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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Regal 5260 Sport Yacht

It's funny the way I first found out about OPS, a deceptively ho-hum-sounding acronym for Regal's new Optimized Performance System. I was sitting in the engine room of the company's new flagship, the 5260 Sport Yacht, with my back against the forward firewall and pen poised over a notebook, when I started wondering about a large, box-like fiberglass structure on centerline, back against the transom.

Hmmm. Was it a special tank for fuel, water, or waste? Was it the inside of a deformation in the running surface somehow related to the Volvo Penta IPS drives beneath? Was it a means of facilitating entry into the ER from astern, once the tender garage hatch was raised and, with it, the thick fiberglass panel that supports the optional outboard-powered Avon RIB?

"What the heck's that?" I finally asked project manager Phil Baier. The question precipitated a long and involved explanation of a seldom if ever publicized, or even talked about, aspect of joystick-controlled azipod drive systems—an undeniably revolutionary technology marketed by both Volvo Penta and Cummins-MerCruiser.

Both Volvo Penta's IPS, with its forward-facing props, and Cummins-MerCruiser's Zeus system, with its aft-facers, have the same basic L-shape underwater form: a near-vertical leg exiting the running surface and a lower, stern-drive-like torpedo holding the props. Since in both cases the props generate thrust parallel to the boat's bottom, speeds and efficiencies may diminish as bow rise increases and thrust vectors change from horizontal to angular during on-plane operation.

"We think OPS is the answer, though," said Baier, proprietarily rapping his knuckles on the box I was now scrutinizing with even deeper interest. It is essentially a reservoir, he explained, molded into both the bottom and transom and designed to fill with roughly 700 pounds of water at displacement speeds and empty at planing speeds. The mechanism is both passive and quick. Water simply whooshes in through holes in the transom and exits the same way, according to Baier.

But there was more to the story. The 5260, Baier added, had been expressly designed with a weight-forward em-phasis to accommodate IPS. So at slow speeds with the reservoir full, the extra heft at the transom levers the bow up, allowing the boat to run at zero trim for maximum thrust and efficiency. At planing speeds with the reservoir empty, the decreased heft at the transom lets the 5260's weight-forward emphasis come into play, reducing both bow rise and torpedo down-angle and boosting speeds and efficiencies.

Of course, I was antsy to see how OPS actually worked. And so I undoubtedly hurried Baier through the rest of our tour of the test boat's engine room, a fairly straightforward, uncluttered place, partly due to the seamless integration of raw-water, steering, and other systems into our two IPS 600 powerplants and partly due to the unencumbered cleanliness of the forward firewall. This latter feature, by the way, results from a lovely little layout that sidelines virtually all ancillary equipment (including welded-aluminum water tanks, Marine Air air-conditioning units, ProNautic battery chargers, and Westerbeke genset) outboard of the mains and concomitantly facilitates entry and exit through the day hatch just above the firewall.

Once I was finally at the wheel, dockside performance was gratifying: Using the Volvo Penta joystick to starboard of the wheel, I walked the boat sideways away from her starboard-side-to slip at Florida's Sanibel Harbor Resort and departed the marina as if the rather rousing headwind hadn't been blowing at all. Easing toward the Sanibel Harbor Bridge doing about 7 knots, I noticed our running attitude in the comparatively calm water was zero degrees. OPS seemed to be working as predicted.

Conditions on San Carlos Bay were sporty, with winds gusting to 18 mph and two- to three-foot waves rolling in off the Gulf. Average top speed was 35.8 mph, a perky number. But did this finding confirm the open-water pizazz touted for OPS? No, but considering how our boat's running attitudes hung steady at four degrees (optimum angle of attack for a planing vessel) from 2000 rpm right through top end, it certainly pointed toward confirmation.

I put together three additional observations during the sea trial. First, thanks to huge windshield panels that bottom out well below the level of the dashboard, visibility forward from the steering station was excellent, even while coming out of the hole. Second, use and adjustment of our test boat's trim tabs had virtually no effect on acceleration or speed—I used them to address cross-wind list only. And third, our 5260 ran smooth and dry despite washboardy conditions, a tribute to a hull form tweaked for IPS (and OPS) by Donald L. Blount & Associates.

Dockside tours are great, of course, but they're even greater when they feature an up-to-the-minute approach to both appearance and outfitting. The 5260's styling is by the Italian design firm Gobbi Mancini and includes phalanxes of hull windows port and starboard, a swoopy sheerline with equally swoopy welded-stainless steel bowrails, and a swept-back superstructure that emphasizes sleekness and aggressive good looks. The main-deck cockpit area is immense and amenity-laden, and benefits from noise-absorbent Whisperwall headliner panels, an electrically actuated (41"x78") sunroof, and an opening windshield vent.

But it's the below-decks accommodation area that makes the most radical statement. The 5260 offers an unprecedented level of customization for a production vessel in this size range. While our test boat's layout was relatively conventional, with a full-beam master aft (with en suite head), a large VIP forward, and a galley/head/dinette area in between, three others are available. Want twin berths in the forward cabin instead of a single? Want a smaller master aft with a guest stateroom alongside? Or twin berths forward and the latter arrangement aft? No problem!

And there are other, less-substantive choices as well. In fact, a prospective owner should have little trouble coming up with a custom version of Regal's 5260 Sport Yacht by simply visiting the builder's design center in Orlando to chose from among four styles of wood cabinetry; multiple countertop materials (including Corian, granite, and marble); a raft of furniture, upholstery, and lighting alternatives; and entertainment, navigation electronics, appliances, and other upgrades galore. What's more, if said owner were to spec out his boat, plunk down a deposit, and have Regal build and deliver her complete (Regal marketeer Christopher Spindler says the company's two years out on delivery), he'll save on price increases and other dealership-related costs and enjoy the comparatively groovy pricing shown here.

All this and OPS, too?

No wonder a couple of dock-walking folks stopped by to chat toward the end of test day and wound up exclaiming: Wow!

For more information on Regal Boats, including contact information, click here.

To get a better understanding of how OPS works, look at the picture below. At displacement speeds water enters a large rectangular hole that opens into a tall, otherwise sealed fiberglass box laminated into the bottom of the boat as well as the transom. Air in the box is exhausted through the small ports (ringed with circular stainless steel fittings in the photo) well above the rectangular hole. Once the boat hits about 8 knots, the water begins to empty through the rectangular hole as well as the two round holes on either side. With more speed, the transom continues to rise due to hydrodynamic lift, water falls away from it, and gravity empties the box.

When I pulled the throttles back to go from planing to displacement speeds, the bow of the 5260 rose rapidly—as much as two degrees, according to my inclinometer—within just a few seconds. Nevertheless, I detected no tendency to bow steer during that short period as the box filled with water.—B.P.

This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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