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Old 19-12-2004, 12:02   #1
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Contest Sailboats

I was interested in discussing the merits and/or downsides of Contest sailboats .

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Old 20-12-2004, 03:06   #2
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Few downsides...

...other than that Contest boats in the 9-12M range haven't been built for some years now. They are structurally sound, well designed boats, they all featured a conservative heavy-air rig because of their Dutch heritage (which isn't a bad thing when heading offshore), and they were typically finished off in Brynzeel (sp?) or similar marine woods showing excellent craftsmanship.

To play the Devil's advocate, the smaller boats don't offer today's broader sterns with the Euro layout (quarter cabin, quarter head, bigger galley), they are hard to find outside areas where a distributor/broker operated successfully, and most likely they will be older boats with the drawbacks that brings: older systems (can you get spares?), a lack of room designed in for the greater number of systems found on cruising boats these days, and their basic components perhaps reaching the end of their finite lifespans (engine, rigging, sails).

If a larger boat is being sought, then I think the manufacturing stream has been more consistent and there are probably more modern choices in brokerage. The new Contests are quite impressive, and their prices breathtaking.


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Old 08-02-2009, 02:49   #3
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Boat: 1972 35' Allied Seabreeze "Sally Forth"
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Question Contest 30 Rig?

Due to positive opinions in this forum I am investigating a Contest 30 for sale in the Midwest. She looks pretty but I have many questions about her.
The rig includes a mast tabernacle. Was this the standard configuration? It seems inherently weak to me, all the stresses borne by the single pivot bolt.
Percussion testing, I found the keel and the bottom third of the hull below the waterline to be extremely solid (as if the ballast was spread thoughout the entire length). Above this, however, the remainder of the hull sounded relatively thin!
Lastly, my understanding is the deck is solid glass and has no coring. While this negates the problems of a saturated core, is the trade-off in rigidity and added weight a good one?
Any feed back would be greatly appreciated before I travel back up there for a closer look.
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Old 08-02-2009, 04:39   #4
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I am familiar with a few models of Contests and communicate occasionally with the architect of most of them Dick Zaal. I have owned a 36s for 23 years and sailed it off shore, done a delivery to Brazil and lived on mine in the Caribbean and now cruise in NE waters.

The 36s was voted 15 best yacht over the past 100 years of yacht by the UK magazine Yachting Monthly

The 36s was one of the most popular designs for good reason. It was a fast boat, a strong boat, a comfortable boat and an attractive one. Dock Zaal was one of the first designers to employ the wing keel in his designs.

The builder Conplyex, in Holland,began with smaller boats and over the years has moved to larger more semi custom designs.

My hull and deck are balsa cored with solid GDP at all area of stress. The thinest lay up of solid glass parts is over 1/2" thick and the areas at the mast step are 2 1/2" and at the keel are 3". The 36s hulls were built to a heavier build standard than called for on the architect's plans and have a Lloyd's certificate.

The joinery is excellent with up to 11 coats of varnish, rubbed effect in most areas except the head. All bulkheasds are properly tapped to the hull to the core of the plywood.

The keels are cast iron and the the hull has a recess to accomomdate a flange atop the keel casting. My deep fin has 8 pairs of keel bolts which distribute the loads far better than CL bolts.

The rudder is fully skegged and the shaft is protected in a "log" or faied out structure so their is no vulnerable strut as seen on many boats.

The head room is min 6'2 thoughout. It has a large U shaped galley and a full size separate nav station. The cockpit is quite large and well protected with Whitlock pediestal and rod steering. Tanks are constructed of monel or stainless steel. The 36 comes with a handy stern boarding/swim ladder.

The rig is by Selden and is Deck stepped. The standing rigging on the fractional version is very stout. Mine is 3/8" thick. The 36 is offered in 3 keep configs and 2 sloop configs, fractional or masthead.

The companion was has wide easy to climb steps. The boat has sufficient handholds throughout. It comes with leeboards for all bunks

OEM auxiallary are Volvo Pentas.

Decks are available in teak or non skid GRP. The 36 has a large anchor locker.

Contests are noted for their wood rub strake and large stainless steel stem fitting. The rub strake covers the deck to hull joint. The deck is formed with about a 1' high section of the topside. This makes the deck very rigid and the deck to hull joint very strong and waterproof.

The 36s is a flush deck without a traditional "dig house". It contains ports set into the 1' sectioned mentioned above. This adds lots of volume to the interior and makers for more usable/manageable real estate on deck.

I dont know if Shiva is the exception or the rule but she has no osmotic blisters after being in the water for 23 years.

The 38 ketch rig has a similar underbody and build at the 36. The center cockpit design provides a full stand up aft stateroom unlike the 36 which has only a small stand up area and an 80 x 80 berth. The 38 has a smaller galley and head as well as the plan has been compressed a bit to fit forward of the cockpit.

