I can respond to your question, but I'd like to be up front that I clearly have a horse in this race
. I designed the Defender RIBs and they are built for Defender at the same factory in China
that builds all the Mercury
boats, all the current Zodiac
Cadet RIBs and many, many boats for boat manufacturers who do not offer product domestically. I am the President of Defender, but will keep my answers limited to facts rather than opinion (which is how I would advise a friend anyhow).
. Today, there are essentially three factories offering a higher grade coated CSM fabric
(Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene Material). Aerozure, Pennel Industries [ORCA] and Achilles. Reputable inflatable
boat companies use one of the three. As it relates to small recreational RIBs, this is how it breaks down:
Achilles - makes their own CSM-Hypalon fabric
Mercury - they use Achilles fabric for their Hypalon boats
- In the Cadet range of RIBs, they use Achilles fabric too
Caribe - Pennel & Flipo, Pennel Industries [ORCA]
AB - also Pennel & Flipo, Pennel Industries [ORCA]
In my opinion, Achilles produces the best Hypalon (CSM) fabric today and that is why I chose their fabric for the Defender range.
Hypalon boats are hand made and there are always variances as the result. That can mean it might need some "attention" after a few years [as Cotemar stated above]. Seam construction is either a butted seam or an overlapped seam. An overlap seam is better, but costs more because it uses more material and requires more labor. Most builders today are going with a butt seam and using a "sausage" style of tube construction. If you look at inflatables from years ago, they were more angled, with distinct panels
cut to form the end cones and the bow. Most inflatables today are more rounded and a butt seam looks cleaner. In the case of the Mercury Dynamic, the Zodiac Cadet and the Defender series RIBs, they all come from the same production line in China
and everyone on Mr. Kim's assembly line is taught and trained to use butt seams.
My goal for the Defender RIB, was to take advantage of Defender's buying
power and partner with a builder
who can provide a product with the same materials going into the "other" brands, but since it is factory direct to me with no "cut" going to a middle man, the price to the Consumer is lower.
I am sure you already know I offer most of the other brands too. It is about giving people a choice. For my personal boat, I wanted a Defender RIB. But, my wife did not like the color so we went with a Zodiac. Now we both want more room and will likely go with a Zodiac Wave, which is longer, has smaller tubes and is narrower (so it will fit in our davits
better). Going to sell the Zodiac RIB we bought.
Warranty-wise, the rate of claim on any brand is less than 2%. Defender sells over 3000 boats a year and that rate has held true for several decades. There is no variance from one builder
to the next, unless you start looking at builders who are not "mainstream" fabricators.
I hope that helps. Happy to answer any questions directly. Feel free to call me or write to me at Defender.