Contender for the Crown
With a reported speed that flirted with 60 knots, and a brisk storm wind whipping off the Florida coast, I knew I was in for a wild ride on the Contender 35 LS. I just wasn’t sure how wild it would get.
“Hey, uh, we really going to hit 70 mph in this?” I asked Les Stewart, Contender’s marketing manager, as I nodded to the five-foot swells just off of Pompano Beach, Florida. We were sea trialing the Contender 35 LS—a boat which Stewart had assured me could hit 60 knots. “Sure,” Stewart responded, “I don’t know if you can handle it, but the boat definitely can!”
Well, throw down the gauntlet why don’t ya? I thought to myself, glancing at the cast on my broken right hand and readjusting my lefty grip on one of the sturdy handholds that lines the console. And off we went, running through the rpm scale as the boat crested off each wave, a few times soaring free of her element, but landing as if she were dropped on a goose-down pillow. We hit 20 knots, 25 knots…30 knots—we were really starting to fly. All of the sudden a third party onboard—who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent (and eminently more sensible)—shrieked “Turn it around! That’s enough! Let’s finish the test inland!” Fair enough, but I have to say, the Contender definitely could handle it.
In the flats of a sheltered lagoon, we put the stepped-hull, sliver of a boat through her paces, nearly hitting the 70 mph (60 knots) mark that Stewart had promised. The ride is exceptionally stable, smooth, and fast. And her acceleration is impressive too. It felt like we went from idle to top speed in the blink of an eye.
A large part of this exceptional performance is no doubt because of the 35 LS’s burly, triple 300-horsepower Yamahas, but really I suspect the main culprit is that hull, which is really kind of a hybrid step. The twin steps are located farther forward than steps usually are, while the after section of the boat is essentially a modified-V. That is why I suspect the boat was more stable than other stepped hulls I’ve been on, and Contender says it has 18 percent better fuel efficiency than their true V-hulls as well.
I should note that the hull is also hand-laid. Stewart told me they hand lay it because ironically, they have found they get more efficient saturation from their vinylester resin with that technique, as opposed to vacuum bagging.
The “LS” in the 36’s name stands for Luxury Sport, and the boat is indeed far better equipped for leisurely cruising than some of the company’s better known, and amenity-light, fishing machines. There is comfortable bench seating in the bow, in front of the console, and against the transom, while a handsome, Corian-topped grill and refrigerator combo aft of the helm is popular with the party-boat crowd. Thoughtfully, Contender put toe kicks under all the seats and the console, so you can gain some extra stability should you find yourself flying through five-foot head seas at ludicrous speeds. Trust me, one day you could be very happy for those toe kicks. I sure know I was.
: 8,300 lb. (dry)
: 310 gal.
: 20 gal.
: 3/300-hp Yamahas
LS entertainment center w/ Corian top, barbecue grill, refrigerator, and livewell/cooler; bow seating w/ hydraulic table; side-entry dive door.
Air temperature: 78ºF; humidity 70%; seas: 0’-5’; load: 200 gal. fuel, no water, 3 persons, no gear. Speeds are two-way averages measured w/ Garmin display. GPH estimates taken via Yamaha display. Range is 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Sound levels measured at the helm. 65dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.