A short while back we did a video boat review of the Contender 30 ST, which meant I spent plenty of time slamming down the throttles, cranking the wheel hard-over at high speed, and generally running it like I stole it. I hope you’ll watch the video—we get into a lot of detail about the 30 ST, and captured some awesome shots of it in action—but when I watch one of these video reviews a month or two after its production, there are almost always a few things I wish I had said, but didn’t. This time is no different.
Case in point: fuel efficiency. Yes, we displayed our test results on-screen, which showed a cruising efficiency of 2.2 MPG at 29.4 MPH (3000 RPM); 1.9 MPG at 42.1 MPH (4000 RPM); and 1.7 MPG at 50.0 MPH (4500 RPM). These numbers clearly portray an unusually efficient deep-V hull, powered by a pair of Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboards.
What I couldn’t do in the video, however, was research the comparative efficiency for a number of 30’ center consoles, pull out a calculator, and put the Contender’s numbers into a larger frame of reference. So let’s do that right now.
Looking at the last five center consoles I’ve tested of this size (29-31 feet), the average efficiency at 30 MPH is 1.9 MPG. At 40 MPH, it’s 1.5 MPG. And at 50 MPH, it’s 1.3 MPG. Let’s look at this in chart form, where the numbers can really jump out at you.
While a few additional tenths of a mile to the gallon may not sound like much at first, remember that this represents a fuel efficiency gain of between 15 and 22 percent, depending on exactly where in the speed range you’re looking. That adds up to one heck of a lot of fuel savings.
Let’s say for example that you make a 100 mile round-trip run to the fishing grounds at 40 MPH. The average 30’ center console will burn through around 67 gallons of fuel. The 30 ST will burn about 53. You just saved 14 gallons of fuel.
Now let’s extend the example to a season of fishing, during which you get out an average of once a week from June through September. That’s 16 trips at 100 miles, for 1,600 total miles traveled. The average boat will burn through 1,066 gallons of fuel. The Contender 30 ST will burn through 842, a total of 224 gallons less. Depending on the current price at the pumps, this could save you close to a grand in fuel costs.
What gives? You can see it with your own eyes, at 0:19 in our video. The twin steps carved into the 24.5-degree deep-V hull do their job quite effectively. Here’s how: a step in the hull is a longitudinal notch that runs from chine to chine, and comes high enough on the side of the boat to reach above the waterline when the boat is on plane. Low pressure is generated just aft of the step as the boat moves forward, creating suction that draws in air from the sides. As speed increases and the boat generates more and more lift, the section of the hull just aft of the step becomes completely free of the water. Drag and friction are reduced, and as a result, the boat can go faster without burning more fuel or adding more horsepower.
But there’s a danger to adding steps on a hull. Since certain sections of the bottom aren’t supported by water, at high speeds some stepped-bottoms have reduced stability and unpredictable handling. Some. The Contender is not one of them. To put it to the test, I cranked the wheel hard-over at high speed (you can see it in slow-motion at 0:50 in the video). The bottom line? This is one stepped hull that grips the water like a set of Pirellis on asphalt.
Another thing I wish I’d spent more time on in the video is the fish stowage. Fishboxes are often something of an afterthought on many center consoles, and they’re rarely sufficient for anglers who target big game. In fact, on the vast majority of 30’ fishing boats you’ll need to haul a collapsible “body bag” if you go after fish breaking the 100 pound mark.
On the 30 ST, the forward fishbox—just one of six integrated boxes in the deck—is large enough to hold a 150- to 200-pounder. How do I know? Because I literally climbed into that box, and closed the hatch behind me. We didn’t use that cut in the video review since we used the exact same scene in our Contender 28 Sport review, and we didn’t want to make it look like a re-run. But looking back, I regret not including it again.
Sheer capacity is not the only important detail to note about those boxes. Another common problem, especially with large fishboxes, is that the hatch hinges get stressed. After a few years of heavy use, the fasteners start coming loose. That won’t be an issue here, since Contender uses full-length piano hinges. Water intrusion is another non-issue, because the hatches are gasketed, guttered, and they dog down tightly.
The third item I wish I’d put a spotlight on is the seating. Taken as a whole it isn’t perfect, and by today’s standards the removable stern bench seat was a bit clunky to install and remove. Go back to the drawing board on this one, guys, because the quick-folding transom seats found on many competitors are much easier to deal with.
That said, the helm seating is magnificent. It’s comfortable as both a leaning post and as a seat. Perhaps more importantly, it attains that comfort level without all the moving parts, electro-adjusting doo-dads, and Transformer-like thingamajigs that add complexity, the potential for failure, and future repair bills to other boats.
Bow seating is also comfy, and although Contender hasn’t yet made the cushions self-adjusting (so you don’t have to remove them before getting full access to the stowage areas beneath the seats), the cushions don’t bottom out and the vinyl is thicker and tougher than the norm. And remember, just adding the seating is a big step forward for Contender, in the first place. Traditionally this builder has been all about fishing, period, with very little attention to the cushy-factor. Maybe that’s why they were savvy enough to add a deep toe-kick under the bow seating, which allows you to slide your feet underneath, put a knee on the cushion, and maintain full gaffing or netting access from anywhere in the bow.
What about construction? We covered it pretty thoroughly in the video, but here’s a quick and dirty summary: the hull is hand-laid glass; resins are vinylester; stringers are solid glass and filled with foam; the deck liner is a PVC foam-core fiberglass sandwich; and fuel tanks are foamed and glassed in place. The pipework is magnificent. As a final reassurance, grab the T-top and do a few chin-ups—that’s what I did, and the hard top didn’t wiggle one iota.
As far as fishing features go, the boat is essentially what you make it. Sure, the basics like four gunwale rodholders, a pair of pressurized 40 gallon livewells, and all of those fishboxes come standard. But you can add an almost unlimited array of goodies ranging from outriggers to tackle stowage compartments to rocket launchers. Yes, I know, many manufacturers list items like these as options to advertise an unrealistically low price. But before price-tag trepidation grips you, know that the 30 ST is quite reasonably priced compared to other modern 30’ center consoles. In fact, check out a few current listings for the new 30 ST, and you’ll notice that they’re well under the $200,000 mark, even when fully rigged.
So: have you gone back and watched that video boat review of the Contender 30 ST yet? If not, you should do so now. And I’m not just saying that because it’s self-serving (yippie, one more click!); I’m saying it because after you watch what this boat can do with your own two eyes, you’re probably going to want to take one for a sea trial. You’ll want to slam down the throttles. You’ll want to crank the wheel hard-over at high speeds. You’ll want to run it like you stole it—and you might not want to ever give it back.
Other Choices: Shoppers interested in the 30 ST will probably want to look at boats like the Cobia 296, the Pursuit ST310, and perhaps the Jupiter 32.
For more information, visit Contender.
|Fuel capacity||265 gal.|
|Test conditions: one foot chop, winds 10 knots, 1 POB.|
|Power||Twin Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboards, swinging 15" X 21" three-bladed stainless-steel props.|