Day Boat Showdown I: 52 Riva Rivale, 44 Zeelander and Mochi Dolphin 44
They’re known by many names—down east, picnic-style, weekender, day and lobster boats—and they are certainly beloved by their avid owners. Geared more for day trips or short weekend trips, these beauties provide an elegant backdrop as a tender or for entertaining and simple cruising with the option to stay on board for brief periods should the occasion arise. Marketing descriptors for the vessels in this niche market include “timeless beauty, sophistication, iconic, refined, elegant, innovative, classic and head-turning.” A few companies have gotten into the game, and here we sort out a comparison between the 52 Riva Rivale, the Zeelander Z44 and Mochi Craft Dolphin 44.
Both Riva and Mochi Craft are under the Italian Ferretti brand, however they are constructed in different yards. Established in 1842 on Lake Iseo in the area of Franciacorta, Riva has enjoyed a successful history from its Sarnico yard. Introduced in 1950, Mochi Craft joined the Ferretti group in 2000 and is currently produced with Ferretti Yachts and Itama at the Forli plant. A more recent addition, Zeelander has made a big splash with its Dutch heritage and quality American build in Michigan. All three brands boast celebrity ownership, including John F. Kennedy who owned a Mochi Craft and Sophia Loren who has been a fan of Riva. Zeelander has captured some interest as well from celebs who prefer to keep a low profile.
Riva Rivale 52
With a sleeker, more aggressive look than the Mochi and Zeelander, Riva prides itself on “craftsmanship, unmatchable quality, innovative but always functional design” in its boats that exude personality. Thanks to Officina Italiana Design, Riva’s designs are known for clean and essential lines, originality and elegance, with unique Italian style inside and out. Cozy interiors reflect the best of fine woods and exquisite fabrics in a comfortable space.
The longer (by eight feet) in our three-way comparison, the Riva Rivale 52 offers wide cabins—she has a beam of 15’—and can accommodate guests in two owner/guest cabins and one crew cabin. A total of three bathrooms can be configured, which includes one in the crew quarters. The Riva Rivale is perfectly able to be manned by an owner so the crew quarters could ultimately be turned over to guests. Like our other two comparison vessels, she offers a cockpit that’s geared to outdoor life and entertaining.
A rounded swim platform has access via steps from the cockpit on either side of an aft, tan leather sunpad. The unit lifts hydraulically to access the garage which can store a 10’5” tender, one of the largest garages in this category (Mochi’s Dolphin 44 accommodates a 9’ tender). A signature mast just forward of the sunpad is more like a work of art with its twin, curved pillars. Shade on the sundeck is made possible by an automated Bimini awning.
An aft bench settee in the cockpit and quarter-round starboard settee share a teak folding table to create a seating vignette that’s complemented by adjacent wet bar, refrigeration and barbecue. The double-wide helm seat allows for companionship for the captain for longer runs. Forward is another area to sun close to the bow of the boat.
Woods used in the interiors include a straight-grain bleached oak or walnut or elm. The galley is forward with standard stove, sink, refrigerator/freezer and microwave with easy access to the quarter-round settee/dinette. A day head abaft the galley serves as the ensuite head for the port guest cabin. The crew cabin starboard can be configured into a twin with no head or ensuite single berth. The ensuite master is forward with an island berth, generous storage and elegantly rounded shower.
Riva has a few engine options in the Rivale 52—twin MAN V8s (900 mhp) and twin MAN V12s (1100 mhp). With the V8s, she’ll reach max speeds of 37 knots and cruise at 34 knots. She draws 4’7”. As with Zeelander and Mochi, Riva offers unique colors for its integrated hull and superstructure.
We’ve covered Zeelander quite a bit lately. Their fresh, clean, modern twist on a classic vessel has certainly captured attention. Attractive to many owners, Zeelanders are USA-built in Tiara’s S2 facility in Holland, Michigan. The shipyard offers 900,000 square feet of space, a skilled workforce and a Dutch yacht building tradition. The result is a fine build with European design and American quality and convenience. Furthermore, if an American owner needs a part, they’re not waiting for it to come from Italy which could take weeks to arrive.
The sporty Z44 features a handsome, rounded transom and exquisite appointments throughout. She’s easy to operate and offers superior comfort complemented by a smart layout conducive to many uses—in fact, she’s been labeled as a “mini superyacht.” Her draft is a mere 3’, and her beam a generous 13’2”.
Accessibility to the natural environment has been thoughtfully considered with raised seating in the wheelhouse for 360-degree views and oversized sunroof above the helm. In its modest 44’ size, the Zeelander packs in many areas to lounge and entertain. For starters, there’s aft seating for eight on a C-shaped settee along the transom adjacent to a high-low table (which can be converted to a large sunpad) and rear-facing L-shaped settee that backs up to a dinette. Across from the forward settee is a wetbar with sink and ice-maker. A door conceals a small refrigerator and freezer. The rear-facing settee is protected by a zip-in canopy. Moving forward, under the hardtop, a C-shaped settee, captain’s chair, helm and one more foldable table complete the main deck. If it seems like there is a lot of seating, there is! The Zeelander 44 can accommodate up to 14 for entertaining (but not sleeping).
