December 05, 2006
The Birth of RIBs
There was a comment to one of my postings from a month or so ago that raised the question of who was the first to dream up the concept of a RIB. I thought it was an excellent comment, so, where did the RIB come from? Its origins date back to around the turn of the 20th Century. To talk about the birth of RIBs, one has to discuss the advent of inflatable boats.
In large part, we have the Titanic to thank for our boats. With the loss of life of the Titanic in 1912 and the considerable losses experienced to US ships during World War I, the need for a solution was clear. After this, an international agreement was signed to provide safeguards for passenger safety aboard ships; creating the first SOLAS treaty. One of its major provisions was to ensure that every vessel had enough lifeboats to provide every person aboard the ship with a place. This was easy enough for cargo ships where there was minimal number of crew members and excess deck space, but for cruise ships and naval ships that had large passenger counts with almost no deck space this created a huge problem; where do you put the lifeboats? Enter inflatable boats…
After World War I, Goodyear (that’s right the U.S. tire company) found a way to join rubber to other materials. They made life rafts that had square shaped inflatable tubes with a rigid floor. Was this the birth of the first RIB? One could definitely argue yes. These rafts were to be stacked vertically on the ships and appeared to answer the storage problem – unfortunately, conservative thinking in the Navy prevented these boats from being developed fully.
Around the same time, across the pond, Pierre Debroutelle came up with a craft that utilized a U shaped inflatable tube. It was the first boat of its kind to be certified by a navy when the French Navy did so. During World War II, they added a wooden transom which was then patented.
During the second World War, everything changed; the need for inflatables increased and luckily so did the quality of the rubber used in the boats. Inflatables were used as lifeboats, to transport troops through shallow water, and to move torpedoes and other cargo. Additionally, their compactability made them easy to store and transport over land.
As with all great innovations, one company emerge; Zodiac. Their boats gained acceptance in the military and after World War II surplus inflatable boats were sold to the public, which continued their popularity in the recreational market. Zodiac quickly became the “generic” name when it came to inflatables.
In the 1950s, a French Naval officer by the name of Bombard combined the outboard engine, rigid floor and a boat shaped inflatable tube. Zodiac built the boat and a friend of Bombard, Jacques Cousteau began to use it. Cousteau was convinced by the performance of the boat and used it for years as a tender for his expeditions. As such, “Zodiac” became the word used for inflatable boats throughout Europe and quickly gained hold in the U.S.
The inflatable was so successful that Zodiac couldn’t keep up with the demand and they licensed production to several companies throughout Europe. By this time, people began “tweaking” the design to improve performance through rough water. They began playing with underwater inflatable hulls – the pre-cursor to the RIB.
The combination of a rigid hull and large inflatable tube was introduced in Great Britain in 1967 by Tony Lee-Elliott and patented by Admiral Hoare in 1969 after research and development at Atlanic College in Wales. RIBs were first introduced as lifeboats and rescue craft in England in 1970.
The rest as they say is history!
Posted by ribcraftusa at December 5, 2006 11:58 AMBack To Index