The yachting world is mourning famed powerboat designer and builder Carlo Riva, who died Monday in his hometown of Sarnico, Italy. He was 95.
Born on Feb. 24, 1922, when the first speedboats were being built, Riva was driven at an early age by a passion for boats and working in boatyards. He joined the family business when he was young, following in the footsteps of his father, Serafino, his grandfather, Ernesto, and his great-grandfather, Pietro, who founded the Riva company in 1842.
In 1954 he opened a shipyard that is still protected by the Italian Superintendence for Artistic and Architectural Heritage. It produced models such as Ariston, Tritone, Sebino, Florida and the Aquarama, which was unveiled in 1962. Notable clients included Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Richard Burton and Jackie Stewart.
The first of Riva’s vessels was the Ariston, about which he said, “It was designed with love and is strong and pure like a thoroughbred horse.” The Ariston was followed by Tritone, the first twin-engine boat. Then came Sebino, which ushered in standard production, and the Florida, whose name is a tribute to the United States.
“The yachts created under Carlo Riva’s direction have all been inspired by an idea which anticipated demand, launching a new fashion which is always the result of a research in design and construction,” Riva parent company Ferretti Group said in a statement.
In 1962, with the production of Aquarama, Riva became an iconic brand in the yachting world. Twenty-one of these boats were sold during the first year of production, and a year later the Super version was brought out.
The Aquarama remained in production until the 1990s, and the last one made, hull No. 784, is in the museum of the boatyard in Sarnico.
Riva created the first fiberglass boat for Riva in 1969. Anticipating the needs of yacht owners, he designed Riva Boat Service to provide technical and sales assistance.
He was also on hand last spring to launch Rivamare, the latest from the Sarnico boatyards.
As Riva himself used to say, “With a touch of nostalgia, I’m reliving the long ride of my wonderful life as a boatman.”