When you work so hard to design, build and test prototypes, and then tweak that design before going into production with a completely new boat .... it's a big thing! It's an even bigger thing if you did it last year in a terrible economy. It's an even bigger thing if you are an independent boat builder — one of only a handful left still standing. So it's only natural that once you'd achieved this, you'd want to share it with the media who could help you "get the word out" fast.
So it was that Power Boating Canada once again received our annual invitation to "come on down to the cottage" and test the new models that Stingray Boats would be unveiling for 2011. It would be my first trip down to a Stingray media test day.
The flight down was great, but it didn't hit me until there I was standing on the dock, clutching a coffee to stay warm in the cold October morning air, face to face with Stingray owner Al Fink and his crew: "this was a big day for Stingray", and Al stood right in the middle of it grinning like a proud father showing off his children's accomplishments. I know that feeling well.
As the morning dew was being dried off and the boats started, I was taking notes on the first new model I would test, the 215LR sport deck bow rider. Al came up behind me and said "I'm very interested in hearing your comments after you run this one out." Obviously, he knew something I didn't — yet.
The 215LR is the bow rider version that Stingray appropriately, as you'll learn later, calls a sport deck. She has a sistership, the 215 CR cuddy cabin that sat on the other side of the finger dock that morning, based on the very same exact hull design. (See PBC 25-6 for the Test Report on that hot number.)
It's obvious that attention to detail is a part of the Stingray design philosophy. Right from the way the entire itinerary was organized, to the popup cleats and the gunwale step protection plate (so you're not walking on the gel coat every time you enter and exit). And the Taylor Made wrap around windshield that still to this day includes the pop-out side vent windows so necessary for shoulder season boating in Canada. It's nice to see that as models morph from one year to the next, some of the little things that were — and are — such great ideas, don't get scrapped on the design table and simply left behind as old outdated news.
I stepped aboard the integrated swim platform and noted the two cupholders, moulded-in transom cooler under the swim platform seat, and stereo remote. A starboard walk thru transom brings you into the cockpit with a removable cooler and small sink built into the starboard side. This is so perfect for young families (who after all are the main target market of this type of boat). I'd like to see the drink holder moved, or made removable in future years, so that the full counter top would be useful.
An L-shaped bench seat goes across the stern and wraps to the port side, and there are twin bucket seats which swivel to face the stern bench. I took the time to put the large rectangular table up (it's stored under the sun pad, over the engine), and it's great! Large enough for kids to play games on, large enough to serve a family lunch on.
Moving forward through the walk thru windshield, you'll find a day head to port in front of the companion bucket seat. The port-pottie is built in, but you may have to duck. Nonetheless, it sure beats having to go back to shore to do your business, and having a regular toilet on the boat for the kids makes them feel that much more comfortable.
The bow area is spacious thanks to the wide-body stance that allows the beam to carry far forward. Unlike many bow riders that come to a point, the 215 LR is more blunt nosed allowing for a forward step and a re-boarding ladder hidden under the forward hatch (and anchor locker). The step is placed in between the two forward facing sun lounges without sacrificing any leg room. In fact, it's quite comfortable up there with the well padded seatbacks and single grab handle. (Moms will even feel comfortable with kids up font given the 31 inches of freeboard.) There are even four cup holders hidden under the gunwales.
Back at he helm, I fired the Mercruiser 5.0 L MPI engine and let it warm up. I popped the engine compartment to find ample storage on either side of the engine (and storage for the cockpit table up under the sunpad.)
The dash is a well laid out standard array of gauges set into gray fiberglass and protected by an eyebrow. I headed out to run the proven Stingray Z-plane hull through our test protocol.
This little rocketship had me up on place in an incredible 2.4 seconds! Acceleration all through the mid-range was consistent and powerful and I reached a top speed of 54.7 mph @ 4500 rpm fully trimmed out. The hull responds quickly and predictably to rolling turns and sharp cornering. It feels like it wants to run and play, no hesitation, no lag from throttle input to on-water reaction, it's an instant response.
That's due in part to the patented "ZP hull" that Stingray's are noted for. It's subtle thing, a brilliant tweaking of the design of the strakes along the full length of the hull. There's no "dip" in the strakes resulting in a perfectly clean hull that delivers undisturbed water to the prop for better performance.
In my test of the 215 CR buddy cabin, I wrote that: "The 215CR is a trailerable cuddy that's built for the guy who's starting a new family, wants to take them out on the water to share his passion, but isn't yet ready to give up the true performance and speed of his old boat. It's a four-door family sedan with race car engine performance under the hood." Well, the 215 LR sport deck model is the convertible version of the family sedan: "performance and space with the top down."
Power Boating Canada Magazine
Volume 26, Number 2, Mar 2011