- … with its excellent helming, its unerring balance, its crisp responses and its uncommonly dry ride, this boat has the power to put a very broad smile on your face.
- … it’s so nimble and light-footed in its application of your commands at the helm that it’s very easy … to pick a smooth path through an aggressive sea.
- … the Aries is well on a par with most boats of a similar price and bracket – but it could certainly be improved upon with a few extra man-hours.
Clear Aries Cabin
Alex Smith examines the new 20ft Aries Cabin from Clear Powerboats of Italy.
When you first lay eyes on the Aries Cabin from Italian brand Clear Powerboats, it feels distinctly satisfying. Its long, arcing curves, in tandem with a thick, tapering band of granite grey beneath the rubbing strake, look like freehand brushstrokes from an artist’s sketch pad. Swept stainless steel rails exaggerate the lift of the gunwales around the midsection and add finesse to their subtle dip aft. And there’s a similarly curved sweep both to the hull contours and the helm console, with its low-profile steel-lined screen.
It’s a great-looking boat, which, despite an overall length of little more than 20 feet, manages to convey a sense of muscular sporting potential without overstepping the mark with absurd bonnet bulges and faux air intakes. In fact, in the automotive world, it’s exactly this fusion of implicit power and stylistic grace that makes Italian design so special, so it’s superb to see the designer, Federico Fiorentino of Naumaco in Milan, treat a boat of such modest scale, power and price with such unstinting care.
Al fresco compromises
It might only be a compact category C family sports cuddy, but the Aries Cabin is apparently designed to offer a ‘style and quality of finish evocative of the superyacht industry’. When you step on board, you therefore expect those lovely external lines to translate into internals that are a cut above the norm – and in a very modest way, they are. The extended bow section is utterly flat and covered in its entirety with attractively upholstered lounging cushions. Aside from a step at the top of the walkway (which operates as a useful boarding point), plus a hatch for the cabin and a broad locker at the flared, step-through bow, the entire foredeck is in fact a sunbather’s playground.
By contrast, the cockpit encompasses less than a third of the boat’s length, so space is very much at a premium. To make the most of it, the designer has used a helm console offset to starboard, which frees up the port walkway for movement between cockpit and bow and protects the right-hand, top-mount throttle from the accidental knocks of passers-by. Behind the console is a single leaning post for the skipper, but the cabin access is kept free (and the teak-lined deck kept open) by eschewing the traditional co-pilot seat. Instead, the only other cockpit seating comprises an aft bench with textured corner embarkation steps, infill cushions at both ends and a transom walkway to starboard.
Beneath the bow
The access door to lead you down below is equipped with a well-placed grab handle to port, but even without a co-pilot seat, it’s still quite tight, particularly in terms of its vertical height. I found the best method was to bend over and back in, rear end first – and it’s worth the trip because once you’re down there, the cabin is actually quite striking. The flat foredeck inevitably restricts the headroom, but there’s a long bed in the V of the bow, a compact galley section to port, and space for an optional heads and sink to starboard. I’d like to see a privacy curtain to divide the heads from the rest of the space, but either way it’s an impressive array of features on a boat with such a compact footprint.
There’s plenty of storage down here too, not just in the three sections under lift-out boards beneath the bed, but also in lidded cubbyholes both to port and starboard. And while the absence of hull windows does limit the light ingress, the white bulkheads, pale woods and carefully chosen cushion fabrics do a great deal to make best use of the light entering through the large deck hatch overhead. Even so, Clear’s talk of ‘superyacht sector’ quality is undoubtedly a bit of a stretch. Yes, it’s a very classy-looking boat with a traditional solid-teak deck, some lustrous steel fittings and a well-chosen palette of fabrics, but it doesn’t take much investigation to discover the point at which the external gloss gives way to elements of internal make-do – like damp lockers with sharp sections of fibreglass and exposed screw tips, and like the forward-most of the three under-bed storage spaces, which lacks a proper lining. There’s nothing critically amiss here, of course. On the contrary, the Aries is well on a par with most boats of a similar price and bracket – but it could certainly be improved upon with a few extra man-hours.
