A feast of large flybridge cruisers and trawler yachts is a fine and wonderful thing, especially when compared to a diet of stodgy broads cruisers or fishing dories, but there comes a time when the palate needs something else.
A feast of large flybridge cruisers and trawler yachts is a fine and wonderful thing, especially when compared to a diet of stodgy broads cruisers or fishing dories, but there comes a time when the palate needs something else. Something light and frivolous. Something to get the juices flowing and the taste buds dancing. Something small and fast and absolutely gorgeous.
It’s the same with clothes. Personally, I’m a Levis and T-shirt kind of chap, but from time to time a bit of designer chic is appealing. Ozbek, Armani or Joseph is only as good as it is if you slum it most of the time in Fruit of the Loom and 501s. And so it is with boats. Fairline, Sunseeker et al make some very fine craft, but not everyone wants (or can afford) a boat the size and price of a large house.
But if you want something for the weekend, and you don’t want an identikit American sportsboat, your options are limited to a handful of Italian boats, RIBs, or a few European and British ‘oddities’. Or there’s the Shakespeare 830. On the whole, I like Shakespeares: the combination of British build quality and Italian styling (by the Victory Design team) is very seductive. They’re not cheap, but they are gorgeous and I’ve only ever tested one that I didn’t like very much (the 600, in case you’re interested). But it’s Shakespeare’s 27ft (8.2m) sports cuddy – the 830 – that appears to combine sportsboating capabilities with comfortable accommodation. It comes in at the top end of the sports cuddy size Range yet combines all the comforts of a bigger boat in a manageable package. Sweet.
Design and layout
Italian styling and design houses are well-known for producing gorgeous-looking toys: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Ducatis. If I hadn’t already done so for something far less fun, I’d sell my grandmother for a 355, a Diablo or a 916SPS. That’s because I’m a sucker for auto-erotica. (Auto-erotica is all about producing a machine so gorgeous that you don’t know whether to drive it or lick it.) The Shakespeare 830 falls into this category. When my numbers come up on the lottery, when Mystic Meg peers into her crystal ball, points at me and says: “I see the number 23, I see a journalist, I see a tall dark handsome man with the mind of Stephen Hawking and the body of the Diet Coke man, I see…,” then I shall probably buy an 830.
Like an Armani suit, the Shakespeare has exquisite Italian styling and good build quality. And it’s not like anything else around: the lines of the boat are sleek and swoopy – it resembles a small version of a Pershing or one of the new Manhattans. The cockpit layout is also slightly unusual. Below decks the layout is standard, even if the quality is wonderful.
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Your first impression on stepping aboard is of the quality: the 830, being a Shakespeare, looks well-built and expensive. The cockpit isn’t particularly spacious for a boat of this size, but that is due to the big cuddy and a damn great sunlounger over an impressively large engine bay.
The seating arRangement comprises a double helm seat forward, and a bench seat aft with seating for four. The forward passenger seat on the port side has been sacrificed to improve access to the cuddy, which is an unusual but rather effective arRangement. You only get cockpit seating for six, but who wants more than half-a-dozen hangers-on cluttering up your boat anyway? Not me, guv.
Access to the swim platform is over the sunpad, and once you’re there you’ll find a transom shower, a wet-locker, a ski tow-hook, a grab handle and a fold-down boarding ladder – all the requisite things for a bit of watersport fun. Further forward, behind the helm on the starboard side, is a fold-out table for the al fresco Pot Noodle experience. The backrest of the double helm seat folds forward to give seating for four around the cockpit table – a neat solution to the problem of not having a great deal of cockpit space.
The helm itself features a comprehensive and stylish dashboard with instrumentation for everything – two rev counters, oil pressure, engine temperature, voltage, Trim, fuel and water gauges, and so on. The switches to the right of the steering wheel activate everything else – cockpit lights, nav lights, bilge pump, winch, blower, and so on, while the switches to the left of the steering wheel operate the Trim tabs. There is also an Autohelm TriData giving depth, Speed and log.
But the really different thing about the helm is that the throttles for the Merc 4.3 petrols are to the left of the steering wheel in the middle of the dash. For me, this is perfect – I much prefer to steer right-handed and throttle with the left hand. It takes a while to get used to it, but it works very well.
The Shakespeare features a decent amount of stowage in coaming lockers, and beneath the helm seats and the aft bench seat. There are plenty of grab handles and drinks holders scattered around the boat.
Galley and heads
Access below decks is through the smoked perspex door on the port side, and the top-notch build quality and neat design continues. The galley, on the port side opposite the heads, features a stainless-steel sink with mixer taps and a twin gas hob under a cover, storage over and behind, and a 46lt fridge. It’s not the most comprehensive galley I’ve ever come across, but it’s adequate for basic on-board catering – making a brew and keeping your beers cool.
