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The Second Coming: Draco 27 RS

The Second Coming: Draco 27 RS

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  • The 27 RS is no self-indulgent retro folly.
  • It doesn’t attempt to lure the buyer by pandering to the inherited blueprint of Draco’s fondly regarded past.
  • This is a very serious, well-built and sensibly equipped conveyance for seasoned grown-ups who favour efficient compliance over frantic zeal. 
  • … while a couple of minor issues persist, the latest 27 RS is a tangible step up over the original test boat.

The Second Coming: Draco 27 RS

Alex Smith examines the long-awaited renaissance of the famous Scandinavian boat brand, Draco.

 

For a decade or so during the 1970s and 80s, the Norwegian Draco yard was one of the largest manufacturers of small open sports boats and hardtop runabouts in the whole of Europe. However, as we all know, the marine market is a volatile one and that golden age was not to last. After some turbulent times (not least the untimely death of the company’s founder), production of the brand came to an end in 2002. But now, 12 years on since the last Draco rolled off the production line, Windy (owners of the brand) have finally resurrected the name with a sporting dayboat known as the Draco 27 RS – and right from the start, the signs look good …

 

With design from celebrated British naval architects Dubois, and construction at the same Polish factory as Windy’s own highly regarded product line, the 27 RS already appears to have struck a chord with the world’s press. It was quickly nominated for special recognition, not just in the 2015 European Powerboat of the Year awards in Dusseldorf, but also for the Motor Boat of the Year Awards in London and the Nautic Design Awards in Paris. Of course, it would be folly to give unqualified credence to judging panels like this – not least because the all-inclusive liberalism of our age tends to grant a vote to pundits from nations entirely devoid of either coastline or nautical heritage. But for Draco’s long-awaited renaissance, to garner such widespread acclaim suggests that it might just be something a little bit special.


Deck space and extras

There are two initial impressions here. Firstly, from its lustrous black topsides to its exquisitely finished teak deck, heavy matt fabrics and thick, twin-rimmed wrap-around screen, the 27 RS immediately feels quite high-end. And secondly, although it employs a bowrider-style configuration, there is a peculiar sense of simplicity about the style and layout …

 

The cockpit, for instance, is very sparse, particularly in the aft section where open deck seems to take priority over furniture. In fact, aside from the two helm seats, the only cockpit furniture consists of a central four-man pod built from two small back-to-back benches. There is no full-beam transom bench as you might expect – just a wide-open space with a pair of lateral gates flanking the outboard and offering access to the swim platforms. Certainly, the use of lofty bulwarks lends a useful sense of security, but with just four forward-facing seats aft of the screen, the family versatility of the 27 RS is forced to rely quite heavily on the bow space – and happily, it does a very fine job.

 

As you move forward, through the robust partition between the screens, it is plain that a significant portion of the boat’s length has been set aside for a proper bow space. More to the point, while the traditional shallowness of accommodation and bluntness of ride often make people reluctant to spend much time up front, in this case the combination of generous length, deep-set seating and a steep, soft, acutely angled forefoot means that this section of the boat is as relaxing underway as it is at rest.

 

There are some neat tricks up here too. In addition to a full-length infill that can turn the entire section into an unbroken sunpad, there’s also a hidden step beneath the bow ladder to aid disembarkation. However, the really outstanding feature is the optional Camper Canvas. With this ‘bow tent’ erected, you get a generous overnighting cabin with full standing headroom plus a full-height door in the gap between the consoles. In essence, it turns this open dayboat into a cuddy – but without any of the flaws endemic to the type. That means no extra weight up top to spoil your handling and waste your fuel, no extra windage, no cramped headroom for occupants, no unduly inflated purchase price and no reduction in external deck space. Of course, the heads compartment (by contrast) is so compact that a six-footer has to crane his neck at a right angle in order to perch on the loo and close the door – but on a deck-intensive open boat like this, any heads compartment is a welcome bonus.

 

As for the rest of the options, well, the standard package is as pared back as the layout, so to maximise the Draco’s versatility I would look at the ski pole, cool box and stereo, plus the Comfort Package with chemical toilet, water tank and sink. I would also invest in a cockpit fridge for al fresco lunches, plus a teak deck to preserve that high-end feel, and a beaching strip on that finely angled stem so I could use it to nudge into beaches, banks and estuary shores. Certainly, that would elevate the base 300hp package price significantly, but that’s not in itself a criticism of an accidentally ungenerous boat. On the contrary, this is a deliberately pared-back platform that enables you to select the options you need and avoid wasting money on those you don’t.


