by Dom Wiseman

Hold onto your hats speed demons. We’ve found the boat for you and it’s not what you think. Gemini Boats are a South African boat builder producing a comprehensive range of Rigid Inflatable boats (RIB) and standard inflatables. All boats are designed and built in their Cape Town headquarters by a team of 80 skilled craftsmen. They use foam filled fiberglass self-draining hull construction in the RIBs with positive floatation when deflated and pressure relief valves on all the military grade hypalon tubes.
Established in 1979, they have made significant investment in product development and training and can count military, recreational, rescue and racing groups as return customers. In fact, their own research indicates that close to 85% of their customers are repeat buyers. If that is true, it’s an impressive number.

The boats are imported into Australia by Jet Torque Marine in Perth. Each boat is imported as a bare hull and tubes with the final fit out of seats, consoles and accessories completed locally using Jet Torque’s own moulds for the consoles and their proprietary tube covers that offer a level of protection to the boat and allow important things like cray pots and fish to be hauled over the side without damage to the tube. Some of these are still operational after a good 10-12 years of service. They are made of strong vinyl and are also UV protected.
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Gemini Elite 730 7WHAT YOU GET
There isn’t much on board a boat like this when it comes down to it save for an ample centre console, two of the strangest but most comfortable seats you’ve ever seen or sat on, a rear bench seat and a small platform at the bow hiding an anchor locker. The anchor winch, a marvel of ingenuity and design pulls a customised stainless anchor that is deployed through the hull. This has been designed so that when being used as a tender, the anchor doesn’t protrude from the hull causing damage to the mother ship. It also has been built to stop water coming in the slot through which the anchor shaft comes aboard. Rather crafty I might add.
The floor space is open and highlighted by a series of blue LED lights at ankle level. The fibreglass has a non-skid finish, although like any fibreglass floor, once you have some slime on there, you’ll be slip, siding away so to speak. The walkway either side of the console is large enough to navigate comfortably without having to contort your body into unimaginable positions to fit past the console and it’s flat throughout making movement all around the boat a painless experience.
The centre console is a large open space internally accessed via the front. The forward cushion opens up revealing large access to the internal storage. These consoles are designed in house by Jet Torque and are solid fibreglass construction throughout and pack space for bags, safety equipment and any water sports toys you could need. Centre consoles often lack storage space and while a bench style helm chair offers storage space underneath, Jet Torque has opted for a specific seat style with no provision for storage so the massive console is a must. Overhead is a sturdy and exceptionally built stainless tower, again an in-house build and design. It houses a large bimini top that covers a good portion of the boat. In terribly sunny conditions a cover overhead is a must and should be a standard consideration when looking to purchase an open boat like this.
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Gemini Elite 730 4The dashboard is a cracking set up with an almost unbelievable array of electronics including a 12 inch screen, Garmin GPSMAP 7412XSV, Fusion MS750 stereo with amplifier, four 7.7 inch speakers and 10 inch sub-woofer, Mercury Vessel view control panel, jacking plate control, anchor winch and trim tab adjustment. It’s all laid out neatly with the important things in place like the jacking plate, trim tabs and throttle well within reach which is important given the performance of this vessel but more on that later.
At the rear of the Gemini Elite 730 is a fold-away rear bench seat that has been customised to fold completely out of the way when not in use. On the day of the test, we were unable to use it as it was not completed but again the upholstery is of high quality and the stainless work flawless. Out the back either side of the engine are two marlin boards with a ladder on the port side.
The only thing I am yet to touch on are the two chairs for the driver and passenger. They are unlike anything I have ever seen on a boat and more closely resemble a saddle in their design. You straddle the seat with your feet on the ground either side. Made in Scotland, they cost a staggering $9000 each and have you riding on a cloud as you fly across and over waves and wake due to the inbuilt adjustable suspension built into the seat base. The suspension is visible, so not only can those at the rear of the boat see it working but you can certainly feel it too. I was skeptical at first and it did take a while to get used to allowing the seat to do the work for you as I constantly wanted to lift my backside off the seat and stand as you would in rough conditions with a more traditional design. I can’t argue, it was supremely comfortable while belting about the waters off Fremantle.

