HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
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  # 001
In The Beginning...
By Tony Lee-Elliott

'V-S' spent all her life on the trailer and it was this fact that led Edward to say that we might as well have built a solid hull boat. However our wives would only get afloat with us providing the craft was unsinkable, very stable, well padded inside and was self-draining. Piece of cake we thought. Edward was into fibreglass and I made the tubes.

I think our first RIB was about 11ft, had an 18 hp Evinrude 'Fisher-Twin' but this soon made way for a 50hp Mercury. In '67 we took it up to Mike Pilkington's inflatable race on the Weaver at Frodsham. Intrigued as everyone was to see this hybrid, we were asked not to 'race' but to join in after everyone had done a lap or two.

After five laps we had caught and overtaken the whole field. We were not popular and very soon rules for inflatable boat racing were tightened up. I then invented the first inflatable catamaran. It either won or flipped! This too was not very popular, but was soon copied by the French and the Italians with better success.

The young divers of Atlantic College in South Wales, under Admiral Hoare, were also messing about with their inflatables and started to glue sheets of plywood in lieu of their hull fabric, under their inflatable collars to protect them from the sharp Welsh coastline.

In fact Ronnie Hoare patented the RIB in about 1969, but it was all very crudely done with the RNLI as the beneficiary of any royalties that came from other manufacturers.

I was tied to the Army and Edward was busy pushing the M6 motorway northwards through the Lake District, so much of our development was done on Windermere. After 15 years in khaki I decided to make a break for it and we set up Flatacraft at the end of 1971.

Meanwhile Avon had produced their 4m RIB. It is still in production to this day, 30 years on.

Avon's 5m RIB, a great improvement on the 4m, came out in '72, as did our first RIB, the 4m Force-4. We built over 1,000 of these small sporty RIBs and now after nearly 30 years have about 20 models stretching to 46ft.

The largest RIB manufacturer is Hurricane of Canada, part of Zodiac, who copied my personal Hurricane, which was later to become our Flatacraft Force-5. It was based on Steve Baker's Phantom 16 Class III race boat. This has been the story of RIBs over the years where RIBs have been copied and developed from other builders' solid hulls. There is an element of what is generally known as 'cottage industry' amongst the RIB builders.