REVIEW: REGAL 28 EXPRESS
It’s some time since a Regal has featured in Trade-a-Boat, but we mean to put that right with the arrival of a new model from this innovative all-American stable. John Ford reports.
While many sceptics doubt the reality of climate change there is an undeniable link between the weather and the timing of a boat test. With rain predicted for most of the week we tried to pick a day that suggested clearing conditions only to be again met with threatening skies. Regardless, and with a deadline looming, we set forth to present this boat in its best light, front and centre against a diminishing patch of blue horizon.
Despite the lack of a sunny backdrop the Regal 28 Express is still a pretty boat. Its bow-up stance when underway enhances its sporty lines, the black and white hull a striking contrast against the greying clouds.
STILL IN THE FAMILY
Notwithstanding the fact that Regal is a major manufacturer in the States the brand is something of a quiet achiever on the Australian market. As Lee Poulson of Sydney’s Premier Marine pointed out, the company has been building boats for more than 40 years from its Orlando, Florida, based factory. And in an increasingly corporatised world the business is still family owned and operated. It’s currently under the stewardship of the third generation of the Kuck clan, who last year built their 50,000th boat in a range of models from 19ft bowriders to 52ft cruisers.
Lee and Steve from Premier Marine operate their dealership from the prestigious suburb of Rose Bay in Sydney’s east. It’s a glamour spot with an office right on the water in a newly refurbished marina where multi-million-dollar vessels fight for space on the docks and moorings with smaller craft. Every Sydneysider it seems aspires to "own" space on the water.
THE PEOPLE’S PRINCESS
With a name like Regal you would expect it to be a step up from the ordinary. Yet far from being pompous and unapproachable, the 2013-model 28 Express is welcoming and engaging with a wide extended boarding platform and portside steps to a well-appointed cockpit. The Flexiteek underfoot is hardwearing and the washable cushion materials should weather the climate well. This boat strikes a happy medium – elegant without being overly fragile and afraid to get its hands dirty.
Delving deeper I was impressed with the amount of space available. It is packed with features beyond what might be expected for its size, remembering especially that it can be towed – albeit with restrictions because of its 2.6m width.
To port of the entryway is a wetbar featuring a small sink and mixer, and an Isotherm slide-out refrigerated drawer with an esky stored beneath the bench. In its standard arrangement the rear lounge has space for five around a removable table, with dedicated storage under the lounge. Towards the front of the cockpit is a three-seater lounge along the portside and a twin helm seat. There are options to convert the side lounge into a rear-facing recliner with armrest and the rear lounge into a rear-facing love seat or a full-sized daybed.
Protecting the whole cockpit area is a close-fitting bimini supported by the imposing Power Tower, which can be lowered at the flick of a switch. For overnighting or when returning in inclement weather full cockpit clears seal the area completely.
With the cabin door closed to create a wide stairway, access to the bow is easy via the opening windscreen across a non-skid walkway that can convert to a sun lounge with the addition of a large cushion. An electric winch lives in a hatch in the bow and can be operated from the helm.
Open the sliding door and a wide entrance takes you down one step to the cabin. To port is a compact bathroom with nearly 2m headroom – enough space not to feel confined when showering. A large fixed shower rose is a nice touch of home and an electric-flush toilet flows to a 105lt holding tank. Water is heated from either the motor or a 240V heater.
Towards the bow a roomy lounge has its own table creating a below-deck diner or a snug entertainment area with room for up to six to settle out of the weather. The lounge converts to a full-width bed and there is a second double in a retreat under the cockpit sole.
Light Boca Ratan fabric, bamboo-look flooring and the light grey roof lining are contrasted with dark brown snakeskin-style vinyl along the side shelves. The combination affords the cabin a modern, if quirky, ambience. Little touches like glossy timber lining inside the storage shelves around the cabin help with the attention to detail, while evening lighting is supplied by four overhead LEDs or blue strip lighting around the cabin shelves.
MORE THAN A HARBOUR BLASTER
The option to cook onboard via the compact galley extends the boat’s appeal as an entertainer and overnight cruiser. Glossy, dark timber cupboards and a granite-look Corian benchtop give the galley a touch of extra quality. Appliances include a small 240V microwave, a benchtop cooker with alcohol or 240V options, and a 49lt Isotherm fridge with 12V and 240V connectivity. A sink has a matching Corian cover that can be installed to increase the bench area space for food preparation.
