Normally I would hesitate to run a performance boat in the 4- to 5-foot seas we encountered during the Miami Boat Show. But since the Contender 36 is meant to go fast in such conditions, off we went. Quite honestly, I'm surprised this boat doesn't have spare tankage for carrying extra testosterone. It's a highly refined monster. Specially designed and built for triple engines, our boat had three Yamaha 250-hp EFIs connected to Gaffrig racing controls. I've never been a big fan of triple-engine installations, but I discovered more benefits to this package than disadvantages. The two outboard engines set farther apart make for much better close-quarters handling around a dock than standard close-set twin installations. The boat pivots substantially better with increased distance between drives. Live-bait fishing also draws benefits from three engines, but more on that later.
The boat does exactly what Contender says it will. Thanks to greater length and weight than the 31, running over 50 mph in 4- to 5-foot seas proved no problem for the boat or passengers. In calm water, I found it to be about 3 to 4 knots faster than the 31 with twin 250s. But triples burn a ton more fuel than twins, don't they? Well, yes - and no. At 60 mph, we burned 90 gph. Drop it to 50 mph and the consumption drops to a little better than a mile per gallon. With a 410-gallon standard fuel capacity, you get a pretty nice range at 50 mph. The question that begs an answer: How many owners with a boat capable of going faster than 60 mph want to run at 50?
My main question, "It's such a fabulous fishing boat; why can't I get it with twins instead of triples?" got an unexpected answer.
"If someone specifically wanted twin engines, and I couldn't talk them into a 31," says Contender President Joe Neber, "I'd recommend cutting back on fuel capacity and moving other weight farther aft." With that said, however, Neber insists triples are truly the only way to go on this boat. "The performance characteristics of this hull really only make sense for one purpose - going fast in big seas over long distances. Then, when you get [to where you're going] it fishes as well as - if not better than - any boat in our fleet. It's certainly the most maneuverable of all our boats." I'll vouch for that.