In the main cabin, a fully equipped galley, head and two staterooms accommodate owners and guests although the guest quarters offer little privacy. The owner’s cabin features a king-sized berth. Surprisingly, head room below in most parts is 6’8”!
The Z44’s lightweight composite construction with Kevlar and carbon fiber provides the perfect shell for European styling, rich, mahogany accents and luxurious appointments at every turn thanks to the Dutch dream team of naval architect Frank Mulder and designer Cor D. Rover. State-of-the-art features like the Seakeeper gyro-stabilizer, a hydraulic swim platform and teak-like Esthec composite decking for easy cleaning, maintenance and sure-footing contribute to the noteworthy ease of operation. Interiors sport the finest woods, leathers, wools and metals.
High gloss metallic paint makes this charming vessel pop in standard colors such as Bentley Blue, Stunning Gold, Cocoa Brown, Majestic Blue, Velvet Green and Rolls Royce Titanium. Exterior styling is equally complemented by seamless stainless rails in a low profile around the vessel. The cap rail (and windshield frame) mimic a dark, rich wood but is synthetic and therefore easier to maintain.
With her twin standard Volvo Penta IPS 500s (375hp) with pod propulsion, the Zeelander Z44 will reach maximum speeds of 30 to 34 knots. With optional Volvo Penta IPS 600 (435hp), she’ll top 38 knots and cruise at 28 knots. Her cruise range is about 300 to 400 nm. The ease of operation of the Volvo Penta IPS rests heavily on a joystick which allows an owner to intuitively dock a boat. Zeelander’s IPS system is enhanced by another smart Volvo feature called DPS or Dynamic Positioning System. Controls have buttons for low-speed mode, single-lever mode and cruise control. The system holds the boat’s heading and keeps it there even in tough conditions, coming in handy while waiting to fuel or for a bridge, allowing time to position fenders and prep lines if needed. Thanks to the Silent Line Group, a sound vibration specialist, sound levels can run as low as 64 decibels at cruise speeds, even with the open bridge deck.
Mochi Craft Dolphin 44
With a heritage in robust fishing boats, Mochi has modified its tried-and-trusted hull for recreational boating reflected in the hardtop express Mochi Craft Dolphin 44. Like the Zeelander, she measures 44’, but her beam is 14’10” (larger) and she draws almost a foot-and-a-half more. Her fine Italian styling comes courtesy of Italian yacht-design group Victory Design. As with others in this group, she comes in a range of iconic colors and like the Zeelander harsh edges have been rounded.
A tender garage fits cleverly in the stern and accommodates a small tender. Access is granted by a large, foldable stern flap that moves down to create a large teak beach just above the water line. At sea, the flap closes and becomes a knee-height transom. With no aft railings, her profile is quite low. Toe rails are capped in natural teak, and moving forward from the cockpit to the bow, teak rails on the deckhouse provide security.
Moving forward in the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44, a C-shaped settee aft of the portside helm accommodates six, and two more can enjoy the cockpit experience from a bench seat along the starboard gunwales. A U-shaped settee complements an expanding table that doubles as a dining and entertaining area abaft the helm. The bar cabinet is situated starboard. The helm’s double seat adjusts for sitting or standing, and excellent visibility is provided through a one-piece glass windscreen. Air conditioning is provided as well. An accordion-ed, canvas sunroof retracts to reveal the outdoor environs. (The aft end of the saloon has another drop isinglass screen which can provide protection or openness. Curved side windows can be unbolted.) Access a foredeck sunpad via 12” wide side decks.
Belowdecks accommodations are configured in a forward, V-berthed twin cabin (can be joined to make a queen) and amidships portside master, both ensuite. The generously-sized queen master stateroom that could easily be imagined on a 60-footer features an angled berth, full standing headroom and exquisite teak paneling. An aft galley tucks snugly into the passageway between the main deck and the cabins. It is outfitted with a double burner, sink, generously-sized refrigerator and microwave. A tiny crew cabin is an option in place of a utility area for a 3.2-cubic-foot freezer or washer/dryer.
The Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 can be powered by twin 575 hp Volvo Penta diesels joined via a down-angle ZF gearbox that connects to a direct drive shaft and propeller system. With this configuration, she’ll reach max speeds of about 39.7 mph and cruise at about 28.8 mph. Standard power comes courtesy of twin 500 hp Volvo Penta D9-500s. She maneuvers nicely thanks to a deep-V hull with ample flare and spray rails and Volvo’s responsive BCS power-assisted hydraulic steering and smooth-shifting electronic single-lever controls.
All three vessels in this range are worth a look. The Riva Rivale 52 and the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 are both Italian styled and constructed while Zeelander has a Dutch background and quality American build in Michigan. One clearly gains more space in the Riva Rival 52 than in the slightly smaller Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 and Zeelander 44. Tender size and stowage can be evaluated based on your needs. Crew cabin configurations have some options in the Riva Rivale 52 and Mochi Craft Dolphin 44. Zeelander does not currently have an option for third crew cabin. Zeelander’s decision to go with Volvo IPS (and DPS) makes the Z44 very simple and easy to operate. Whatever your choice, think about the best setup for your unique needs—and who you’ll be on board with.
Our Day Boat Showdown II stacks Zeelander 44 against the Hinckley T44 MKII and the Intrepid 430 Sport Yacht.