Few owners, presidents or CEOs of major boatbuilders spend as much time on the dock and in the boats as Stingray owner Al Fink. He is a stickler for performance and it shows in the boats that he builds. The top-of-the-line 250 CR cuddy is a new model this year for the seasoned company, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Measuring 25 feet in length and 81/2 feet in beam, it employs the patented Z-plane hull — a design that enhances speed and efficiency (a claim that can be easily verified by a quick look at our performance charts). A bowrider version dubbed the 250 LR is also available.
We were fortunate enough to be able to run two of the cuddy models, as well as Stingray’s big bowrider (see sidebar), on Lake Robinson, near the company’s Hartsville, South Carolina, plant. The first 250 CR was rigged with a Volvo Penta 5.7L GXi rated at 320 hp. The second cuddy was powered with a MerCruiser 350 Magnum MPI rated at 300 hp. Both boats had dual-propeller sterndrives (the DuoProp and Bravo 3, respectively).
The two cuddies were not run under identical conditions, and therefore direct comparisons are not valid. Still, the difference in performance between the two is so minor that the choice boils down to a favorite sterndrive brand as opposed to which boat runs better. Although Stingray isn’t offering a big-block power option for this hull in 2005, we’re told big blocks will be available for the 2006 model year.
Stingray’s 250 CR is a handsome boat that incorporates the latest design features, such as an oversize swim platform, outside transom storage compartment for lines and fenders, easy access to the foredeck via a walk-through windshield and convenient steps molded into the cabin bulkhead. An anchor locker is located in the forepeak.
The cuddy design is fairly conventional, with a V-berth and space for a potty. A small galley unit with sink and counter space allows the 250 CR to qualify for a second-home deduction for income-tax purposes. A circular cabin hatch provides ventilation.
The cockpit and helm are spacious, and the pedestal seats for the captain and mate provide walkaround footroom in the forward portion. The large wraparound lounge seating aft consumes considerable space, but the upside is lots of under-seat stowage, additional sleeping space for overnighting (when the filler cushions are in place), and comfortable seating for a bevy of adults. The top of the engine box is seat height and provides a stepping point for access to the swim platform through a cut-down transom.
Skippers will find the helm both attractive and comfortable. Instrumentation features black-on-white gauges with chrome bezels mounted on black panel inset into a beige background. The compass is mounted a bit to the left of center from the captain’s direct line of view (a rakish windshield prevents a direct-view mounting), but the compass is large enough to be an effective navigational device. Electrical panels are mounted adjacent to the tilt steering wheel.
A refreshment center is molded into the port side behind the mate’s seat, with a similar storage area on the starboard side. The refreshment center features a pressurized water system and a 25-quart ice chest. The starboard storage area can be used for numerous items, but the most environmentally friendly use is as a waste container for recyclable and nonrecyclable goods. A pedestal table can be set up in the lounge area.
The rear swim platform is huge, making it an ideal launching pad for numerous activities. The platform provides easy access to a freshwater shower, as well as an optional stereo remote-control pad. It is also an inviting lounging area where you can sit, converse and simply dangle your feet in the water. A foldaway, three-step boarding ladder makes a splash in the water even more inviting. The handy storage locker/seat on the transom is perfect for wet ski lines, dock lines, fenders and other miscellaneous gear. If the locker were a bit longer, it could swallow up skis, keeping a bulky item out of the cockpit while still providing easy access.
Stingray has been a leader in the use of robotic cutting and milling machines, and has likewise been on the forefront of using computer-aided designs in both the development and manufacturing of its boats. This extends from the milling of plugs for new hull designs to the cutting of upholstery for seats and side panels. The results are components that fit right in initial assembly, and replacement parts that fit perfectly should something be damaged in shipment or in use. Stingray uses a special 36-ounce, scuff- and puncture-resistant, UV-stable vinyl for seats and upholstery. Pressure-treated plywood, virtually immune from rot or decay, is used in side panels. The boat employs a fiberglass stringer system that is foam filled for flotation and added rigidity. The 250 CR features a fiberglass innerliner in the cockpit and cabin that can be covered with optional marine carpeting. The fit and detail finish on the boats we ran were well above average.
REDUCE THE DRAG
The unique feature of the 250’s Z-plane hull is that its planing strakes are designed to prevent the turbulence associated with conventional ones. Stingray’s strakes are indented into the hull instead of protruding from it. This reduces wetted area, as well as drag. Coupled with a notched transom, the design allows the prop to run in smoother water for a better bite.
Additionally, the engine can be mounted higher for less lower-unit drag. The result is a big, 25-foot cuddy that’s easily pushed by small-block power to speeds many manufacturers find difficult to achieve with big-block engines. The Z-plane hull is found throughout the Stingray Line.
As stated, this test was not set up as a comparison of engines and drives. Nevertheless, when the opportunity to run both units presented itself, we seized the chance to gather information we thought you might find useful. We emphasize again that both cuddy models — as well as the bowrider version highlighted in the sidebar — were run at different times and under different conditions. As such, we feel the results are not directly comparable, but are simply an indication of the general level of performance to be expected.
As you can see from our data, the Volvo Penta 5.7L GXi has a 20 hp advantage at the propshaft and, as expected, was a shade faster. But as the charts show, the differences were minor. From a practical standpoint, the handling between both models is virtually identical, and an operator who didn’t know what engine was pushing the boat would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
Dual-propeller outdrives — both the MerCruiser Bravo 3 and Volvo’s DuoProp — drive the boat forward with minimum bow rise. Power trim is not as effective in lifting the bow as is customary with a single-prop drive, but the increased efficiency of dual props in the 30-to-60-mph range offsets any increased hull drag. Dual-prop drives also maintain an uncanny grip in tight turns. The 250 CR assumes a moderate bank in turns and comes around without any tendency to slide. Control is precise at both planing and displacement speeds. And while we had fairly calm water during our tests, the 250 CR handled everything we threw at it with ease.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
|While 320 hp is the largest engine posted on its 2005 price list, for test purposes, Stingray powered an open bow 250LR version of this hull with a 375 hp, 8.1L (496 cid) Volvo Penta Gi/Duo Prop. According to Stingray's figures, there is less than a 100-pound weight difference between the bowrider and cuddy versions. Thus, performance figures should be reasonably comparable. While not currently available in the company's 25-footers, this powerplant will be offered for the 2006 model year, and we thought you might be interested to see what an additional 146 cubic inches and 55 horses can do.||
Although the pricing we report is scheduled to increase by 5 to 9 percent when the 2006 models become available, the 250 CR remains an excellent example of Stingray’s commitment to offer a quality product at a reasonable price with exceptional performance. After more than 25 years in the business, it appears that once again, the company has come up with a design that’s sure to give the competition a run for its money.
Story by Jim Barron