The line of beauty

The long relationship between Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and Riva is celebrated in the lead-up to the hotel’s 150th anniversary with an Aquariva Super bearing the name “Eden-Roc” and a special white, navy and turquoise livery.

Claire Wrathall toasts a match made in Riviera heaven.

Slim Aarons’ iconic 1969 photograph of waterskiing at the Hotel du Cap-Eden- Roc, showing a row of Riva runabouts in the foreground

 

It may be less than 15km along the coast road from the Palais des Festivals in Cannes to the Hotel du Cap-Eden- Roc, but so clogged are the roads during the annual Cannes Film Festival that the only truly stylish way to commute from the hotel – and why wouldn’t you be staying there? – to the red carpet is by Riva.

“It is such a symbol of glamour,” as Lia Riva, great-great-granddaughter of the company’s founder, likes to say, recalling the golden-era icons of the Fifties and Sixties who owned Rivas rather than merely chartering them. Brigitte Bardot had a Super Florida; Anita Ekberg a twin-engined Tritone; Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor used a Junior as the tender for their super yacht, Kalizma; Sean Connery had a Rudy; and Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman… The list goes on.

Brigitte Bardot aboard a Riva Aquarama in St Tropez, 1968. Bardot was a familiar figure in her spectacular 1959 Riva Super Florida

 

They were popular with royalty, too: the Shah of Iran had a Riva 2000, King Hussein of Jordan an Aquarama Super. Indeed, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco were serial owners. Given a Tritone by an Italian relative, they were so delighted with it that they invited Carlo Riva, Lia’s father and the then head of the company, to the Grimaldi Palace. They became friends, and the prince – who later replaced his Tritone with a smaller Riva Junior, behind which Princess Grace and their children could water-ski – allowed Riva to use the tunnel that he had recently had bored through the rock beneath the palace, emerging into Port Hercule.

Berths for boats have always been at a premium on Monaco’s compact coast, but this enabled Carlo Riva to establish the Monaco Boat Service (of which Lia Riva is the current president). Not only is it the sole importer of Riva boats into the principality and France, MBS also maintains and charters the boats, still built in Riva’s original boatyard at Sarnico on Italy’s Lake Iseo, and at other yards in La Spezia and Ancona.

Swedish-born actress Anita Ekberg, star of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, owned a Riva Tritone, the forerunner of the Riva Aquarama

 

More recently, Riva runabouts, as they are known, have acquired cachet as actual works of art. In 2010 a subtle reimagining of the Aquariva, designed by the leading designer Marc Newson, was built in an edition of just 22 – and sold exclusively through Larry Gagosian’s global network of art galleries.

And the following year the London and New York-based Lisson Gallery had an Aquariva Cento speedboat named “Christian” on sale on its stand at that year’s edition of London’s Frieze Art Fair. The buyer also received a certificate from the German multimedia artist Christian Jankowski authenticating it as a bona fide “work of art”. He named it The Finest Art on Water.

And so these boats remain. Hence the Hotel du Cap- Eden-Roc’s decision to partner with the Monaco Boat Service, Riva’s exclusive dealer, to produce an Eden-Roc- branded 10.07m Aquariva Super. “For many years, the hotel has made a Riva available to its guests for charters,” explains Philippe Perd, the hotel’s general manager and chief project development officer of Oetker Collection. “Think of all those Slim Aarons photographs,” he adds, alluding in particular to the iconic 1969 shot of four Rivas berthed alongside one another at the steps that descend from Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc to the water. But it did not have a Riva of its own. Rather, for the past 35 years, it has worked with the local Riva owner, Serge Lesage, whose extensive fleet runs to a 1981 Riva Bravo 38 and 6.5-metre 1971 Riva Olympic.

This June, however, it will take delivery of the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc-branded new Aquariva Super. “We thought it was time we had one of our own,” says Perd. The boat – launched in the run-up to the hotel’s 150th anniversary in 2020 – will have the name Eden-Roc picked out in chromed brass capitals on the mahogany just above the swimming platform, painted discreetly on its sides, and legible on the badge in the shape of the hotel’s lifebuoy logo on the steering wheel and fender covers, as well as boasting a distinctive white, navy and turquoise lacquered livery. Its bespoke upholstery also reflects the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc brand by incorporating its famous buoy motif on a grey-on-white print.

Lia Riva with her father Carlo, creator of some of the world’s most desirable boats

 

In other respects, however, it will be a classic Aquariva Super. “They are very protective,” says Perd of Riva. “You cannot interfere!” Not with the sleek lines of the boat itself nor with its engineering – not that anyone would wish to, of course, for its romantically retro appearance is supported by resolutely 21st-century technology: a state-of-the-art Kevlar composite hull and powerful twin 370HP Yanmar engines – hence the top speed of 41.5 knots, equivalent to about 77kph. Its 2.8m beam means it’s wide enough to sit six comfortably on the banquette that curves around its mahogany table, just behind the “helm station” or driver’s seat, dashboard and steering wheel. Enter the cabin and you’ll discover a surprisingly spacious nook with a double bed and a “head”, as boat folk call bathrooms.

A fleet of Rivas

 

Launched in 2001, the Aquariva’s DNA is rooted in the Aquarama, the iconic and revered motorboat designed by Carlo Riva in 1962, of which only 784 were built during its 34 years in production. “My father always said his boats were ‘designed with love’,” Mrs Riva is fond of saying. “He was the pioneer who established Riva’s reputation for design and innovation.”

It’s worth noting that Carlo Riva’s forebears – the company dates back to 1842, when it was founded by Pietro Riva, a young shipwright from Laglio who arrived in Sarnico soon after a terrible storm and effected miraculous repairs on Lake Iseo’s severely damaged fishing fleet – prioritised speed and performance over pleasure. Indeed, in 1934 a 1500cc Riva set a world waterspeed record. Carlo, however, saw style as the brand’s defining quality. “Strong and pure, like a thoroughbred horse,” he called his designs. “And with the Aquarama especially,” his daughter has said, “he set the benchmark for all the other boats that came after.”

The custom- made Eden-Roc-branded Aquariva Super has a distinctive white, navy and turquoise livery

 

Certainly the Aquariva retains the styling and lines of a classic Aquarama – the mirror-finish varnished mahogany with maple inlay “rigatoni” foredeck as well as an upholstered and slightly sloping “sunpad” on which to stretch out at its stern. There’s still the signature wraparound windscreen. And its woodwork still gleams thanks to the glassy sheen of the 20 coats of varnish with which it is finished, the first 10 applied by hand, and the remaining layers applied by soft sponge brush in a temperature-controlled dust-free workshop. As Carlo Riva used to say: “You are paying for quality, not luxury.”

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