IT DOESN’T matter what game you play or field of endeavour you are involved in, there always have been, and always will be, those that lead the way with cutting-edge, innovative thinking.
There has always been one name in Australian boating synonymous with innovation and advanced design concepts – Stessl.
I remember way back in the late 1970s, when I was just a wide-eyed teenager thirsty for knowledge about anything to do with fishing, and I was attending a Narooma sportfishing convention. The bar was acting up and some crews were having difficulties with the conditions.
We had just crossed the bar when around the breakwall came this silver centre console that just rode beautifully in the water and slid through the cauldron of the bar and cruised up the inlet in style.
The fact it was a centre console (they were a new concept in those days) and the way it handled was the main topic of conversation back at camp that evening. The man behind the wheel of that particular boat answered a few questions and went on to show he was no slouch at fishing, either – his name was Alex Julius.
Since that first sighting of a Stessl in southern waters they have come a long way with their monohulls, including the track rail designs and Edge Trackers. Then there is the smooth-riding tri-hull design and now they have taken the tri-hull a step further with the introduction of the 500 Stinger.
The Stinger, by the run of the tape measure, is not a big boat at 5.0 metres, but it is wide. You can stretch the tape out to 2.35 metres across the beam, although it says only 2.25 metres in the brochures, so you get a bit extra. There are a lot of 5.0m boats out there today that you could sit in the Stinger and still have room to get around.
It is deceptively large, on the water and on the trailer, and many at the boat ramp on the day it was tested picked it to be much bigger than 5.0 metres.
The thing that sets the Stinger apart from the original trihedral hull is the re-engineering and reshaping of the sponsons, to the point where there is now a cutaway section at the rear of each sponson to give an even smoother ride and impeccable handling capabilities in all conditions.
The first thing you notice is its incredible stability. Even with three men standing on one side when stationary there was barely any list, which is great value for your legs over a long day on the water.
It was a typical test day: You line up the boat to go for a good run and see how it fishes and the mother of all southerlies ploughs through at 35 to 40 knots and turns the ocean to garbage. Scratch the fishing, it will just be a ride today!
We charged straight into the teeth of the southerly in the open ocean at 32kmh (20mph) and the Stinger took the conditions in its stride. I wouldn’t give it a real hard time if it did bang a bit – after all, it is a tinnie – but it landed softly every time, so much so that my Dad stayed seated comfortably in his chair. Try that in most other five-metre tinnies in similar conditions and you can book yourself into the spinal unit at RPA.
We took the boat across the sea at the same speed and I would be telling lies if I said we didn’t cop any spray, but I don’t know any boat under 20 metres that wouldn’t throw spray out in these conditions. We copped a bit but stayed dry behind the screen. When we came back into slightly calmer water, where the chop was only about a metre, the spray was no more.
So you could reasonably expect to stay dry in all but the most trying conditions.
Next came the broach test and it is no good if you have a boat that goes great into and across the sea, only to dig its nose in and throw you sideways when you are coming down a swell.
So we picked a couple of the biggest swells and took on the roller coaster and, just like a surf boat with an experienced sweep, we went straight down the face and forged ahead without the slightest hint of broaching.
Back in calmer water it was time for the cavitation test, which means go as fast as you dare in a straight line then throw the boat into a tight turn and see if everything sticks together. This was supposed to be the Stinger’s forte, sticking to the water in a tight turn.
My brother does things in boats I wouldn’t dream of, so in a test I get in, sit down, shut up and hang on, then take notes later.
We nailed that first turn and it stuck like glue and then, just to get all the gear back onto the other side of the boat, he hit it in the other direction and there wasn’t a hint of cavitation. This extreme handling is due to the cutaway sections at the rear of the sponsons.
So with the major part of the testing done it was time to see how stable the Stinger was in the filthy conditions when at rest. As you would expect from such a wide boat, it was very stable. It was unnecessary to hang on and I was able to move around quite freely.
Back in the calm of the bay, we checked what speed this baby could do and at just on 5500rpm we were doing 57kmh (36mph) by the speedo and would probably have gone a bit faster if conditions allowed. That was with the Mercury 60hp EFI four-stroke on the back. The boat is rated to 90hp, which would really put a sting in the tail of the Stinger.
There are four versions of the 500 Stinger to choose from: The side console bass and bream style tournament boat with casting platform, a cuddy cabin, a bow rider and the blue-water runabout we tested. There are over 60 features and optional extras to choose from so the possibilities are endless.
On the tested Bluewater runabout the anchor well is big enough to hold the anchor and all the line you need, the floors of the vessel are fully carpeted throughout for good grip in the wet and softness under foot.
The curved, three-piece, lean-through windscreen is designed for easy access to the anchor for simple retrieval and while travelling or at anchor, you can sit on the deluxe, pedestal fold-down bucket seats. The driver’s seat slides to achieve a comfortable driving position seated or standing.
The passenger side dash has a glove box to keep all the wallets and keys safe, while the instrument panel has everything you will need in clear view including tacho, speed, tilt/trim meter, fuel gauge, compass and hour meter. There is still plenty of room for a sounder, radio and GPS.
There is a tonne of storage for a small boat, including side pockets, an area under the bow and under the bucket seats.
There are rear grab rails, not that you will need them, and a split bow rail which won’t interfere with anchoring.
The battery is hidden away under the floor and the bilge pump is easily accessible if you ever have to change or unclog it. The quarter seats at the rear are removable to give you more fishing room. There is even a transducer bracket so you don’t have to drill holes in the boat every time you change sounders. And these are just some of the features.
Optional extras include rocket launchers, live bait tanks, tournament live wells, centre console, rod lockers, auxiliary motor brackets – the list goes on.
The Stinger caries 90 litres of fuel under the floor so you can go for days on the economical four-strokes before you need a refill.
The test boat was supplied by Leisure Coast Marine, 20 Princes Highway Fairy Meadow. Give them a call for all the information on this, or any other Stessl boat in the range, on 02 4284 4803.
Make/model - Stessl 500 Stringer
Length - 5.0 metres
Beam - 2.25m
Hull depth - 900mm
Dry weight - 400kg
Bottom sheet - 3mm
Side sheet - 3mm
Max hp - 90
Recommended hp - 75
Motor shaft - long
Max capacity - 5 people
On the trailer this boat looks bigger than 5.0 metres and you can see the cutaway at the rear of the sponsons that give it its excellent handling capabilities.
This shot gives you a close up of the cutaway showing the new innovative hull design.
Check out the width, there is a tonne of room in this boat.
The dash is well set out with all the space you need for all the instruments.
There is plenty of clear vision all round from the cockpit.
The rear seats are removable leaving you with a padded transom for comfortable fishing.
The Stinger handles with distinction and is a very dry performer.
From the rear it is easy to see why the Stinger is so stable with its deep central hull and flattened rear side sponsons keeping you level in the water when travelling and at rest.Reads: 4313