POWER
The power supplied by the all-new Mercury Racing 400R (yes, that’s 400hp) is impressive to say the least. On this hull, it provided knock-your-socks-off acceleration and still has awesome power in the mid-range on offer. Built on an in-line six cylinder platform with 2.6-litre displacement. It’s a supercharged engine with cold air intake and electronic boost pressure control.
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Gemini Elite 730 2It sounds good on paper but I felt it was quiet for a 400hp and I found myself wanting more from it in terms of sound. It does have through prop exhaust and does make some noise but like a classic muscle car, this is a muscle engine but sounds somewhat toned down.
At 303kgs, it’s a weighty piece of equipment and comes in shaft lengths of 20, 25 and 30 inches. Mercury offer it in both standard and counter rotation gear casings which makes it suitable for multiple engine installations. A two-year limited for recreational boating (which makes me wonder why they’ve emblazoned it with ‘Racing’ down the side) and a three year limited corrosion warranty come standard.
Available in black or white with the option of a variety of graphics, the whole unit is controlled by DTS or digital throttle and shift system. It offers smooth and predictable throttle response although at speed crashing over waves, it’s a little too easy to all of a sudden find yourself on the wrong side of too fast. I found it easier to use the gap in my hand between the thumb and forefinger to push the shaft of the throttle while using the rest of my hand as a brace on the throttle control itself (see picture hereabouts). This gives you much more control over your speed.
Jet Torque has also added 16-inch hydraulic trim tabs and a jacking plate to the engine mount which lifts the entire engine on the fly. This means that you can lift the engine up so that there is less of the skeg in the water thus improving efficiency and top end speed.
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ON THE WATER

The performance of this boat is second to none with a top speed of 56 knots, or approximately 105km/h. That’s impressive for any water borne vessel. Getting a handle on the driving of an RIB itself required a little instruction and a different approach. We were out in a healthy 20 knot south-westerly and achieved a straight line speed of 45 knots. The hull handled that exceptionally well but when it came to cornering, some extra attention was required on the drivers’ part.
On most boats and for most owners, the natural tendency is to slow down a little before commencing a turn. On the Gemini Elite 730, this resulted in water coming at the boat with the wind. Jet Torque owner Dave Johnson, the creator of this package instructed me on the next turn not to slow down, but to push harder through the corner on the throttle. “What”, I exclaimed, “You want me to speed up and turn as fast and sharply as possible?” Right then, I’ll give her everything I’ve got I thought to myself cheekily.Gemini Elite 730 16
Gemini Elite 730 14It certainly made a significant difference as the boat reveled in the conditions banking hard and keeping us drier than I could have imagined. Surprisingly the boat banks over a lot more then you’d expect for a RIB but it doesn’t bang hard, nor does it ever feel unsafe.
If I was to purchase a RIB, I expect I’d spend a little time relearning how to drive a boat as, like a twin hull, they require a slightly different approach.

ON THE TRAILER
The Gemini Elite 730 is a beamy little number coming close to 2.9m wide when both tubes are fully inflated. It sits on a custom dual axle trailer fitted with electric override brakes built by local WA manufacturer, Papas Trailers. But towing it will not be a simple task. The trailer itself performs as well as you would expect, however, the boat in many cases will be wider than the lane you are in which means you would do well to stay away from the kerb in most cases.
You will also need an oversize permit to tow this but with regulations different in every state you will need to contact your local authorities to find out the requirements for your area.
Gemini Elite 730 1OVERVIEW
The Gemini Elite 730 is not for the faint-hearted. RIBs in general make exceptional tenders for large mother ships and super yachts, but that’s certainly not all they’re good for. In the state of WA, this type of boat is perfect for anyone looking for a day boat that can perform quick hit and run missions to places like Rottnest Island and still have enough on board use to go fishing, pull a cray pot, act as a dive tender and water sports base all in the one day, and of course get wherever you are going extremely quickly.

Gemini Elite 730 3POSITIVES

Positive flotation
Versatile use
One of a kind

NEGATIVES
Towing width

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: (as tested) $190,000 (starting from) $130,000
Length Overall: 7.3m
Beam: 2.95m
Tube Diameter: 560mm
Tube Compartments: 5
Dry Weight: 850kg
Tow Weight: (approx.) 1500kg
Maximum HP: 400
Engine Fitted: Mercury 400R

 

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