Not that long ago, serious anglers snarled at the idea of a pod-powered sport-fisher. When Volvo introduced the IPS systems in 2004, they were primarily being installed on comfort-focused express-style cruisers. But the times they are a-changin'.
One of the first builders to flirt with the IPS systems in the sport-fish market was Paul Spencer, with his IPS-powered Spencer 43 Express. The most obvious benefit came in the expanded accommodations on this style of boat, created by placing the engines aft, under the cockpit. However, efficiency and exhaust-free operation afforded by IPS drives proved a plus to anglers as well. And the fish-fighting maneuverability proved second to none!
As the system becomes more readily accepted by die-hard fishermen, many more production boatbuilders now embrace Volvo IPS (as well as Zeus and ZF-propelled boats) for fishing applications. Australia's Riviera represents a prime example of a builder that took a good boat and expanded its appeal by offering optional IPS power. Riviera built 158 conventional shaft-drive 51s since introducing the model in 2002, and the IPS option is pumping new life into this proven hull.
While testing a fully loaded 51 off Grahams Point, south of Sydney, Australia, the boat's smooth running characteristics impressed me. Pushing the electronic controls all the way forward resulted in an effortless rise out of the hole with no protest from the three, six-cylinder, 435 hp IPS 600 turbocharged and supercharged diesels resting snuggly under the cockpit. We achieved a top speed of 29.9 knots and then backed off to 3,000 rpm, settling in with a cruising speed of 23 knots while burning a total of 48 gph. At this speed, we measured a whisper-like sound reading of 68 decibels (the normal level of conversation is 64). And as an added bonus, the 51 was a blast to drive and greeted the building head sea coming into the inlet with ease, settling gently back into the trough. The IPS drives delivered a rapid response at the helm - the 51 lost only 1½ knots when turned hard over, spinning around in less than a boat length.
The line of sight from the centerline helm on the semienclosed bridge is good. All the breakers are easily accessible, although personally, I would like to see the engine gauges placed lower in the line of sight, instead of above the helmsman on the overhead console. There is more than enough space to include them on the large, three-panel electronics display. To keep an eye on the cockpit action, you'll need to use the aft bridge station. (Find a third station in the cockpit.) Our boat featured a wet bar to port, which I would forgo in order to keep the standard aft-facing bench seat, a perfect spot from which to watch your baits. A large U-shaped settee with a table sits to port. By opening the aft isinglass drop curtains, the side windows and overhead hatch, the 51's bridge morphs into an open layout. A standard bridge is also available, which places the helm farther aft. And the entire flybridge enjoys air conditioning for your cruising comfort.