Shakespeare boats have long been famous for their fast, efficient and controllable sports boat hulls. And yet it’s quite possible that most modern boaters are unfamiliar with the merits of these traditional British craft because, after the death of the founder in a world speed record attempt on Lake Windermere in 1977, the marque quickly disappeared from view.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the resurrected company gained the design assistance of Lorne Campbell and again began to do justice to the original Shakespeare name - and today, under the guardianship of John King of Arranmore Marine, we can now look forward to a fleet of the same deep-V racing hulls that have previously won Shakespeare boats such remarkable acclaim.
A cruiser with attitude
The new 700 SC (which we reported on at its first launch, see Shakespeare is Alive: New 700SC Powerboat) is designed to slot into the sports cruiser category but it has been conceived with an impressive degree of respect for the sporting imperative. It uses the same unmodified seven-metre hull as two other sports craft in the Shakespeare fleet and the implications of that are very positive. The aggressively angled bow shape with its sharp, deepset chines and its pronounced taper, promises a very soft and yielding ride. And the topsides are equally pared back, with a flat foredeck and a low-profile cross-section to the new cockpit mouldings that will render the additional windage you expect of a sports cruiser all but negligible.
In short, this rapier like, trimmed-back craft puts far more emphasis on the preservation of sporting integrity than most sports cruisers dare. And while the keen driver will enjoy that design boldness, the downside is the fact that internal space (particularly beneath that arrow-like foredeck) is somewhat limited. The cabin comes with room for two to sleep, plus a porta-potti and decent natural light, but it’s more a cuddy rather than a dedicated cabin, so as long as that suits your needs, you will be quite content with what you find.
In any case, while space may be tight, the features list is far from it. From the sliding canvas roof to the cushions, the cockpit table and the dash compass, everything you see here is supplied in the standard package. Only the teak-effect deck and the trim tabs are optional extras - and with a well-proven hull allied to those low-profile topsides, there should really be no need for the tabs at all.
In its element underway
The engine chosen for the new 700 SC is the equally new Mercury 150hp outboard. This three-litre four-stroke unit is designed to be ‘the toughest, smallest, and lightest 150hp four-stroke engine in the world’ - and its large cubic capacity leaves it relatively unstressed by the job of generating its 150 horses. With a full tank and two men aboard, some generous trim sees us enjoying a cruising speed of 25 knots at 4,000rpm with a fuel flow of just 25 litres per hour and a range from the 140-litre tank of 128 nautical miles.
That’s some very usable (and sustainable) midrange performance for a seven-metre cuddy - and when you bury the throttle, the sporting heritage of this hull is just as enjoyable. The SC hits the plane flat and fast in around four seconds, before a bit more pace and trim sees her running with a very elevated and efficient attitude and a very gentle ride. Powering through a turn, there is no sign of aeration or cavitation and, while there is a little more slip than you might expect of a boat with a racing background, this remains a very easy and reassuring boat to drive for the powerboating novice.
Protection from those cosseting topside mouldings is excellent at all speeds but some seat bolsters, some extra seat adjustability and a tinted lip above the dash to prevent glare from the data displays would be very useful additions. And so too would a reworking of the throttle housing. As things stand, the lever on this prototype model makes contact with the forward edge of its moulding, pegging us back to 38 knots at 5,500rpm. Happily, John is well aware of this and is working to iron out these teething difficulties. When that happens, you can expect the 700 SC to add 40-knot plus performance to its range of dynamic driving assets.
On the inside
The internal configuration on the prototype 700 SC offers design ingenuity and ease of use in equal measure. The two-tier deck is unstintingly equipped, with teak-effect finish and self-draining ports of immense capacity. And there are usefully positioned stainless steel grab handles everywhere you look, plus robust cleats and excellent storage capacity. The four-man dinette to starboard is easily rigged by reversing the backrest on the helm bench - but the table fitting is permanently rigged and that inevitably limits the versatility of the deck space, so the introduction of a removable table would be a very useful change.
Aside from that, the only real issue is the foredeck. It is impressively flat underfoot and well equipped for seamanship duties, but with no walkways on the outside of the helm and no gap in the centre of the screen, it’s very difficult to actually get to it. In fact, the only safe and sensible way of reaching the foredeck is to go down into the cabin and climb up through the roof hatch - so this is something that will need reworking in preparation for boat number two.
The new Shakespeare 700 is precisely what its heritage suggested it would be - not a wallowing cruiser but a traditional sports boat with a bed in the bow. Of course, this is boat number one and it still needs some tweaks (particularly with the rigging of the helm and the access to the foredeck), but once these issues are addressed, the long-awaited return of Shakespeare could prove very welcome indeed.
Basic price: from £42,000; Price as tested: £56,179. Contact: Arranmore Marine.