History of Rigid Inflatable Boats

Modern rigid inflatable boats designed with a solid, Deep V hull, are gradually gaining the attention of yacht owners. This is commonly referred to as a “Deep V”.  The sturdy construction of the hull adds extra strength, allowing it to easily cut through waves, rough waters and choppy conditions with little effort.

But why are they becoming popular only now? When were they created, anyways? Before we discuss the history of rigid inflatable boats, let’s define what RIBs are and what makes them so special.

Here we go!

What Exactly is a RIB?

Rigid inflatable boats are high-speed, high-buoyancy, extreme-weather craft designed with a solid, contoured Deep V hull. The V-shaped hull boosts the RIBs power and performance in the water by optimizing its directional stability and its capability to rise up and climb towards the surface of the water, allowing them to get on plane more easily. The sturdy construction of the hull also adds extra strength to the boat, allowing it to easily cut through waves, rough waters and choppy conditions with little effort.

RIBs are lightweight boats that come in all kinds of shapes and sizes today, representing a spin-off version of fully inflatable vessels that have been used for years. With the advancement of technology in the marine industry, the market is now seeing large number of RIBs taking the place of many standard recreational style boats.

For more details and to learn more about “What Is a RIB”, simply click here (add link to “What Is a RIB?” blog).

History of Rigid Inflatable Boats

While the idea of inflating something and using it to float goes back hundreds of years from explorers looking to discover new places, the combination of a rigid structure merging with an inflatable one is only decades long in history. It’s a history that started with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. They built a version of the rigid inflatable with various materials learning and developing along the way. In fact, early options were made of materials like plywood which weren’t strong enough and broke up in the waves.

The Atlantic College in South Wales spent the better part of a decade combining hard hull materials with fabric-based inflatable elements to create small boats. They consistency worked to improve these small vessels learning along the way to combine new materials to improve on the buoyancy, longevity and durability features.

For more than 50-years, Atlantic College was the home-base for water rescue operations for places like inshore waterways and the Bristol Channel. They performed countless rescue missions and saved many lives. This portion of the school, sadly, was decommissioned in 2013.

The First Commercial Rigid Inflatable Boat

The first RIB was brought to market by Tony and Edward Lee-Elliott in 1967 which were developed at Atlantic College. The first rubber-based RIB has been believed to have been introduced in 1969 at the London Boat Show.

RIB Comes to North America

The military was most noted for bringing the current RIB design and theory to North America. A series of Avon Rubber type vessels were ordered by the Navy from the Canadian sister school to Atlantic College. Three college students formerly of Atlantic College built the first hull-design in 1974 which were called x-27s and propelled with dual outboard engines. Inboard-outboard options were also developed with the x-28 and had a stern drive.

The Summer following that launch, the college allowed the Canadian Coast Guard to borrow a rigid hull vessel for a West coast operation which gave way to the new inshore boat operations in that region. At the same time, the Canadian Coast Guard also started Great Lakes rescue stations.

Introduction of RIB in the Southern Hemisphere

Lancer Industries was the first manufactures of these style boats in New Zealand in 1971.

The design and engineering were conceived by founder Chris Marks who saw a version of the vessel while traveling Europe. The company was very aggressive in pursuing great designs and developing, and they hold various patents to this day. The company has worked to create and build models for famous sailing teams that participated in the America’s Cup races.

Another New Zealander also created a RIB that became popular among law enforcement and was used for marine rescues, water-based farming applications and with government agencies. The company was Naiad and founded by Steve Schmidt.

The Birth of Fiberglass Boats

There is plenty of argument about the birth of the fiberglass vessel, going back to a small sailing dinghy in the 1940s. But the popularity of the material didn’t take recreational shape until the 1960s. The introduction of this material in the marine industry allowed RIB makers to consider using new materials in their rigid inflatable boats.

The RIB Marketplace Today

The marine market for RIB vessels today has exploded. Between technology and demand, makers are designing and engineering these vessels for everyday boaters who want more than a small boat to take a tour in.

RIBs can now be found in various shapes and sizes and can be customized in some of the most intriguing ways. The vessels start around the 8-foot mark, and some can run as long as 55-feet. Between custom seat layout and performance options, RIB owners sacrifice very little (if anything) by not having a traditional fiberglass model boat. After RIBS made an impact in the emergency response space, commercial makers started creating options for recreational boaters who wanted a very mobile boat that was incredibly safe and easy to maneuver.

BRIG is a rigid inflatable boat maker who constructs vessels by hand and ships them worldwide. They are a number one selling boat in places like the United Kingdom, Holland, and Australia. We welcome boaters to find a retailer near them and start their BRIGs journey.

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