Excel 4.30m Inflatable Boat.
I suppose the first question I asked myself is why a design like this? Well, I had been thinking of a second hand RIB for my business, Racelines. I needed a rescue boat for chasing any errant radio control yachts and laying a racecourse at various locations around the UK. I started to look at what’s available on the second hand market and quickly became critical, most seemed past their sell by date with gear and controls missing or not working and engines with lack of service history. One thing led to another and the air deck inflatable became an option. A full guarantee is a big consideration when considering an investment. Initially I was looking for a 2.90-3.30m boat, but if I was going to use it several days a week then more space and stability became a priority so moved up in size to the new 4,30m model, not a big step in price though. The solid deck adding some weight but with benefits of stability, longevity and a firmer base to work from.
The Excel soon showed up as a premium boat at a very affordable price. Where, in my thoughts, these boats score well is that because they are lighter they don’t need the larger sizes of horsepower to make them perform. A similar sized rib would weigh 3=4 times what these inflatables weigh and consequently need more horsepower and a heavier trailer to move them on dry land. I soon gave up all thoughts of deflating and reinflating everyday as soon as I saw the details of the new to the market 4.30m boat, the floorboards and sheer size has led me to order a custom trailer from Bridport Trailers, a local firm. The trailer is built using lighter materials and suspension units to suit this boat with support under the transom to support the left in situ outboard.
The users manual that comes with the boat is adequate but I soon found my own way to put the flooring in and inflate it. If you place the boat on flat ground then insert the bow floorboard, place the rear three in position with the side stringers on one side in. Then place the 2nd from the bow floorboard in and locate the rear of it, leaving it and the bow one in a slight inverted ‘V’ shape and located together. Then stand inside, take hold of the rope around the top of the tube and pull upwards to make the tube vertically straight and simply push down with a foot on the join of the boards and hey presto. Insert the other stringers on the side of the floorboards. All done! Inflate as directed.
The on-the-water performance is in my mind very good. I soon realised that 15 hp was the maximum I wanted to move round, my weighs 30kg, so 15 hp was the maximum I was going to buy, most 10 hp units share the same engine blocks and weigh similar amounts; so you get 50% more power for a small price premium. The boat moves onto the plane very early, around 7-8 knots and accelerates very easily, within the space of a few metres. I’m still running in and the top speed is in the region of 17-20 knots with cruising at about 13-15 knots on 3/4 throttle. Incidentally, whilst running the engine in at less then full throttle, I have used about 3 litres an hour, another good reason to have a light boat!
Using the standard tilt angle on my outboard gives a decent ride angle for the hull, the underwater ‘V’ shape of the 4,30m copes well with swell and chop, not as a RIB would but then this is horses for courses and I would not want the weight, cost and running expenses of a RIB. Most of the small RIBs I have been in over the years would need at least 40 hp to make them perform. A reasonably tight turning circle can be contemplated at full throttle with no thought of being near the handling limits of this boat, I expect 40 hp would make this boat a very fast sports boat with frisky performance to match!
Much of the performance must be down to the underhull ‘V’ shape, cutting through the chop and adding resistance when turning. When at anchor, it doesn’t want to keep sliding sideways (I use a 2kg claw anchor with 3m of chain) across the sea, pushed by the wind, but merely moves slightly and allows a stable platform for my photography of sailors. I am able to step into the boat from pontoons without it wishing to move under my weight, the rear 2/3 of the tubes sit on top of the water making a wide and stable platform at rest, very confidence inspiring.