Build By NumbersBy Capt. Grant Rafter
There’s no replacement for skilled labor. Anyone who’s ever held a job doesn’t need a lecture on the merits of consistent leadership and the costs associated with retraining and rehiring a work force. Few boatbuilders understand this as well as Regal, which currently employs more than 100 workers who have been with the company for more than 20 years. There’s a philosophy of continuity at Regal that not only applies to the way it treats its employees, but also to how it makes its boats. The 44 Sports Coupe is a perfect example of how this builder fosters better products. She’s a reworking of the 44 Express, which debuted in 2005 and which replaced the 42 Express that came out in 2002. The two-stateroom, two-head midcabin layout, popular because it nicely accommodates two couples or a family of four, has remained. But boaters’ tastes have changed with time, and the 44 reflects their new desires. Company captain Frank Stoeber, a veteran who teaches courses at Regal on everything from lamination to diesel engine repair, tells me that after talking with a swath of 44 Express owners, Regal found that people wanted the ability to “better control the environment” of the boat’s helm area. “They wanted to open it up and use it for entertainment,” he recalls, adding, “So people started suggesting a coupe.”
The coupe design transforms this boat from an open-cockpit dayboat to a fully enclosed coastal cruiser, and during my sea trial from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs, Florida, its advantages were readily apparent. The 38-square-foot sunroof rests directly on the windshield’s stainless steel header. (A small eave on it relieves the stress on the gasket.) With the push of a button on the helm console, the roof slides back leaving only the windshield frame, just as it would on a convertible automobile. For less sunny days, or to get the most out of the air conditioning, a standard Strataglass curtain drops across the area aft of the helm; for those who want a more robust enclosure, a sliding cockpit door with stainless steel frame and Lexan panes is an option.
The cockpit arrangement has also changed. The windshield’s center panel now opens out to allow access to the foredeck (an unobtrusive magnetic latch keeps the door open, even underway; a lever-style latch ensures it stays closed.) Other smart alterations here include a raised Ultraleather settee to port. It’s elevated by about six inches, providing not only more headroom in the stateroom beneath it, but also 360-degree views to anyone seated here. (On the older models this seat was more of a crescent shape, but it has been reworked into a C-shape to accommodate more occupants.) Behind it, you’ll find stowage for the optional high-gloss cherry cockpit table, which lays horizontally instead of vertically, making it easier to get it in and out. Both of the 44’s topside tables are interchangeable, so you can take the larger one (a $3,138 option), which is intended for the cockpit, and move it to the helm area and vice versa.
Regal made other improvements to the cockpit area, like nixing the step between it and the helm by raising the sole, and in the process, creating an unobstructed walkway while providing more headroom in the engine space below. And the Lshape settee’s seatback flips forward to create a backrest for sunbathers on the centerline cockpit sunpad. One more thing that you probably wouldn’t notice on first glance, or even on close inspection, is that most of the components, from the swim platform to the deck hatches, have been resin-infused, a process that both lightens them and increases their strength.
The interior got a rethink as well, with a focus on the details: a stainless steel fiddle atop the armoire-style hanging locker to port, additional sea rails on shelving and cabinetry, and gas rams on the sole’s scuttles, which give access to large stowage compartments covered with marine-grade trunk liner. The only drawback I found in the interior was with the layout of the midcabin: It’s a bit dark, since it lacks ports, and with just a foot or so between the twin berths (a filler can be inserted to convert it into a queen), it felt tight. Also, the shower here, which does not have a separate stall, has just 5'10" of headroom, compared to the master’s stall shower, with its frosted hatch above and 7'8" of headroom. The master stateroom itself has plenty of light entering from a Lewmar hatch and opening ports. The saloon is also well lit by opening ports, and has other thoughtful details like a curved granite countertop, two-burner EuroKera cooktop, and scalloped cherrywood steps.
The attention to detail circulates throughout the build process. Besides complying with ISO (International Standards Organization) regulation 9001/2000, which ensures documentation and testing of virtually all products that come off the assembly line, Regal follows other, internal guidelines. One is its method for deciding where to place system equipment. “We give everything two numbers on a scale of one to ten,” says Stoeber. “The first number is how often an item needs to be maintained. The second is how critical it is if it fails.” When the numbers are multiplied together, the team gets the Repeat Process Number (RPN). In placing a product, Regal uses the RPN number, which must be less than 40, to help find the optimum location. In the engine room, I could see the payoff. Seawater strainers, which can clog, were readily accessible, while items such as the black-water discharge pump—mounted on the forward firewall and requiring little upkeep—were more difficult to reach.
The hull was also redone (by Michael Peters) to accommodate twin 370-hp IPS 500 pod drives, not available on the older models. They powered our boat to a cruise speed of 28.9 mph (25.1 knots) at 3000 rpm on mostly flat water, responded instantly to helm input, and generated dramatically tight turns. But I was more impressed by the sound levels, which even at WOT (3620 rpm and 38.2 mph/33.2 knots), never exceeded 78 dB-A (65 dB-A is the normal level of conversation). Stoeber explained that one reason for the low readings was the relocation of an air-conditioning compressor from underneath the wet bar to a compartment off the aft cabin. Extra layers of Whisperwall acoustic-dampening panels didn’t hurt either.
At Tarpon Springs Stoeber took the helm and scooted the 44 Sports Coupe onto a TraveLift. (She was bound for a boat show in Georgia the next day.) After snapping some shots, available on my blog (www.powerandmotoryacht.com/blogs), I had a chance to speak with the driver of the transport truck, Patrick Prainito. It turns out he’s one of Regal’s Platinum-level master builders, which means he’s licensed and qualified in all aspects of the company’s operations, from driving trucks and boats to working in the lamination shop and performing engine repairs. Prainito says that one reason for his ascension is that Regal both helped and encouraged him along the way, including paying for schooling. Promoting quality seems to be systemic at Regal, and the results were evident on the 44.
Kenyon Smokeless Grill
Cooking smoke can be a real hassle on a boat. It damages overheads and leaves a smell that won’t come out for weeks—if ever. That’s why I was surprised to see a grill directly underneath the eggshell-colored padding that protects a 19" flat-panel TV in the 44’s helm area. Capt. Frank Stoeber explained that this was Kenyon’s new smokeless wonder, which the company claims eliminates fretting about interior odors and stains.
Kenyon conceals the unit’s electric heating element beneath non-stick grates, which eliminates the chances of scorching food and thus smoke. Drippings fall into a removable (and disposable) pan in the base, so cleanup is easy. The 21" unit retails for around $950 and makes a for a fine upgrade on any vessel. —G.R.
Contact: Regal Yachts (407) 851- 4360.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.