Alf's new trihull concept scores well both in 'looks' department and space and stability for fishing.
For several decades now Alt _ Stessl has worked steadily on . his quest to improve on the concept of the popular tinnie trailerboat. Back in the mid 1980s he was the first with an alloy trihull before later coming up with one of the most successful new ideas in years - the Edgetracker bottom.
Today this Queensland builder has a very solid output of Edgetracker punts, but he's also been busy developing open water boats as well which feature variation his Edgetracker idea.
The latest of Alf's ideas is a hybrid cross between the Edgetracker and the true Trihull. Alt calls it the Stessl Trihull, though you might call it a cross between a trihull and a cathedral type.
The boat is essentially a beamy vee bottom tinnie with saw-toothed like sponsons added on under the chines.
The result of this new shape is a boat which sits very steady in the water because of the buoyancy of the sponsons.
Not going the 'Full Monty' on the trihull shapes has had some direct benefits for the public, not the least being the all up construction costs aren't increased like they are with a true trihull, or catamaran. Also the boat looks more like a conventional tinnie and that's a plus for buyers who are generally cautious about forking dollars out for something 'radical.'
In price terms the Stessl Trihull series competes reasonably well with your straightforward monohull tinnie. The styling of the boat is reasonably good to the eye and certainly acceptable to people use to looking at pointed-bow tinnies.
The new Trihull actually carries more hull vee than a tinnie this size, however this doesn't upset the stability at all since the sponsons are providing considerable buoyancy right under the wide-spaced chines.
The overall result of this shape is remarkable stability in the water, whether under way or just drifting.
Interestingly enough a somewhat similar design approach has worked quite well in some of the bigger plate alloy designs, but this is the first time to our knowledge that it has been tried in the sheet-alloy type of boat.
Stessl has introduced the Trihull bottom concept to a range of hulls going from 4.6m up to 5.5m. Bigger sizes might come later, but for now they're concentrating on giving buyers a broad choice of deck configurations within this size spread.
Interestingly enough Stessl also offer the same range of boats with the Trackrail bottoms we saw last year in our Striker 5.1m test (March '97). In the latter case you get a hull which will require less horsepower/fuel, but not quite as much stability.
My first sampling of the Trihull concept last year in a 4.4 prototype left me with the impression it's very stable and dry riding. This Trihull also seem to offer a roomier than normal boat, and this is due to the hulls having a bit more depth and freeboard.
More recently I got the chance to test the concept with the larger Striker
515 Trihull model you see here. This design features the new fibreglass moulded deck and fastback transoms which is going to be a feature of the new Stessls.
Signalling they're going to stay with these designs for awhile the Stessl team are now doing a full colour range brochure. However, one imagines Alf won't rest for too long and probably be doing some fine-tuning on this particular design.
According to Tim Stessl (Alf's son) the company won't be exploring any significantly different shapes for some time as they've been through an exhausting period of R&D work. They want to consolidate with the three basic hull shapes they've now got and improve on these boats as well as the marketing of the brand.
This new Striker is certainly quite a striking craft in the flesh with an impressive big, roomy hull and quite smart hull shape.
First impressions are it's not a multihull at all till you take a closer look at the stern and see the saw-toothed like, cross-sectional shape. In a marketing sense it's a good move because most boat buyers simply aren't adventurous about moving away from the conventional monohull.
The bottom shape features narrow sponsons which are separated fabricated and welded to the hull bottom after the main hull is built. These sponson have a dead flat inner face so they're creating a real cutting edge in the water. No doubt this feature is designed to help keep the boat tracking straight at speed.
Viewed from the stern the tunnels aren't that deep, but you can see there's enough of a hollow to get the tunnel effect working at speed.
The hull features attractive clinker topsides, a fastback style transom with boarding steps either side of the motor and a sporty fibreglass foredeck. The moulded fibreglass foredeck looks good and incorporates a walkthrough hatch as well as a dash with recessed areas for the instruments and passenger side glovebox.
Another slick feature of this new Stessl is the curved windscreen with centre opening panel. The 'screen is quite high and gives quite good protection for the driver/passenger seats.
Back aft the design features a high, unbroken rear deck and a fastback transom which does away with the need for a pod. There's enough room for the motor to tilt without coming into the cockpit and the landing deck have optional boarding/swim ladder.
The only obvious drawback of this design is the angler is further back from the stern, yet on the plus side he has a wide, roomy stern deck with a folding lounge. The seat of the lounge can be folded down to form a comfortable leg bolster to lean against when you're really hooked into a fish.
From a trailing point of view the new Striker 515 will be a snug fit behind most of the mid-sized cars we have on the road today like Toyota Camrys, Mazda 626s, Hyundai Sonata etc. The dry hull weight is a bit heavier than normal, but not significantly more.
We estimated the test boat's tow weight, with Yamaha 70hp motor to be around the 860kg mark. That means with fuel and gear you'd be looking at probably 1060kg, comfortably within the towing capacity of most two litre four cylinder cars.
This trail weight certainly won't create a problem for towing in the tougher regulation states like NSW, however you should make sure your car still has the engine capacity to pull the rig comfortably.
Parking at home shouldn't be a problem with the Striker being relatively compact and not too demanding on driveway space.
We had one of those nice bonecrusher chop patterns running the day we took this new Stessl for a spin. It was a beautiful, summer's day so we weren't going to be too fussed about getting some spray aboard.
We put the throttle down hard and sat back for the effect.
Certainly this new Trihull had no trouble at slicing the waves and running in a level attitude like a Boeing 747. However, the ride wasn't what you'd call outstandingly comfortable at speed in this chop though it was outstandingly dry.
