Rigid inflatables are the most versatile of power boats, as this high-performance RIB from Highfield shows.
We have enjoyed using these sturdy crafts in many contexts, sometimes as rescue divers and other times as safety boat skippers during yacht races because their low center of weight makes them very stable, while the deep Vee hull cuts, rather than slams, through the water. Yacht racing, in fact, was the reason for Highfield’s Patrol range. Comprising the 660, 760 and 860 models, these launched in partnership with the last Vendee Globe race, where the Patrols were used as protector boats so had to go offshore in all weather conditions.
Our review boat was the Patrol 760 fitted with a Yamaha 300 HP; slightly over-rated as the hull recommends up to 250 HP. Highfield custom build these larger RIBs and there have lots of options. For instance, it could be a luxury finish with teak decks, inflatable sundeck, and T-top bimini or it could be a bare-bones workboat. These hulls are constructed by a French-Chinese consortium in Weihai, China from 5 mm 5083 aluminium plates with 10 mm stringers for longitudinal rigidity. This sturdy build allows them to be used for a wide variety of conditions—including running up beaches.
Apart from the hull, the inflatable sponsons are the other key part of a RIB and the Patrol uses high-quality Orca hypalon fabric (synthetic rubber rather than plastic) which has longevity and good anti-UV qualities. Combine this with six separate air chambers and it gives a good seaworthy base for fun or work. In work mode, the Patrol could easily transport six divers and gear offshore or in fun mode take a dozen people for a fast joyride or drop a skier off the back if you add the optional ski pole.
At sea, there were no surprises with the Patrol 760 as we sped through Sydney Harbour, cruising along at 24 knots as the powerful V6 Yamaha buzzed quietly. At the hydraulic wheel, snug behind the console the ride was smooth but with more fun awaiting we blasted ocean-wards to ride the long swells that ran north from the Southern Ocean off Australia. This is very much home waters for performance RIBs and the Patrol responded by tracking straight and coping with beam seas; without wetting the crew. On the homeward run, the Patrol’s stability gave us the confidence to go full throttle, nearly reaching 50 knots, yet with good stability and no slamming. Impressive; for a boat that can be towed by a larger SUV to your favorite waterway.
Highfield Patrol 760 Specifications
- Price: Euro 74,000 (without trailer)
- Length: 7.60 m
- Beam: 2.83 m
- Inside Length: 592 cm
- Inside Width: 163 cm
- Weight: 850 Kg
- Deadrise: 26 degrees
- Max Persons: 18
- Max Load: 1800 Kg
- Max HP: 250
- Shaft: Extra Long
- Tube: 56 cm
- Airtight Chambers: 6
- Fuel Tank: 285 L gasoline