- This is a remarkably quiet, refined and comfortable boat.
- … with its laudable commitment to function and its resistance to the crowd-pleasing norm, the 700 RAID is as effective as it is distinctive.
- … it is without doubt one of the most complete and capable multipurpose 22ft family leisure boats money can buy.
- The heel in the turn is also extremely game and the traction is excellent, even with generous trim.
- You can push astonishingly hard and there is not the slightest hint of an issue, either with the grip or with the driver-friendly manners.
Bella 700 RAID
Alex Smith investigates a very different pilot house proposition from Bella.
Even as I look over a fleet of 30 vessels moored up at the pontoons of the Finnboat exhibition, Bella’s 700 RAID stands well clear of its peers – and that’s saying something. After all, this is a gathering of the finest new Finnish-built powerboats on the market, and Finland is a place deservedly renowned for its marine ingenuity. In all honesty, I hadn’t even made the lengthy trip to this remote patch of the Finnish Lake District with the RAID in mind, but such is its dockside impact that it seems absurd not to give it a go.
This striking family cruiser features a low-profile, heavily tinted offset pilot house, a stubby bow, a big cockpit with secondary steering position and a wide open transom with twin lateral walkways that essentially operate as your swim platforms. It has matt-black grab rails, bright-orange highlights, twin sunroofs and what appears to be a roof rack. To say it looks different is a serious understatement, so, having fought off 40 or 50 equally curious European journalists and bought the gregarious Norwegian designer Espen Thorup a beer, I abandon my prepared test schedule and push my way on board to investigate.
With the pilot house substantially offset to port and the helm positioned well forward, the first thing that strikes you about this 22ft boat is the extraordinary space and ease of movement. In the beamy aft cockpit, things are kept open and free, courtesy of a foldaway bench to port and a pair of wide transom walkways, one on either side of a central two-man folding bench.
The elevated transom mouldings that frame the engine well here are particularly clever. Not only do they create a useful barrier to noise and fumes, but they provide the additional bonus of a work surface perched just aft of the seat back, virtually above the engine, in what would normally be redundant space. It’s hinged too, so you can trim the engine right out without having to worry about obstructions or derigging any deck furniture.
Elsewhere in the cockpit, there are a couple of clever hatches built into the corner mouldings to stow your lines out of sight, but within easy reach. There’s also huge storage capacity beneath the cockpit sole, but, while the test boat uses a long fender station on the starboard side, that seems a bit wasteful to me. If I were looking to buy this boat, I would be inclined to lob the fenders inelegantly beneath the foredeck and spec a third folding bench for the port side of the cockpit – taking the cockpit seating alone to six (or even eight) without any infringement on the deck space.
Further forward, the pilot house itself is arranged around a sunken central walkway, which runs fore and aft, with two symmetrical forward-facing swivel seats on either side, plus some neatly concealed galley equipment to starboard. The seats are very good indeed – the robust stainless steel grabbing points are positioned in exactly the right places, and visibility, even in those aft positions, is impressive. However, the bed is quite a modest-looking cushioned section ahead of the helm in the space beneath the dash and foredeck. There’s no bulkhead to partition it off, and in the absence of portholes or deck hatches, it’s not blessed with much natural light or indeed with a view. Even so, with the infills in place, it provides a surprisingly spacious 2m sleeping platform that extends out into the footwells – and on a 22ft sports boat, with an expansive cockpit and a four-man pilot house, it’s difficult to see these compromises as anything but sensibly judged.
Elsewhere, the story is less about design concessions and more about design intelligence. The roof rack is a prime example. It is great as a robust handhold and even better for the stowage of compact kayaks, tenders and toys, without cluttering up the deck. The use of two individual side-by-side sunroofs is also a clever touch, as it allows the skipper to peer over the screen without the co-pilot having to sacrifice his own shelter. The skipper’s door is an additional bonus on a boat like this, giving you direct access to the wide starboard walkway with its various tying-off points. And despite its charmingly stumpy proportions, even the bow exhibits a lot of thought …
For instance, in order to generate the room required to head back down the narrower port walkway, the port rail at the foredeck is shorter than that on the starboard side. The Scandinavian step-through bow is also present and correct, and with a deep footwell, an elevated guard rail and a pair of pint-shaped cut-outs carved into the cushions, this forward section is in fact a very entertaining spot for a couple of people to share a drink in relative isolation.
Of course, all this clever thinking is for nothing if the RAID moves like a mule, but it becomes quickly apparent that this new Bella is an extraordinarily capable driver’s boat. For a start, the helm position is a delight. The seat is supportive in all the right places, the wheel and throttle fall naturally to hand without having to search, and its forward position, within a few feet of the forepeak, puts you right on top of the action, with a great view of the sea state ahead.
In fact, visibility all round is very good, courtesy of upright windows, narrow supporting stanchions and a moulded ‘brow’ overhanging the screen’s edge to deflect some of the glare. The twin overhead sunroofs also play a useful part, enabling you to see the traffic on the inside of a turn despite the exaggerated heel and the substantial mouldings of the hardtop structure. But it’s the sheer correctness of the dynamic performance that makes this Bella experience hang together so well …
From a standstill, you find yourself skimming across the surface within two seconds and pushing happily on toward the top end with great composure and stability, allied to a much softer ride than you might expect from a wide-beamed outboard-powered leisure boat. The heel in the turn is also extremely game and the traction is excellent, even with generous trim. You can push astonishingly hard and there is not the slightest hint of an issue, either with the grip or with the driver-friendly manners.
The efficiency looks decent too. A 150hp outboard will achieve nearly 34 knots with a fuel flow of 54.5 litres per hour and a range of around 124 nautical miles – and if you ease that back to 20 or 21 knots, the range expands to a very handy 180 nautical miles. But on the test boat, with the top-rated 200hp Verado Pro on the transom, we’re touching 40 knots, with a cruising range of around 150 nautical miles at between 20 and 25 knots. This all suggests that, for most purposes, the standard 224-litre fuel tank is perfectly adequate, but if you want to embark on some more serious or remote cruises, it’s good to know that its capacity can easily be increased.
This is a remarkably quiet, refined and comfortable boat. Of course, some might argue that it’s not as pretty as Bella’s more conventional 700 Patrol, and some might also argue that the pilot house lacks that nth degree of ability as a communal gathering spot and overnighting space, but with its laudable commitment to function and its resistance to the crowd-pleasing norm, the 700 RAID is as effective as it is distinctive. It might not have been on my to-do list when I first made my trek to the wilds of Finland, but it is without doubt one of the most complete and capable multipurpose 22ft family leisure boats money can buy.
- Stable at rest
- Quick to plane
- Distinctive design
- Textbook handling
- Refined and quiet ride
- Versatile primary helm
- Sleeping space lacks privacy
- ‘RAID’ is a very silly name
RPM Speed Fuel flow Range
600 2.6 1.9 275.9
1000 4.6 4.0 231.8
1500 6.3 6.4 198.5
2000 7.3 10.4 141.5
2500 9.9 15.8 126.3
3000 15.2 22.5 136.2
3500 21.1 28.0 151.9
4000 24.9 34.2 146.8
4500 29.8 42.2 142.4
5000 34.4 55.0 126.1
5500 37.7 67.6 112.4
5800 39.8 77.1 104.1
- LOA: 6.65m
- Beam: 2.6m
Weight: From 1550kg
- Fuel capacity: 224 litres
- People capacity: 8
- Berths: 2
- Power: 115–200 hp
- Engine: Mercury 200 Verado Pro
- 150hp package: From £59,065
- 200hp package: From £64,000
Intelligent offset pilot house design, with big versatility and a superb driving experience.