Stingray Powerboats
Center Piece

Trailer Boats - May 2001

Stingray Powerboats takes a fresh approach to
powering a center console fishing craft

Stingray 200MS

Most of the changes in center console fishing craft over the last few years have been minor in nature — refinements for the most part. Stingray Powerboats' new 200MS center console, on the other hand, takes a fresh approach, incorporating a mid-engine MerCruiser inboard turning an Alpha drive via a jackshaft. For those unfamiliar with a jackshaft, it is similar to a car's driveshaft.

The brainchild of Stingray President Al Fink, the 200MS is primarily a saltwater fishing machine. Fishing is one of Fink's interests, but his real passion is building boats. Fink has guided Stingray into the age of robotics with a highly automated, computer-aided manufacturing facility.

Until recently, however, the builder's line has been composed entirely of runabouts and cruisers — 15 basic models in all.

"I decided to build a boat for me," said Fink as we went over the details of the 200MS on Lake Robinson, near Stingray's plant in Hartsville, South Carolina. "I wanted a center console with the maneuverability of a sterndrive, yet without an engine box restricting fishing access across the stern."

Fink also sees the mid-engine as an alternative to outboards — an intriguing idea in view of increasingly stringent governmental restrictions on two-stroke emissions.

It took Stingray more than two years to refine the mid-engine/jackshaft drive system for the 200MS. Most of the work went into dampening vibration emanating from the powertrain. Stingray worked closely with MerCruiser in perfecting and balancing the jackshaft system. The effort paid off. The 200MS is as smooth as any conventional sterndrive.

This is not the first jackshaft system in a fishing boat. Albermarle, for example, has been using jackshaft-style drive systems in its fishing boats for years. Yet, the 200MS is one of the smallest boats to offer this drivetrain. What's more, it is not likely to be the last Stingray jackshaft boat. Fink has visions of building larger models.

The 200MS offers some unique performance and handling characteristics. With the engine situated under the helm seat, slightly abaft amidships, the center of gravity is farther forward than in a conventional sterndrive or outboard boat. This results in minimal bow rise and decent acceleration out of the hole. Propelled by its standard 210 hp 4.3L EFI V-6 (with a closed freshwater-cooling system), the 200MS required 11 seconds on average to reach 30 mph from a standing start. This was with two adult males, test gear, safety equipment, 45 gallons of fuel and an optional aluminum T-top.

Once on plane, the 200MS did a nice job of cutting through the 2-foot afternoon chop. The mid-engine placement helps keep the bow down and the acute cutwater working as intended. We also credit Stingray's Generation II Z-plane hull design, which features healthy lifting strakes and reverse chines, as well as a sharp entry.

On flat water, the hull trims out nicely, rides high and develops excellent speed. During the windswept test day, we found protected water and achieved a top speed of 45.6 mph.

In a saltwater fishing boat, however, fuel efficiency and range are often more important than speed. We discovered that the 4.3L equipped 200MS attains its best cruising range at 300 rpm and 25 mph. Here it burns 6.1 gph or 4.1 mpg, for a range of 221 miles, based on 90 percent capacity of its 60-gallon gas tank. Stingray also has equipped the 200MS with a MerCruiser 1.7L turbocharged diesel. This power option should extend its cruising range.

Trolling performance is also important in a center console, but many V-hull sterndrives exhibit annoying low-speed wander. With 19 degrees of deadrise at the transom, the 200MS falls into the V-hull category. So we wondered if the mid-engine configuration would change the dynamics and eliminate the wander. Pulling back the throttle to 1500 gave us a 7 mph trolling speed. At this slow pace, wander was not an issue.

With the center of gravity farther forward than on a conventional sterndrive or outboard boat, the 200MS is exceptionally maneuverable. She executes extremely tight turns, banking confidently without sliding or digging the bow, even when brought hard about at high speed.

200MS console Stability at rest is critical to saltwater anglers, and here the 20-footer really shines. With two men standing on one gunwale, the 200MS barely leaned to that side. The midengine placement and deflection of the reverse chines help maintain stability. But with an 8-foot beam, it takes another special trick to create such stability. The secret lies in the integral, Euro-style stern design.

The Alpha drive nestles inside a transom pocket. On both sides are integral hull extensions, but these are not as deep as the rest of the hull. In fact, these extensions are out of the water when the 200MS is on plane (see photos). At rest, however, they act as stabilizers — their buoyancy counteracts any uneven weight.

With its walkaround design, self-bailing cockpit, flush-mount trolling rod holders, step-up bow casting platform (with a large storage locker below), and 14-gallon livewell in the transom bulkhead, the 200MS is undeniably a hardcore fishing boat.

However, to market the craft to recreational boaters, Stingray offers an option that helps transform the 200MS into a watersports platform: You can order the boat with a welded aluminum wakeboarding tower ($1838).

The conversion from fishing boat to wakeboarding is not as farfetched as you might think. The mid-engine hull tracks well, the V-hull creates a nicely shaped wake, and it is easy to maintain wakeboarding speeds. What's more, with the adjustable trim on the MerCruiser Alpha drive, you can fine-tune the size and shape of the wake. Stingray goes so far as to call the 200MS a "Fish/Ski" in its literature.

Rod Storage If you're an angler, you are likely to opt for the welded aluminum T-top ($1995), which bolts to the console and features a canvas style top. We would like to see vertical rod storage (a.k.a rocket launchers) added to this top. Speaking of rod storage, our test model had a couple of nicely designed two-tier horizontal racks recessed into the fiberglass liner under each gunwale.

The center console on the 200MS is well proportioned, with plenty of windshield height to protect the skipper and his co-pilot. Other features we like include the stainless grabrail surrounding the console and windshield, molded-in footrests, and voluminous storage inside the console.

When it comes to seating, the 200MS has more than most 20-foot center consoles. The engine box provides a nice base for twin rotocast bucket seats with snap-in padding. Aft of these is a snap-in 4x4-foot pad — with stainless grabrails on either side — that will seat another pair of passengers. In front of the console is an ice chest with a padded top, for yet another crewmember.

We looked intently for design flaws on the 200MS, and found only two features that we would change. For one, the bait tank should be bigger and deeper, at least doubled to 28 gallons. What's more, the geometric shape should be twice as tall as it is wide — this minimizes sloshing to make life easier on baitfish. On a positive note, we like the way the standpipe is recessed into one side of the tank, thus minimizing the chance of knocking this obstruction loose while loading or retrieving bait.

Secondly, the stainless grabrails on the transom bulkhead are uncomfortably positioned for fishing. While we are big fans of grabrails, these are knee-knockers. We would remove them and install a coaming pad, and also install coaming pads along both gunwales to protect knees and thighs while fishing.

In the final analysis, however, we have only one big problem with Stingray's new jackshaft-style center console: We wish we owned one.

Jim Hendricks
Trailer Boats Magazine

4800 (WOT)
* Based on 90% fuel capacity
** Optimum cruising speed


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