The heads is pretty much standard spec for a boat of this type. There is a shower/basin with mixer taps, mirror, pump-out toilet and a decent amount of stowage. Although not particularly large, the heads has room enough to ablute in reasonable comfort. In the case of the galley and heads, you have to remember that this is only a 27-footer.
Being a 27-footer with a single cabin, the 830 is fairly spacious and comfortable below decks. The vee-berth gives seating for four around the adjustable table and overnight accommodation for two. Upholstered in supple grey leather the feeling is one of understated elegance and luxury – more akin to an executive saloon car than Liberace’s boudoir. The deck hatch gives a reasonable amount of natural light and a feeling of spaciousness, aided by plenty of artificial light. There’s even a hanging locker for your Versace cocktail frocks.
The foredeck features an anchor locker (but a bow-roller is an essential optional extra that will set you back £1,900 for the winch, anchor and chain), a single round deck hatch, and stainless-steel bow rails. One of the two 830s we tried had additional bow rails, which improve the look of the foredeck but add an extra £500 to the inc VAT price.
The side decks are just wide enough to walk around (the windscreen doesn’t open to give access to the foredeck), but you don’t get much to hold on to, so it can be a rather intimidating job getting forward. The screen itself is a vestigial affair, but it still offers good weather and wind protection to all on board. This is due, in part, to the fact that the side windows extend a long way aft and you sit quite low in the boat. Stainless-steel pop-up cleats can be found at the bow, amidships, and at the stern.
There’s very little point in having one of the loveliest-looking sports cuddies in the world if it accelerates like a tortoise with a wooden leg and handles like a pig in knickers. Happily the 830 is fleet of proverbial foot and handles tolerably well. Bearing in mind that the 830 weighs 7,700lb, it needs a fair amount of power to get it performing as well as it looks. You can get the 830 specced with a pair of Yamaha diesels putting out 300hp or a pair of Mercruiser diesels putting out 340hp, but this boat isn’t about economical cruising. It would be like sticking a diesel engine in an Aston Martin – possible, but silly.
So petrols it is, and this model comes with the base-level ones, a pair of Mercruiser 4.3LEFI V6s. They give a total output of 420hp, but if you’re up for it then you can get twin 5.7s or even twin 350 Magnums, which up the power output to 600hp (oh lordy!).
From a standing start, the 830 accelerates pretty briskly, taking around four seconds to get up onto the plane. Once up and running flat out, the 830 feels long-legged and comfortable to drive, topping out at a fraction over 50mph. Trimming the 830 is a breeze, with good response from the controls, and the Trim tabs are barely necessary in everyday use.
Slow-Speed manoeuvring and medium-Speed turns are handled with the sort of élan we’ve come to expect from Shakespeare. But there’s something about the hull design that makes high-Speed tight turns… erm… exciting. Putting the 830 into flat-out turns produces a lot of roll, and you do wonder whether you’re going to turn the whole thing over. I didn’t, but it felt a bit scary to start with.
The conditions for the test were fairly calm, but when crossing and re-crossing other boat wakes the 830 rides oh-so softly and smoothly, and I’ve no doubt about the sea-keeping capabilities in rough conditions. I was very impressed with the way it landed off big wakes. The punishment it received during the photo shoot would have reduced many lesser boats to driftwood.
All in all, the Shakespeare 830 is an accomplished sports cuddy with the emphasis on sports. Considering you won’t see much change from £55,000 you would expect it to be, but I was still very impressed by it. The build quality is excellent and the overall design is impressive. The 830 oozes quality from every pore, and below decks it’s an excellent overnighter or weekender with a serious amount of style. My only criticism is the high-Speed cornering, but that’s not a serious problem: most people would never put their own boat through the kind of punishment we dish out to test boats. MBY
Overall length 27ft 0in (8.23m)
Hull length 26ft 0in (7.93m)
Beam 8ft 6in (2.59m)
Weight 7,718lb (3,500kg)
Draught 4ft 1in (1.25m)
Air draught 4ft 0in (1.22m)
Fuel capacity 70gal (318lt)
Engines 2 * 210hp Mercruiser 4.3 LEFI
Top Speed 45 knots
Price from £53,872inc VAT
Price as tested £55,108 inc VAT
JayKay Marine Sales,
The Gatehouse, Universal Marina,
Sarisbury Green, Southampton,
Hants SO31 7NZ.
Tel: 01489 584400.
Fax: 01489 583300.