A stiff breeze is pouring over the flared bow of the Rhéa 730 Timonier and lashing thick sheets of spray across the triple windscreens whilst a roaring tide beneath is scooping the chop up into jagged, frothy peaks.
Weighing a mere 2.95 tonnes with a length overall of 25ft 9in (7.9m), it would be easy to assume that the entry-level model in the Timonier range might feel overwhelmed by the challenging conditions, but the feeling from behind the simple upright helm is quite the opposite. If the 730 had a face, there’d be a broad smile plastered across it, like a happy labrador bounding around in a fountain.
Rhéa’s hardy Timonier range, which stretches to a 36 model, is designed to handle seas like this. Being based in La Rochelle, the yard knows a thing or two about designing boats that can tackle hefty seas, so a bit of Solent chop is unlikely to knock even the smallest Timonier off its stride.
Driving the 730 is a beautifully simple process. There are no unnecessary fripperies (unless you consider a bow thruster one), just a tactile Morse throttle and a steering wheel, not even any trim tabs, though they are an option. Engage the throttle with a satisfying clunk, feed in the revs and let the hull and its substantial keel do the work.
We topped out at 26 knots with the largest 230hp Nanni diesel but this boat feels just as comfortable chugging along at single-figure speeds as it does bounding along in the early twenties. It does
get a bit raucous in the wheelhouse at high speed, though Rhéa is planning to improve noise insulation.
It’s not a cheap boat, especially if you opt for the €93,000 20th- anniversary model like our test boat, but there are some lovely touches that elevate the 730 away from rival pêche-promenade-style craft. The sumptuous wooden detailing, fabulously robust metalwork and general air of solidity go some way to justifying that price tag.
The cramped accommodation and potty toilet make it a compromised weekender but for day excursions, it’s a fine option and you – and it – will be smiling through the rough stuff.