Wellcraft 26: Family Resemblance

Wellcraft's 26 Excalibur provides fast fun.

When fellow tech team member Eric Colby told me he'd regularly run a Wellcraft Scarab 26 at 94 mph during his APBA racing career, I got excited. Why? Because Wellcraft's 26 Excalibur, built around the same hull form, was the boat I was testing the next morning.

The Excalibur is no raceboat. Oh, it's fast: We topped out at 60.1 mph powered by MerCruiser's now-discontinued 415-hp 502 MAG MPI Bravo One stern drive ($14,320, since replaced by the 425-hp 496 MAG HO). Accelerating to this fast-by-normal-human-standards speed, the boat gets up on its aft delta pad. You feel confident and sure. Turning? The Excalibur is as quick and almost as adept at direction changes as a politician. No surprise. When a hull form performs well at speeds over 90 mph, you can be sure it's free of quirks at 60.

But then, that's the raison d'être of this Wellcraft. The Excalibur is a kinder, gentler performance boat. Where raceboats are basically floating fuel tanks, the Excalibur offers a wetbar package ($2,760) with shorepower, a battery charger, a 12-volt outlet, and a transom shower. There's also L-shaped cockpit seating with ski stowage below and cozy accommodations belowdecks. There's even a portable MSD option ($150). No, it's not an aqua-camper, but you could overnight in it. Wellcraft has bet that boaters are willing to pay for a runabout with the ride and handling of a go-fast, but the company realizes that most won't want to sacrifice comfort or issue helmets to the crew before a cruise. To compensate, the Excalibur is outfitted with an innovative boarding system that we'd like to see on every boat with an aft sunpad.

Walk up to the boat, grab the port side of the sunpad, and flip it up to reveal a nonslip walkway and boarding step that makes descending to the cockpit more sure-footed than walking across a cushioned pad. Just be sure to keep it flipped up before you check the oil. Flipped down, it causes the electric engine hatch's lifting ram to stutter and stall. Indeed, this fit needs to be tweaked. The cockpit seats eight. Drinkholders abound. The wetbar's top is fiddled and features a sturdy stainless-steel rail that didn't budge when I grabbed on and leaned back while underway. Bow access is good, thanks to the helm steps and a split windshield.

Belowdecks, the cabin's vinyl lining can be cleaned with a wipe. The shelving ringing the V-berth is a bit flimsy, but a few strategically placed L-brackets would firm it up. Shopping? Crownline's 266 ($63,214 powered as our test boat) competes directly.

LAST WORD. Good times and fast fun without the sound of a starting gun.

LOA..........26'4" ** **

Beam..........8'6" ** **

Draft..........3'2"

Displacement (lbs., approx.) ..........5,000 ** **

Transom deadrise..24° ** **

Bridge clearance..5'0" ****

Minimum cockpit depth....3'3"

Max. cabin headroom....4'7" ****

Fuel capacity (gal.)..97 ****

Water capacity (gal.)..15 ****

Price (w/standard power) ..........$51,180 ****

Price (w/test power).$65,500****

STANDARD POWER: Single 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG MPI Bravo One V-8 gasoline stern drive. ****

OPTIONAL POWER: Single MerCruiser or Volvo Penta gasoline stern drive to 425 hp.

TEST BOAT POWER: Single 415-hp MerCruiser 502 MAG MPI Bravo One gasoline V-8 stern drive with 502 cid, 4.47" bore x 4.00" stroke, swinging a 14 3/4" x 21" three-bladed ss prop through a 1.5:1 reduction.

STANDARD EQUPMENT (major items): Helm and companion bucket seats; ss pull-up cleats; power-opening engine hatch; recessed, 3-step retractable swim ladder; ski-tow-eye; coaming pads; snap-in cockpit carpet; convertible canvas top; compass; power steering; tilt wheel; aluminum prop; Clarion AM/FM/CD with 4 speakers and remote control