Standard equipment on the Aries Cabin includes the stainless steel foldaway ladder, the cockpit shower, the bench seat with external cushions, the pilot’s leaning post and the two-berth cabin with interior light and overhead hatch. The Deluxe version includes teak flooring, a compass, a sink, a 42-litre fridge, and a bathroom with marine toilet and 50-litre waste tank. And the pick of the additional accessories includes a GPS system, a stereo, underwater lighting, a set of boat covers, a cockpit awning, an electric winch and a VHF unit. As you might expect, the test boat is quite heavily specced up – and not just with the extra poke of the 150hp outboard, but with the full Deluxe package, including courtesy lights and durmast furnishings. That takes it to a shade under £35,000, but given that it adds some useful luxury and versatility to the mix, it’s tough to consider this boat as anything other than good value.
The Aries is apparently based on a race-winning hull design, and underway that’s by no means difficult to believe. It takes a little nose-up posturing to get her on the plane, but once running, this sporting Italian plaything is superb for the keen driver. In the turn, she grips with thoroughly engaging tenacity both at the prop and the hull, and yet there’s enough heel and just enough slide to help pasteurise the experience for the novice. Flick the wheel or throttle the other way and the response offers the delightful urgency that only light, efficient, well-balanced (and well-rigged) boats can achieve. And despite running beam-on to some aggravated swells, it’s impressively dry too. It’s not especially soft through the really lumpy stuff, but it’s so nimble and light-footed in its application of your commands at the helm that it’s very easy (not to mention great fun) to pick a smooth path through an aggressive sea.
Having said that, the helm station isn’t perfect. For instance, the angle of the upper dash section invites the glare of the sun to bounce off your chartplotter screen and into your eyes. And it would be good to see an angled foot brace or at least a tread pattern stamped into the base of the console, as it tends to be all too easy for a foot to slip on wet GRP. But in fairness, the only people with any authentic reason to complain would be those on the aft bench …
Though secure, comfortable and reasonably well protected, the view ahead, particularly on the starboard side behind the skipper’s leaning post, is virtually zero. Factor in the impudent bow-proud attitude of the boat and the deep-set position of the cockpit and the only view to be had at any speed is to the left, to the right and behind. Of course, with that huge sun pad up on the bow, it’s easy enough to free yourself of your cockpit dungeon and languish in full view of the world, but if you like perching at the cockpit table with a glass of wine while you gaze at the view, it’s undoubtedly something to consider.
Back at the helm, however, all is forgiven. There’s no doubt that the company’s suggestion that this boat is ‘designed to perform effortlessly in even the most unwelcoming offshore conditions’ is an overstatement of ludicrous proportions, but with its excellent helming, its unerring balance, its crisp responses and its uncommonly dry ride, this boat has the power to put a very broad smile on your face.
The Clear Aries Cabin isn’t just an authentic overnighting tool with galley, heads and cockpit dining station, it’s also a genuinely impressive driving machine in its own right. Of course, the layout makes very little sense for those of us who go boating in northern Europe, but if you’re a keen driver who enjoys sunny pottering, towing a skier or heading further afield for overnight adventures, it’s got a huge amount going for it. As with most desirable Italian craft, the practicalities are easy to criticise, but with fine looks, a top-drawer helming experience, a vast sun pad and very serviceable accommodation, it’s a fine example of a sporting Mediterranean weekender.
- Very impressive hull
- Great fun at the helm
- Remarkably dry ride
- Large cabin with heads and galley
- Small cockpit
- No co-pilot position
- No helm storage
- Visibility from aft bench is poor
- LOA: 6.15m
- Beam: 2.27m
- Weight: 750kg
- People capacity: 6
- Max. power: 150hp
- Fuel capacity: 125 litres
- Water capacity: 40 litres
- Waste capacity: 50 litres
Notable standard features
- Closed-cell external cushions
- Stainless steel ladder
- Hydraulic steering
- Leaning post at helm
- 125-litre fuel tank
- 40-litre water tank
- Cockpit shower
- Double berth
- Interior light and hatch
Base price: From £29,950 (Mercury 115)
Price as tested: £34,950
Fine Design Marine
Cobbs Quay Marina
Dorset BH15 4EL
Tel.:01202 465 327