Cutting the speed back helped to give a better ride and make the crew feel more at home. We continued on into less rougher water where the ride was very comfortable at full speed.
At the end of the day it was hard to say whether the Striker was giving us a significantly leap forward in ride comfort or not. Certainly you'd have to say it was as good as any of the conventional tinnies we've tested, and maybe a touch better.
Whether the ride would be better with more power and speed is a question that will have to wait until a later test. Quite possibly the boat may actually ride better with a bit more power applied. This sometimes is the case with deep vee boats because the extra speed lifts the boats out of the water enough to get it on top of the chop.
If you did go up a motor size the logical choice would be a 90hp as this would give you a jump in speed performance without taking you too far up the fuel consumption scale. Putting the ride factor aside the handling on the water provided an interesting mixture. The boat did turn level at speed, but at the same time did seem to be resisting the turns. In a straight line there was a bit of a tenancy to wander slightly at speed, but again I think this could be corrected with a bigger, heavier motor on the transom.
One thing which I did like was the Striker does feel quite secure in the water and more like a bigger boat, than a small tinnie.
Stability is also excellent and on the day of the test we tended to use the Striker as our stationary photo platform more than the other boats. There's no doubt it would make a great fishing platform in this respect. The boat sits quite steady in the water. Even when we had the two man crew all over on one side of the cockpit the boat had only a moderate amount of heel and was very safe.
From a driver's point of view the Striker proved to be an easy enough craft to handle in terms of steering and vision. The curved windscreen gives both good side visions and good spray/wind protection so we never got wet. There's also a decent hand rail fitted around the inside rim of the windscreen. This is a particularly handy feature when you're standing behind the wheel and occasionally need to brace yourself with a free hand.
The scolloped dash gives you plenty of room to mount LCD sounders, radio's etc directly in front of the driver's position. However, none of these items were fitted in our test boat so you'll have to take my word on that.
I wasn't so impressed with the pedestal seats for the driver and passenger. I found the padding was a bit on the thin side and the seats with their small section pedestal tubes not overly stable. However, the good news is the factory will be fitting much more comfortable/wider seats in future boats. Ironically we had much more comfortably padded seats in the previous Striker 5.1m test so I was a bit surprised at the poor quality of seats this time around.
The beauty of this boat is without a doubt the huge cockpit with its safe level of internal freeboard for offshore fishing. I imagine some folks might buy this boat JUST for the cockpit and the stability!
The cockpit features plenty of open space which can be increased further by the easy removal of the for'ard pedestal seats.
The rear lounge also adds seating for an extra three people which should be handy when going family boating. As noted this rear lounge has a fold down seat base so it can be quickly converted to a padded leg bolster for fishing.
Looking at the other features there is wide, square topped side decks which will allow you to quite easily fit extra rod holders. There's also raised side pockets which have plenty of room for handlines and other fishing gear.
The interior also features waterproof floor carpet, rear drain well and lockers in the for'ard walk-through area. The anchor locker is an open well at the bow which is easily reached from the walk-through. This walk-through will no doubt provide a great spot to fish from if you're mates have taken up the good spots back aft.
As standard the boat comes with at least two rod holders, but optional extras from the factory including more rod holders, a raised cutting board and a built-in live bait tank.
The driver's seat has two floor slot positions to adjust seating fore and aft -a simple if not basic answer to the fact that we don't all have the same leg length.
Other features include a clear perspex topped glovebox on the passenger side of the dash and an in-floor fuel tank of 100 litres with side deck filler/breaker system.
We tested this boat with a Yamaha 70hp, three-cylinder motor which gave us quite acceptable performances throughout the rev range. However the 70hp is at the low end of the boat's power range and a 90hp, or 100hp motor would be a better choice in terms of performance on the water.
The extra 20-30hp would get the top speed up into the low to mid 30 knot range and give you more of a reserve of power for handling a bigger payload. As it was we tested the boat in a light-load condition and we were struggling to get to 30 knots.
Interestingly the person who bought this particular test did end up opting for a 90hp (Yamaha) so he must have thought the same way.
These hulls would appear to need a touch more power than normal vee-bottom tinnies this size because of the added drag set up. This does also mean a marginal increase in fuel consumption, but really no more than many 'glass boats around this size.
Interestingly enough this hull will probably suit the Honda 90hp because it won't mind a touch more engine weight on the transom. That will be good news for those who want to maximise the fuel range from the available 100 litre tank.
The Stessl Trihull provides a welcome 'fresh' approach to the mass-production end of the tinnie market which, up until now, has been a bit too stereo-typed. Buyers can now consider something different to the norm, without extending their budget, or going beyond single-motor economy.
The basic attraction of this design will be its high level of stability, and roomy interior. The styling also is something most buyers will be comfortable with and won't have any hesitation in that area.
While I wouldn't call the design a huge leap forward in terms of ride quality you'd have to rate this as one of the better tinnie designs in this regard. No doubt it's still early days for the concept and we can probably expect to see some improvements down the line. Certainly we can see some benefits already in this design, the trihull bottom shape ultimately should make it quite good at resisting broaching. The Trihull is also quite a dry riding boat and in this respect doesn't have the one problem which often plagues multihull designs.
Stessl offers this same hull in both a cuddy and centre console version. By all reports the cuddy model has been a big hit in Tassie waters and the console model is going great guns in the warm waters of far north Queensland.
On the construction front the Striker also appears to be a quite strongly built craft. The boat we tested features 3mm bottom panels and 2mm topsides as well as close-spacing ribbing throughout the hull. Stessl also backs their boats with a two year national warranty as well as an expanded network of authorised dealers to handle servicing needs.
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