It's easy to get sidetracked while admiring the thoughtfully arranged cockpit of the new Regal 44 Sport Coupe...as you trail your fingers over the syrupy high-gloss interior woodwork...or while settling into the buttery-soft helm seat.
But wait! We're supposed to be hardnosed boat buyers paying attention to the details that really matter. Let's postpone looking at all the wonderful features on this family cruiser and cut to the chase: how's the fuel economy? You'd buy a car based on whether you could afford to fill the tank on a regular basis, so it's no surprise that big, gas-guzzling sportboats are a tough sell.
If you feel a pang of guilt every time you push the throttles forward, well, the Regal 44 is the boat for you. If ever there were a guilt-free boat, short of one you row, this is a contender. You see, it has a really flat fuelconsumption curve.
During my sea trial off Ft. Lauderdale, we got about one mile per gallon at 16 knots. We got about one mile per gallon at 32 knots. And we got about one mile per gallon at every speed in between! That means that every speed over half of the normal usage range is the same. If you're enjoying the scenery or the seas are lumpy, you can cruise along at a comfortable 16 knots. If you want to outrun that squall or get the best mooring in the next harbor, put the hammers down. No pangs. No credit card remorse. No feeling that you're lining some oil company's coffers. It is, I discovered, a most invigorating sensation. Pick the speed you want to go, not the one you "ought" to go, because it isn't until you firewall that last 150 rpm that the fuel consumption bumps up.
For most of us, the pleasure of having a boat like the Regal 44 isn't about trudging along at displacement speed: It's about being a kid going downhill on a new bike. Turn in your guilt at the door.
Okay, we've got the energy lesson out of the way. But how cool is the new 44? Way cool. The big, wide transom platform is perfect for boarding from floating docks or a tender, as well as just right for big cannonball splashes for the kids. Order the optional hydraulic platform and it can handle a PWC or tender, too.
Regal is notable not just for listening to owners and dealers, but also for actually responding to their suggestions. In this case, the entire cockpit is perfect for the way people really use boats. Aft, there's a big sunpad with a two-position backrest, and the entire unit lifts at the touch of a switch for great access to the engineroom.
Flip the backrest and there is a cleverly designed seating area that still allows the use of one or both of the stairs to the swim platform. With the table in place, it's great for dining or entertaining in conjunction with the wet bar that can become a mini-galley with the addition of an electric grill.
The 44 is offered with an optional enclosure, although our test boat had the standard canvas enclosure to separate the bridge area. While the hard enclosure is designed to be unobtrusive, with a big fold-up window and a sliding door, I liked the openness of the soft version.
Under the hardtop is a raised settee to port and the bridge area is notable for the immense (38-square-foot) sunroof that slides open electrically, creating a true convertible. With electrically opening side vent windows, you can have as much breeze as you want, and the walk-through windshield adds more air, as well as safe access to the foredeck.
Regal has gone to all-Garmin electronics, and the helm is another masterpiece. Designed to fit skippers of all sizes and shapes, the double-wide electric helm seat adjusts vertically and horizontally, has two levels of footrests, and even a flip-down raised sole for the vertically challenged so they can stand behind the tilt wheel.
Below, the Regal is sumptuous, with a spacious salon that has a curved Ultra- Leather settee on one side, complete with built-in recliners and a fold-out berth. Opposite is the galley with under-counter fridge and freezer, recessed two-burner cooktop and swoopy counters with optional marble tops.
The owner's cabin is forward, with an innerspring queen-sized mattress on the offset berth, which has steps for easy access. Drawers are under the berth, which also tilts up to access a large stowage bin. The private head is surprisingly spacious, and it incorporates cleverly designed fold-away Lucite shower doors so you don't soak everything.
The after cabin is also large, with full headroom and a pair of singles that convert to a playpen-sized berth by using the thickly padded headboard as a filler. Clever. The cabin also has a private head with shower, and the full-height "armoire" can be fitted with an optional washer/dryer.
For normal engine checks, a hatch with steps from the cockpit leads to the battery switches, Racor filter, and dipsticks. The 9 kW Kohler genset is in a soundbox aft, with easy access through the larger hatch. All of the wiring and plumbing was tidy and accessible, and it's clear that Regal put some effort into soundproofing the engineroom.
Power for the standard model is a pair of 375-horsepower Volvo Penta 8.1 gas engines with IPS 500 drives, and our test boat had the upgraded twin 370-horsepower Volvo D4 diesels with IPS 500 drives. Another option is twin D6 diesels with IPS 600 drives that up the power to 870 horsepower, which is good for a couple of knots at the top end.
With the IPS joystick controls, maneuvering in tight spaces was a cinch and, offshore in the Gulf Stream, the Regal Deep-V OceanTrac hull was soft-riding and bone dry, and steering was light but positive. With the sunroof open, the wind noise remains low and, with it closed, the bridge area is a cool cocoon surrounded by large windows for great line of sight.
At an affordable price point, thoughtfully designed, and built to high standards, the Regal 44 is pure delight. Well-suited for overnighting, entertaining, and family cruising, this one is a keeper. And it's a joy to look at the fuel consumption numbers without that stabbing pain in the wallet.
Regal Boats, (407) 851-4360; www.regalboats.com