Last week, Boating Industry was invited down to Charleston, S.C. for the North American launch of the new Open 5.5 RIB from France-based Zodiac-Nautic.
The launch included a day-long event for members of the marine media, Zodiac brand ambassadors, and more, which featured on-the-water testing of the new RIBs and a tour of Zodiac’s North American production facility in Summerville, S.C.
An adventurer-style Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat (RIB) with sleek lines, the new OPEN 5.5 offers an ergonomic cockpit and a reinforced deep-V hull, with control and stability even in rough conditions.
During the event, the 5.5 was tested in a variety of different conditions from open water to navigating narrow grass-lined channels, both of which the 5.5 handled with ease.
“The Open 5.5 fully expresses Zodiac’s DNA. Its versatility makes it a unique concept, matched nowhere else on the market, in line with its new slogan: ‘Keep Exploring’,” said Zodiac-Nautic Group CEO Dominique Heber-Suffrin.
Suffrin and the rest of the team at Zodiac are using the Open 5.5 and the rest of Zodiac’s production line to debunk the stereotypes that RIBs and tenders are just for large vessels as a secondary craft, or that inflatables are fragile boats that can’t do much.
“With its highly stable hull and tube, the OPEN 5.5 offers comfort and extra-large cargo storage. Its versatility and performance make this RIB well-suited for a variety of activities, including fishing, diving, water-skiing and cruising,” said Zodiac-Nautic North America President Gary Durnan.
The Open 5.5 features an overall length of 18 feet, with a beam just under 5 feet.
Adaptability and customization was a key focus for Zodiac with the Open series. Members of the Zodiac team described the boats as completely modular, giving the customer the ability to add various luxuries such as a swim platform, T-top, ski bar, lounge pad, and more.
“This is a real Swiss-Army knife of a boat,” Durnan said.
The ability to customize right away or down the road, and its relatively affordable price point makes the new 5.5 an opportunity for dealers to market to the millennial or entry-level boater.
However, the biggest draw to the 5.5 for a millennial or entry-level boater might be the boat’s weight. At just under 1,300 pounds before the engine, the consumer won’t need to go out and buy a brand new truck just to be able to trailer their boat around.
All in all, throughout the water testing, the new Open 5.5 provided an exceptional on-the-water experience from comfort to maneuverability and beyond, making the 5.5 a great boat for anyone from the entry-level boater to the most experienced captain.
Zodiac-Nautic also recently announced their acquisition of another France-based company, Anonym Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUP).
Zodiac will use it's Drop Stitch technology, used to create rigid inflatable floors in their RIBs and tenders, and Anonym's specialization in the SUP market to create and innovate a range of inflatable SUPs, with eyes set toward other inflatable products in the future.
"It's creativity and the capacity of its team to understand and anticipate their users' needs that has convinced us that Anonym is a very strong partner to build our future," Heber-Suffrin said.
The new Open 5.5 and the acquisition of the SUP company aim to strengthen Zodiac's commitment to offer high-performance products that are simple to use, accessible to anyone and provide unforgettable adventures, which led to Zodiac's newest brand slogan 'Keep Exploring'.