Boat test: Contender 21 Open

By: DEAN SAMPSON, Photography by: JOHN FORD

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Nothing phases the Contender 21 Open fisher, not even a relentless Pacific Ocean swell off Sydney Heads, as Dean Sampson discovered

Boat test: Contender 21 Open



Less is definitely more when it comes to this stunning runabout from Contender Boats. With its smooth lines and sleek profile, the Contender 21 Open from Wallrock Marine looks a treat on its alloy Magic Tilt dual-axle trailer, but on the water, it looks even sleeker.
Underway, the 21-footer moves effortlessly from Sydney Harbour towards the heads and open water. Cruising round from Middle Harbour to North Head we encountered three to five-foot solid swell being pushed by an ESE wind. Pointing the Contender into the swell, with the nose trimmed up, we proceed to attack the waves head on. After a few runs with Sam at the helm, he handed the controls over to me and after a few minutes it was time to see what this 21 Open with the monster E-TEC on the back could deliver.
Continuing to attack the swell head on and expecting things to get a little wet and heavy, I ducked, bent the knees and hit the first wave at half throttle. Much to its credit, the Contender raced up the front of the wave effortlessly and landed softly on the other side. I then knew this was a thoroughbred, with the ability to take on almost anything the elements deliver.
The helm position in this Contender is positioned well back aft of midship which allows for a very comfortable ride even in heavy swells, as we encountered. After a couple of runs at half throttle you realise this boat is built to handle much more, so I upped the ante to see how much more it would comfortably take. It was exciting to find it didn't disappoint. At this point we started to clear waves and get the boat and motor airborne, each time landing and racing over the next wave with minimum effort.
The amount of spray taken on board was minimal and mostly due to the spray coming from the white caps whipped up by the wind. After several attempts to fault this boat charging headlong into the swell, I decided to see how she would go chasing the swell as we all have to come home sometime.
A couple of touches of the trim gauges, to angle the nose up and we were off. All attempts to bury the bow of the Contender 21 Open into the back of a few choice waves failed, as the bow just kept popping out the other side high and dry. Again the amount of spray that entered this boat was minimal.
Throwing any other boat into tight corners in this swell would probably cause heart palpitations, but the Contender 21 Open was just sheer exhilaration. It cornered like it was on rails, mainly due to its deep vee and she accelerated out of the corner like being shot out of a cannon. Even though it suffered from a little cavitation at full lock, you could not fault the boat in this sea. As soon as you straighten up and put the throttle down, it powers away with minimum effort.
Heading back to calmer waters was an enjoyable ride, even though the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Now we where running into rain squalls. Good time to do some speed tests.


With the trim tabs all the way in, the 300hp Evinrude E-TEC rockets the boat up onto plane within a couple of metres. At 3400rpm the E-TEC uses 33lt/h of fuel travelling at 26kts (48kmh), an excellent cruising speed. At 4000rpm the E-TEC is consuming 42lt/h litres at 33kts (61kmh). At WOT of 6000rpm the Contender 21 returns 46kts (85kmh) drinking 100lt/h. This is a sensational speed in a 21-footer and meets the need for speed for all but those who should be buying a racing boat.
At idle, the 300 E-TEC is whisper-quiet as it runs through the rev range effortlessly, without a hint of smoke usually associated with old two-stroke engines. My experience as an outboard mechanic confirms this is a quality engine both at high and low rev ranges and I could not fault it during the tests.


When it comes to fishing, the Contender 21 Open is a centre console offering a walkaround deck with a self-bailing cockpit, and nonskid sole and deck flooring that is outstanding heading into a swell or fighting the catch of the day.
The 21 Open is made from handlaid fiberglass throughout, with high-tech construction using multi-directional fabric and foam-cored solid glass stringer system. This ensures a durable deck and foam flotation, all resulting in a smooth ride which was evident during the test as it effortlessly cruised through a heavy swell.
The boat comes fully equipped with stainless steel hardware, including a recessed handrail allowing access around the whole boat even in rough weather.
From bow to stern, the overall length of the Contender is 21ft3in which provides ample room, and some more, for all the fishing gear and up to six adults. The added advantage of a walkaround deck is that it makes for a perfect platform to chase those fish that are reluctant to come aboard.
Equipment includes a 636lt fishbox, which also doubles for storage, and a 136lt round livebait well. This boat has ample storage with a dry locker under the helm station and room for safety gear required for a day's fishing off the coast.
The anchor well is nicely positioned and large enough to carry all the ground tackle required. The ice cooler is located under the seat in front of the helm and is more than ample for carrying the day's supplies.  
T-Top Rupp Radial arms and outriggers are complemented by the quality and position of the rocket launchers. They are well positioned on the T-top and also on both sides of the helm station providing easy access and storage for your rods which is also complemented by the vast rod storage space in the gunwales.
The Contender 21 Open package also includes a Furuno GP 7000 colour GPS chartplotter, depthsounder, fishfinder, and VHF radio.
The 21 Open will appeal to the more experienced fishermen heading outside the heads plus the recreational fishers targeting rivers and estuaries.
Sam Wallrock of Wallrock Marine supplied the Contender fitted with the awesome power of the new 300 E-TEC from Evinrude. Although being the smallest in the Contender range, the 21 Open is the best value starting from $80,000. The Contender 21 as tested with the Evinrude 300 E-TEC engine is priced at $107,000.
All-in-all, an excellent boat and motor, terrific finish, perfect layout and I believe, one of the best boats imported into Australia to date. It was a great experience putting this beauty through its paces and I can't wait to test the larger boats in this fleet.


The big 300hp E-TEC
Soft ride through swell
Great fisher with a walkaround deck
Top construction

Needs grabrail on the passenger seat for rough weather



Specifications: Contender 21 Open


Price as Tested:   $107,000
Options fitted: Hydraulic steering, Furuno 585 sounder, Furuno GP 7000 GPS chartplotter, T-Top with Rupp Radial arms and outriggers, 300 E-TEC, VHF radio, Lenco trim tabs, livebait tank, T-Top navigation lights and mast headlight, LED and spreader light, Command digital gauges, dual batteries, and isolation switch
Priced from:  $80,000

Material: Handlaid fibreglass with multi-directional fabric and foam cored solid glass stringer system construction
Length Overall: 21ft3in/6.5m
Beam:  8ft3in/2.5m
Weight:  1043kg (dry); 1283 kg w/ motor

Fuel:    340lt
People:   6
Rec. min. HP:  200
Rec. max. HP:  300
Max. engine weight: 240kg

Make/Model: Evinrude 300 E-TEC
Type:   V6 petrol two-stroke
Rated HP:  300 at 5500rpm
Displacement: 3.4lt
Weight:  240kg
Gearbox ratio:  1.85:1
Propeller:  14-7/8in x 22in

Originally published in TrailerBoat # 237

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