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The Story of the RHS and RSGB


Carlo Riva enjoyed immense success from the 1950's into the 70's marketing his runabouts, built in Sarnico on Lake Iseo, to the rich and famous around the world who were able to afford what was, in essence, seen as the 'Rolls Royce' of runabouts.  However, in the 70's a new generation of boats were being constructed, using fibreglass, which brought a number of challenges to the then traditional wooden boat constructors.

 In the early 70's the popularity of wooden boats started to decline due to their running, up-keep and restoration costs.   The lighter and more stylish fibreglass boats, with more radical designs and colours, were considerably lighter, had a better power to weight ratio, and were cheaper to run and maintain.  They also required little restoration.  At the same time as this was happening the availability and quality of mahogany also began to decline and become more expensive.  


As a result of all these factors, all arriving at a similar time, the demand for what were seen as expensive wooden boats rapidly began to fall away as the cheaper fibreglass constructors took over the market for runabouts. Carlo Riva finally sold the Riva boatyard in 1969 to Whittaker, a US company, with Carlo remaining as a consultant until, in 1988, when the company was finally sold to Vickers, the owners of Rolls Royce at that time and who perhaps saw the boatyard more as a trophy investment. The market continued to decline with Floridas having ceased production in 1969, Aristons in 1974 and the Olympic in 1976.  The only final remaining original wooden Riva then being constructed was the Aquarama Special until it too ceased production in 1996.

In the late 90's Piero Gibellini and Carlo Riva began discussions with the desire to re-build the history of the Riva wooden runabouts with a view to gathering together like minded Riva owners and establishing the true provenance and values of these important runabouts created by Carlo Riva on Lake Iseo and sold around the world.  From these discussions the 'Riva Historical Society', (RHS), was created in 1998 and Mariella Gibellini was appointed as the Secretary to help undertake the administration of the society.

The establishment of the Riva Historical Society, therefore, was highly visionary move and without it many more Riva runabouts would have been left to rot rather than be restored to the beautiful runabouts we see today.

Sadly, in April 2017, Carlo Riva passed away and so the boating world lost a true creative visionary.  

Happily, one of his daughters, Maria Pia Riva, became the Honorary President and so the association with the 'Riva family' still continues.

Grand Canal Venice.JPG

The RHS then began to create a number of Chapters, or members clubs, in Italy and eventually the Riva Society GB Limited (RSGB) was founded in 2003 and became the UK Chapter along with many others around the world. 

The founders of the RSGB were a small group of UK based Riva Owners who had attended a number of meetings in Europe and realised that there was quite a following for Riva in the UK.


The RHS plays an important role in coordinating all the Riva Chapters around the world and promoting the history and value of the wooden Riva runabouts.  It organises the main 'Riva Days' events and also run a 'Technical Tutorial' meeting each year which all members can attend. Here you can both learn and contribute to the important knowledge base regarding the construction and history of Riva runabouts.  The RHS also publishes the annual calendar and the VivaRiva magazine.


The individual Chapters, supported by the RHS, organise an annual international 'Riva Days' meeting which are held around the world.  At these meetings Riva owners can come together and enjoy their boats and each others company in some very special locations such as St Tropez, Monaco, Annecy, Lucerne, Geneva, Portofino, Venice, the renowned Italian lakes of Garda - Maggiore - Iseo - and Como, as well as further afield in Stockholm, Oslo, Lake Windermere, Amsterdam, Flensberg, Majorca and Lake Tahoe in the USA.

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