sportster, her manners under aggressive helming are also very sound…
In a fast turn, the large-diameter Hypalon tubes, the thick spray rail and the clinically slick hull chines enable you to load the power on, safe in the knowledge that the acute heel will remain solid and predictable. And the same is true on the straight, where a little extra trim helps lift the hull free of the surface, easing the point of entry further aft and drawing big dividends in terms of pace and efficiency. If you then become uncertain of her behaviour or the seascape ahead, you can leave the throttle wide open and wash off up to five knots simply by easing the trim back down and generating a bit more grip. Here as elsewhere, the ease and accuracy of the boat’s response to your input leaves you entirely in control, making the 800 not just fun to drive, but also very secure and confidence-inspiring for the novice.
Too often, we see a boat with a winning design principle let down by budgetary compromises and lazy half measures. But from stem to stern, the execution of the new 800 Sport Custom is rigorous, consistent and unstinting. Given the looks, the generous features list, the clear thinking design and the quality of finish, it would be easy to forgive mediocre performance or even a slightly juicy price - but it is very difficult to find any way in which the 800 disappoints. The old 800 was a fine boat, but this is better appointed, better looking and (according to my figures) slightly quicker. You also get a more complete, more capable and more consistent provision of fittings plus a wider palette of customising options. At just £4,400 more than the old model, that makes the 800GT Custom one of the most perfectly judged modern leisure RIB packages you can buy.
Why you would
- Idiot-proof handling
- First-rate helm position
- Excellent console
- Big storage for a RIB
- Impressive finish
- Beautiful styling
Why you wouldn’t
- Sharp screw-tips in forward storage space