Stingray Powerboats will celebrate its 20th anniversary on the eve of the
coming millennium, but technologically, the builder has already catapulted itself
well into the 21st century. A longtime user of CAD/CAM with robotics, the Hartsville,
S.C. company boasts one of today's most advanced boat-building factories - a tour
of which brings to mind Disney World's futuristic Epcot Center.
Designed on the computer, Stingray boats and parts are then created with the
aid of several CNC(computerized numeric control) machines: two multi-axis 3-D
milling machines that can fashion scale models and full-size plugs for new hull,
deck, and fiberglass stringer molds almost overnight; two flatbed routers for
cutting flat wood and plastic parts; and two high-pressure water jets for
trimming fiberglass parts and cutting softer materials with laser-like speed and
accuracy. And, in a robotic lamination facility (using hand-laid fiberglass with
Klegecell and Coremat coring), molds are suspended and conveyed by a
computer-controlled overhead tramway.
The efficiency and precision of this automated mass (3,000-boat-a-year)
production system translates into high quality; cost savings that keep prices
down, and ever-better-performing boats. "We like to keep pushing the envelope as
far as possible," says Stingray Founder and President Al Fink. "Every time we do
a new hull, there's a little more refinement."
The latest example in the builder's 17-model lineup of sleek, great-performing,
18- to 24-foot family sportboats is the stylish new 220 LX bowrider, which we
recently checked out on Hartsville's Lake Robinson. The boat's innovative patented
z-plane hull, a modified-V with variable deadrise tapering to 19 degrees at the
transom, has a drag-reducing notched transom and unique lifting strakes that
eliminate the sharp vertical edges of conventional strakes and the air pockets they
Design goals include turning smoothness and running efficiency - with an estimated
15- to 20-percent higher top speed and 20- to 30-percent better fuel economy than
most of the competition, based on industry data from last year's similar models.
On our run the 220, powered by a 250-hp 5.7L MerCruiser with Bravo Three drive,
hopped on plane in four seconds without noticeable bow rise. Acceleration was fast
and smooth and the running attitude near-level through a lively cruise of 35 mph/3000
rpm to an exhilarating top end of 61 mph/4750 rpm. Though the lake was a washboard of
wakes, the boat's ride was solid and smooth and its handling sports-car-like. It
proved responsive and agile in hard turns, staying level as it smoothly, steadily
eased around. The ride was also quiet and dry, the wake skier-friendly.
At the helm, visibility is excellent through the walk-through wrap-around
windshield, while the side-mounted control and tilt wheel are well-positioned and the
adjustable bucket swivel seat, with miles of legroom, are comfortable. The ergonomic
nonglare dash with elegant wood-grain instrument panel neatly laid out, and the
companion dash holds a glove box and JVC stereo.
The padded cockpit with wide aft settee is spacious and deep, while the bow features
twin contoured forward facing lounges. A transom sunpad hatch opens to the roomy
step-in engine compartment, aft of which is an ample nonskid swim platform. The
crowning touch is a sporty Bimini top that can stay up at all speeds or fold back on a
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