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altRegal's new 35 Sport Coupe represents a real step forward in mid-size cruiser design. Express cruisers have long been the most popular design but, increasingly, people want the all-weather convenience of a glassed-in salon. However, on the other hand, they also want the enjoyment of open air boating.

So what is the solution? Regal gave the 35 Sport Coupe a roof that retracts its full width, drawing back about two feet and opening up the sky overhead.

The exterior features are very impressive. Although it has a walk-through windshield section for safe forward deck access, it also has well-positioned bow rails and sidedecks wide enough to put your foot down flat. These are moulded with a little bit of a lip (like a toe rail) to make sure that your footing feels secure. A diamond pattern non-slip finish is used everywhere you step. The deck access is important because owners will want to enjoy the large foredeck sun pad with its reclining seatback system. It's a great spot to suntan and relax.

The Regal 35 Sport Coupe also has a generous anchor locker, anchor and an electric windlass for convenience.

The stern got a lot of design attention. For a boat of this size, Regal's 35 Sport Coupe has a remarkably large swim platform for easy boarding and social space. Swim platform features include recessed cleats, a covered three-step boarding ladder, stereo speakers, audio system remote control and one of its most innovative features – a versatile, convertible aft bench seat.

This is really trick! The seatback has a locking mechanism with three different positions: aft facing for swimming; facing forward for cruising; or, folded flat for suntanning.

It is two steps up to the cockpit through the transom gate. An L-shaped settee on the port side also gets a flip-flop back to face either forward or aft. In the aft facing position, use the removable picnic table for outdoor dining or as part of a big sun bed; either way you get lots of seating space. A removable Igloo cooler is included there, too.

On the starboad side is a refreshment centre with a trash container, covered sink and a covered Kenyon custom electric grill with lid. You can cook practically anything on the grill outside. Then, relax with a movie after dinner, using the drop-down flatscreen television that is cleverly concealed in the cabin roof.

Thoughtfully located stainless steel handholds have been installed throughout the cockpit for safety; the port side companion seat has an angled backrest for reclining. Regal included a handy dashboard locker and perhaps the best part about the one-level cockpit and bridge deck is that all the passengers get a clear view of the water while running.

Typically, the best seat in the house is the helm seat and Regal made sure that was the case on the 35 Sport Coupe! The double-wide seat slides forward and aft for comfort, has a flip-up bolster as well as an angled foot rest. In addition, they have added a folding teak platform to raise the driver, so he or she can see right over the windshield. The beautifully finished woodgrain steering wheel tilts to accommodate various driving positions. In inclement weather, or with the hardtop closed, the wooden platform flips out of the way and you can still stand with the roof closed.

The driving experience is another strength of Regal's 35 Sport Coupe. Our test boat was equipped with twin Volvo Penta 5.7 GiCE-300 stern drive engines with Duoprop stern drives. These now have the EVC electronic controls, so throttle, gears and steering is all drive by wire. That allows full joystick docking.

The joystick system effectively enables the boat to pivot, move sideways, forwards, or backwards as required when docking or manoeuvring. Putting the Regal into a slip is easy and only requires a few feet of clearance when docking.

On the water performance was impressive. The 5.7 Gi's plane the Regal off very quickly and although we had a light load, it would take a lot of slow this boat down! The tracking was effortless; we could let go of the wheel and the boat would run a straight line at almost any speed. (Admittedly, the water was very calm during our boat test, but it was still an impressive performance.)

More impressive was the fact that the engines could hold a 23- 24 MPH cruising speed which is both comfortable and economical. But the 35 Sport Coupe also hit a 45 MPH top speed at 4900 RPM also with impressive smoothness. The boat turns tight, handles with precision and most importantly, the driver has such wonderful sightlines in all directions that it will really inspire confidence in less experienced owners.

The deck design is interesting in that the bow appears to droop down in front, giving you a particularly clear view of the water.

If we have a complaint, it's the fact that the black Sunbrella canvas enclosing the stern blocks out the side quarter views. A little more window would be an improvement.

In this size range of boat, the electric sliding roof is an impressive feature. Not a sunny day? Our test boat was equipped with twin, reverse-cycle heating and air-conditioning systems for extended cruising comfort with A/C on the bridge and throughout the cockpit with big vents.

You might think Regal put all the big ideas into the cockpit and topsides, but no!

Below, in the cabin, Regal has done an impressive job with cherry and holly flooring that looks very elegant, glossy cabinetry and composite countertops. There was an Isotherm refrigerator in the galley and another one in the cockpit refreshment area.

The galley also includes a Contoure microwave and a two-burner Kenyon custom stove with a very clever cover. Cover in, you get more counter space. When you remove the cover, it slides into a slot at the side becoming a backsplash while at the same time activating a safety switch allowing the stove to go on. So, the burners can't heat with the cover on. Very clever. The galley area is a generous size for 35 and when you add the food prep accommodations in the refreshment area, you've got a great galley situation.

A bigger innovation is the electrically extendable main berth. Rather than angling it or trying to make it an island berth that still takes up a lot of space, the electric mechanism extends the berth about two feet and adds a convenient step, taking it from a truncated four-footer to a full-size queen for sleeping comfort. When it's retracted, the design maximizes salon seating space. There's also a deck hatch for ventilation.

This very creative berth facilitates an L-shaped settee that runs up the starboard side and across to the galley unit. The middle section also pulls out to create a second double-berth for families cruising with kids or guests; the third section of the settee has storage underneath including space for the removable dining table. You could easily have four comfortably seated for dinner without even adding a chair.

To add to the pleasure of this area, there is a 32-inch Samsung flatscreen television on the bulkhead visible from almost everywhere in the cabin.

Themid-cabin that likely be set up as a conversation area most of the time, but can quickly convert into another double berth (with another flatscreen TV). I suspect many cruising couples would use this as their sleeping cabin leaving the big salon area as seating.

The head on the port side is spacious and has a vacuum flush MSD, air-conditioning duct as well as an opening side porthole; the showerhead is actually built in such a way that you can pull the curtain to cover the rest of the cabinets making up an unusually good shower. There's a small sink and a vanity with the mirror positioned for makeup or shaving. There's storage in the medicine cabinet and under the vanity.

In the 35-foot class, you could justify choosing the Regal 35 Sport Coupe for the performance alone, but the numerous clever mechanisms and versatile accommodations help make this boat really stand out.

By Andy Adams

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!