Issues and upgrades

I find the lid on the central seating unit quite cumbersome. Certainly, it transforms from back-to-back seat to sunbed within a couple of seconds, but it makes accessing the contents of the space quite awkward. Similarly, the closed mouldings of the bow seat bases mean their storage potential is not properly exploited; and because the seat in the forwardmost V of the bow is immovable, there is only limited access to the hatch above the bow thruster. However, since testing this first boat, Draco have made several positive changes – not least by replacing the metal grates over the deck drains with much more attractive teak latticework panels, replacing the cheap plastic cockpit table with an arresting hinged teak unit, and elevating that low screen by 80mm, courtesy of a raised lip in the top of the console moulding. In short, while a couple of minor issues persist, the latest 27 RS is a tangible step up over the original test boat.


Mature family platform

In typical Scandinavian fashion, Draco’s quoted performance figures err on the side of modesty. The literature describes a top end of between 42 and 44 knots, but on our test day, with a steady breeze, a gentle chop, half a tank and a couple of men on board, we routinely see 44.2 knots at 5500rpm from the top-rated Yamaha F300 outboard. Of course, at this pace, a fuel flow of more than 100 litres per hour means our usable range is pegged back to less than 90 nautical miles, but if you ease off and enjoy the striking serenity of a mid-range cruise, things get much more leisure-friendly. While that 230-litre fuel tank is by no means overgenerous, a sweet spot of 23 knots at 3000rpm doubles our range to more than 180 nautical miles – and that is entirely acceptable for an open dayboat like this.

 

In terms of handling, the ride, grip, response and composure of the 27 RS are every bit as deft as the heritage of parent company Windy might lead you to expect. There’s no grabbing at water shapes from that steep angular stem, even in a following sea – and while a stiff beam wind sees this lofty, high-running craft heel substantially into the breeze, the trim tabs (which are included in the UK standard package) do a very quick and fuss-free job of correcting that. Of course, it’s not an especially visceral helming experience by any means, but then this boat is not the lightweight, fluorescent, candy-cane bowrider of the budget-boating brigade. This is a very serious, well-built and sensibly equipped conveyance for seasoned grown-ups who favour efficient compliance over frantic zeal. Even with the top-rated Yamaha F300, there’s nothing twitchy, overpowered or unbalanced here – so given that the top-rated engine costs just £3,600 more than the F225 (and shares the same 4.2-litre V6 block), I would spec nothing less.


Verdict

The 27 RS is no self-indulgent retro folly. It doesn’t attempt to lure the buyer by pandering to the inherited blueprint of Draco’s fondly regarded past. True, it feels quite classical in form, but this very capable, mature and exclusively priced open family dayboat is also strikingly clean, modern and uncomplicated. With its style, versatility of application and upgraded finish, it feels like the premium craft Windy wanted it to be. I still consider it superior rather than special, persuasive rather than peerless – but as the recipient of the 2015 European Powerboat of the Year award, it seems that Europe is all set to throw caution to the wind and rekindle its dormant love affair with Draco.


For

  • Distinctive style
  • Big bow space
  • Easy, compliant helming experience
  • Great Camping Canvas option
  • Impressive build and finish

Against

  • Lots of competition at this price
  • Tight heads compartment
  • Awkward main storage box
  • Restricted access to bow thruster

Performance

RPM                           Speed (kn)                Fuel flow (l/h)            Range (nm)

600                             4.5                              2.4                              388.1

1000                           6.3                              4.5                              289.8

1500                           7.6                              8.2                              191.9

2000                           9.8                              13.3                            152.5

2500                           15.5                            18.9                            169.8

3000                           22.5                            25.7                            181.2

3500                           27.9                            35.5                            162.7

4000                           31.2                            46.7                            138.3

4500                           35.7                            60.0                            123.2

5000                           41.0                            84.4                            100.6

5500                           44.2                            102.0                          89.7


Notable standard features

  • Trim tabs
  • Cockpit table
  • Bow step
  • Transom gates
  • Boarding ladders
  • Tonneau cover

Notable options

  • Teak deck
  • Electric windlass
  • Camper Canvas
  • Comfort Pack (water tank, chemical heads, sink)
  • Bluetooth stereo
  • Bow thruster
  • Cockpit fridge
  • Cockpit courtesy lights
  • Isotherm cool box
  • Ski pole

Specifications & Price

  • LOA: 8.31m
  • Beam: 2.49m
  • Weight: 1850kg
  • Power: 225–300 hp
  • Engine: Yamaha F300
  • Fuel capacity: 230 litres
  • Water capacity: 42 litres
  • Designer: Hans Johnsen/Dubois
  • Price with F300: From £88,800
  • Price as tested: £109,618

Contact

www.berthon.co.uk

www.dracoboats.com

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