Regency 250 LE3 review: Is this the most versatile runabout you can buy?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a boat? Is it a joke? No, the Regency 250 LE3 is actually one of the most versatile runabouts you can buy

How would you feel if you were offered a fun, stable and spacious 14-man day boat for £100,000? Chances are you would feel suspicious.

After all, it’s not uncommon to see optional extras that cost more than that. But here, making its UK debut with all the grace and modesty of, well, a graceless immodest thing, is a boat that stands a very good chance of reconfiguring your perspective. The Regency 250 LE3 Sport is – drumroll please – a pontoon boat!

Now just in case you don’t know, a pontoon boat is basically a big, taper-free rectangular deck perched on top of a pair (or in this case, a trio) of aluminium cylinders and propelled most commonly by an outboard engine.

As our American readers will know, these are big business stateside as family lake boats because of all the seating they provide, as well as for their stability, comfort, ease of use and affordability.

It can be a pretty wet boat but it’s also tremendous fun, even in choppy coastal waters. Photo: Alex Smith

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As you would expect though, their rampant popularity has spawned a bespoke vocab that it pays to understand. The hulls for instance are called “logs”. The peripheral guardrail that wraps around the deck is called the “fence” and all the day boating space contained within that fence is known as the “playpen”.

Strictly speaking, the triple logs of the Regency make it a “tritoon” rather than a pontoon, but either way, the finely tapered nose cones with integrated fins
do a good job of (slightly) softening the ride in the chop while kicking the worst of the spray away from the deck.

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What you really need to understand about this boat though is the sheer generosity and usability of the playpen. It’s entirely single level, with a narrow fence rather than conventional bulwarks. That means the entire beam is made available for internal space and that space is broadly split into three simple sections…

Three-tier layout

The forward section, ahead of the helm, features long limousine-style inward facing benches, enabling up to ten people to sit on either side of a fore-and-aft table. Beyond that, a bow gate opens onto a small transverse platform and that’s far more practical than you might imagine. You can use it as a dive platform, as a seamanship zone or as a boarding point for running up a beach or berthing bow-to.

It’s the perfect boat for shallow water exploration and beach parties. Photo: Alex Smith

In the central section, accessed just as neatly via a port side gate, the skipper and co-pilot get a vast armchair each – and in spite of the Regency’s price point, they are among the most blissfully comfortable seats we’ve ever sat in.

Quite aside from their sheer scale, these deeply cushioned chairs come with a pair of thickset armrests, plus vertical and horizontal adjustability and fully reclining backrests that enable you to sack off the party and have a doze!

They also rotate, so you can face aft, across another table, to the forward-facing three-man bench, creating a five-man diner beneath the shelter of the bimini. And happily, some generous under-deck storage inside the central log means the rest of the under-seat spaces are freed up for smaller quick-grab gear.

The third and final zone encompasses the aft end. As the sunbathing and watersports zone, it features a sunbed that makes good use of the reversible backrest on the aft bench to provide sufficient space for three or four people.

A massive limo-style bow will happily seat up to ten people. Photo: Alex Smith

It’s orbited by the upper section of the fence and that makes it particularly brilliant for facing aft and steadying your feet securely against the rail. The engine, meanwhile, is positioned a decent way aft and relatively low compared to the deck, which means views all round are superb.

It also means there’s room for a full-beam swim platform, which is accessed via another gate on the starboard side. There are more big LED-lit cup holders back here, plus charging points and a stereo remote. And if you want to take advantage of the ski pole fitting, there’s a raw water shower and a compact canvas changing room that springs up from beneath the sunbed.

This is, in short, a brilliantly arranged day space, and while you might still raise your eyebrows knowingly, as you ponder the nature of the driving experience, that
too is in many ways a major strength on this boat.

As we make our way out, the keel-style interaction of the three logs with the water makes the Regency superbly secure in terms of its tracking. A sturdy beam wind might of course cause a few difficulties when trying to berth with a single outboard, but the wake (or the absence thereof) is also a major bonus at displacement speeds.

The back end features a secure sunbed with brilliant aft-facing views plus a full-beam swim platform. Photo: Alex Smith

You can move around the boat without any perceptible change in trim, and the moment we get up to speed, it’s clear that there’s tremendous fun to be had here. It accelerates hard, flies along at up to 36.5 knots and carves with delicious enthusiasm in a turn.

What’s more surprising, though, is how it handles a bit of a sea. As a 2-3ft chop is stoked up by the winds, we do have to trim out the engine to lift that bow clear because if you don’t, you can find the odd wave bursting through your bow door and running rudely aft across your single-level deck before exiting via the open transom.

But it’s by no means a problem, particularly if you intend to use this boat as a summer plaything on moderate waters. And what’s particularly surprising is that, once you get the hang of it, this is actually a great little boat for seas like this. There’s so much buoyancy on offer, so much grip and quick-witted helming dexterity that we would have no reservations about heading out for coastal passages with the family.

The central zone is all about comfort under canvas. Photo: Alex Smith

It’s all about you

Fun though it is to drive, what really makes the difference here is the sheer breadth of application. While standard protocol would tend to see you spec the Regency with anything from 200-350hp, those in pursuit of relaxed inland recreation could easily spec this boat with a paltry 60hp outboard instead.

That would enable you to cruise along all day on a few litres of fuel while still achieving a 12-knot top end. But with its multiple hulls, forward gate and bow platform, this is also a brilliantly easy boat to beach.

It’s a compact helm with no screen so you’ll need to enjoy a briny breeze. Photo: Alex Smith

It sits rock solid as you step off at the bow and it takes very little encouragement to slide off into deeper water if the tide begins to ebb.

Its low weight (1,540kg dry) and shallow draft (just 40cm) also make it the perfect companion for nosing into tidal creeks and exploring Britain’s meandering estuaries. And if (in spite of our excellent advice) you don’t quite trust its credentials as a sea boat, its combination of a modest beam and user-friendly air draft means you can simply trailer it to new cruising grounds instead.

All of which means that the key question here is less about the boat and more about yourself.

Now certainly, you could argue that RBS Marine has been quite brave introducing the Regency into a conservative RIB-loving market like the UK.

But if you approach the buying process with an open mind and a realistic understanding of how you are most likely to use your boat, it seems to us that the Regency 250 LE3 Sport will quickly overhaul pretty much everything else on your shortlist.

If access to the playpen is impressive, the helm seats are truly decadent. Photo: Alex Smith

True, it can be quite a tough boat to look at from some angles, so you might need a bit of moral fibre to cope with the attention. And if you head out into exposed chop, you’re likely to get a bit wet.

But as a supremely sociable 14-man day boat that’s fun to drive, simple to use and easy to own, this brilliant little tritoon party platform is about as rewarding as it’s possible for a £100,000 boat to be.

Regency 250 LE3 specifications

LOA: 27ft 5in (8.36m)
BEAM: 8ft 6in (2.59m)
DRAFT: 1ft 4in (0.40m)
FUEL CAPACITY: 197 litres
ENGINE: Mercury Verado 4.6L V8 300hp outboard
RCD: B14


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