Extra atmosphere is only a touch-button away with music available in every cabin and the cockpit via a Fusion 700 DVD player. A remote at the helm controls the sound without having to access the main player. While investigating the sound system I noted an easily accessed and well-marked switch panel for electrical systems on the galley wall and a further master panel under a lounge in the cockpit. Full marks there.
Plonking myself at the helm I was pleased to find the twin seat offered a comfortable bolster option. It makes you feel like a driver as well, the Faria instruments set sportingly in a moulded fibreglass panel with engine readouts for fuel, voltage, oil pressure and water temperature, plus larger central speedo and tachometer available at a glance. There is also information for depth and motor trim but unfortunately none for the Bennett trim tabs.
The electronic engine controls are sensibly placed on the side deck, their activation smooth and not too light. I liked that the setup felt easily controlled and predictable. It’s confidence boosting at speed to feel so natural at the helm.
Manoeuvring in and out of the pen was easy with the assistance of the Lenmar bowthruster and I also liked the clear rear cockpit door that allowed vision right to the port swimplatform.
We had a quick run across the bay nearly empty of fuel before topping up at the fuel wharf. Unladen, the boat proved slightly skittish but topped up with 270lt of fuel it settles down into the water for a more stable ride.
Handling of a high-decked sportsboat like the Regal is always going to be fun. There is a lot of weight above the waterline and the height of the cockpit will exaggerate the feeling of the lean angle into corners. What was surprising though is the degree of grip the hull has into even the most aggressive full-power turns. It hangs on without slipping and without cavitation.
This is down to a combination of the well-designed chines on the OceanTrac hull and the positive bite of the counter rotating props. The Regal 28 Express leans like a red-eyed motocrosser into the berms – if such an analogy can be applied to a four-tonne boat – and after the initial feeling of concern it was a fun experience. I soon felt safe and completely in control pulling lock-to-lock turns on the nearly deserted harbour.
The Regal 28 Express is a boat with many personalities. It’s a compact model but with room for entertaining and cruising. Although it looks like a dayboat, with lots of deck space and comfortable lazing options, it also has overnight accommodation for four, or an even more if the on-deck lounges are included. And with the big Volvo Penta engine it’s a sportsboat with the ability to tow water toys around all day.
It will appeal to those who like a sporty ride and the comforts of home in an easily managed package.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Regal 28 Express gets its power from a 300hp 5.7lt Volvo Penta V8. Not surprisingly this powerplant provides impressive acceleration from rest with minimal lifting of the bow so that forward vision is maintained. Planing speed is 13.5kts at 2800rpm and by 4000rpm we settled into a fuss-free cruise of 26.5kts.
Top speed was 35.1kts with a light fuel load and about 32.9kts topped up. Considering the boat was unhindered by the trappings of a water-loving family, let’s say it has a practical top end of around 5000rpm and 33.5kts. That’s plenty to churn up the harbour on a fine day and blow the worries of life in the city to smithereens.
Engine access is from the swimplatform; the transom section rising on electric rams. Access is tight but it would be easy to perform regular checks. The motor has freshwater cooling and the leg is fitted with electric anodes to fight corrosion. Safety features include an automatic fire suppression system and a CO2 alarm in the engine bay and another alarm in the cabin.
[TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]
The Regal 28 Express is a boat with many personalities. It’s a compact model but with room for entertaining and cruising. Although it looks like a dayboat, with lots of deck space and comfortable lazing options, it also has overnight accommodation for four, or even more if the on-deck lounges are included. And with the big Volvo Penta engine it’s a sportsboat with the ability to tow water toys around all day.
› Quality finish and sporty contemporary design
› Innovative accommodation and entertaining space
› Good storage options
› Width restricts towing
› Handling style will be unfamiliar to some
SPECIFICATIONS: REGAL 28 EXPRESS
PRICE AS TESTED
Bowthruster, cockpit fridge, UltraLounge, Neutra Salt system, 220V electrics, windlass, and more
Single 300hp Volvo Penta petrol V8
2800 13.5kts (on the plane)
5100 35.1kts (WOT)
*Sea-trial data supplied by the author.
TYPE Planing monohull
HOLDING TANK 105lt
MAKE Volvo Penta
TYPE Fuel injected V8 petrol
RATED HP 300
PROP Counter rotating F6 dual prop
Rose Bay Marina,
594 New South Head Road,
Rose Bay, NSW, 2029
Phone: (02) 93280999
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #439, May 2013.
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