I've been aboat a few other Dick Zaal designed Contests beginning with the 31 HT. All had beautiful interiors and the same sort of features described above.

These are great yachts, little seen in the USA but admired in Europe.
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Old 08-02-2009, 07:46   #5
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Great write up.
I am more familiar with the more recent models and have inspected a couple quite seriously but the prices went up with the Euro and so ended those dreams! Anyway...definitely well built and lust worthy boats that will take you anywhere and with a good turn of speed.
Cam - I am no longer a member here. Look for me on other forums...same name.

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Old 08-02-2009, 08:19   #6
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YIKES my typing and lack of proofing was atrocious. I trust you can read through the gibberish. Sorry.
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Old 14-02-2009, 03:19   #7
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Defjef gave an excellent overview of the construction of Contest yachts. I own a Contest 48 that was built in 1984. We've done some cruising in her (Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska) and we're planning on doing more.

The boat, in my opinion, is extremely well-built. Attention to detail is evident throughout. Whereas we have updated virtually all of her systems (we just recently replaced her stainless fuel tanks), the quality of materials used in her construction, along with a superior level of craftsmanship, give us a high degree of confidence to have her take us anywhere. True, she's not one of the lithe, young sailboats you currently see gleaming on the showroom floors. She's more a rotund, stout and no-nonsense kind of girl that can put her shoulder to her work and not complain. While we've never considered entering her in any kind of race, she still likes to run with the young fillies and gives them a run for their money. Part of her sluggishness is the fact that we've never been overly-conscious about her weight but she does all right for us. Our best day was 180nm, which isn't too bad.

One of the best attributes about her, though, is the way she behaves. Her manners are so refined and gentle. Her wheel stays light even in more aggressive conditions and her balance is remarkable. A good friend of mine manufactures self-steering vanes and he's encouraging me to buy one (from him). However, our boat will balance so well, so easily, that the load on our electric autopilot is negligible. Even close-hauled in windy conditions, she has never pounded. Her relatively short spreaders give her good up-wind angles. She does have a mind of her own when it comes to backing up under power. We installed an Auto-Prop to try to cure her of her mischevious ways but it didn't help. On the plus side, we have entertained people up and down the west coast of North America as we try to pull up to fuel docks. Other than that, she's very manuverable and has a pretty tight turning circle for a girl her size.

There is a Contest owners group but they're mostly in The Netherlands. I joined but I don't know why. Someday I'd like to visit the yard where she was built and to sail her there would fulfill a fantasy of mine. Anyway, good luck with your search.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 14-02-2009, 03:45   #8
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The 36s I believe was among the better performing Contests. I've done 175NM offshore on my best day and typically do 150 so that's quite good for a less than 30' LWL.

Backing is usually a challenge in a keel boats and my 36 is no exception. Fortunately backing is not something I have to do frequently. However coming along side or getting INTO slips (something I also do extremely rarely) is not a problem. I can turn the boat on her own length in light winds.

By the way it was a 48' Contest ketch which seduced me to investigating these boats back in the mid 80s. The 48 was way more than I could handle and afford and was looking for something I could singlehand and that was the 36s. This boat is really well designed for the short handed or single handed sailing and I have done it that way for more than 30,000 miles. If I can't sail a boat myself, it becomes a severe limitation to its use.

The 36s has ALL controls within easy reach in the cockpit. You don't have to bend over and fiddle with anything in the foot well (engine control) or even go forward to reef.

One thing I find very successfully executed was the design of the cockpit "seating". There is room to seat may 8 people comfortably or allow 4 people to almost recline completely, one forward, one aft and one at each side. A comfortable cockit is important when you have to spend all day in it on passage. This means strong convenient hand holds as well, both in the cockpit and down below. You can't have that with wide open spaces and this would be a poor design for a offshore vessel. Dick Zaal, the architect really get it and makes this boat one you can hold on to! But unlike the 48 the motion is much more livelier and her round underbody will mean some pounding is seas upwind. But gentlemen don't sail to weather, do they? hahahaha.

The only thing I have found lacking in the 36 is drawers. We have a single one in the galley.
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Old 28-09-2009, 11:26   #9
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Great boats!

You may find useful information at: Contest Yacht Owners Club (all in Dutch).
Different types of contests: Model Overzicht
Pictures: Foto pagina
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Old 28-09-2009, 12:47   #10
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Few downsides. Most of them well designed (I prefer the Zaal's), well built.

The downside of some is the hulls are much like the IORs and they are hell to control downwind in heavy going.

Many of Contests have top Q woodwork inside and good engines too.

The 38 as close to a good seagoing tool as it gets.

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Old 07-09-2010, 20:33   #11
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C I Keels?

Did all of the Contests have Cast Iron keels? I'm looking at a 29 and the owner says "lead'.

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Old 08-09-2010, 05:19   #12
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I have no idea as to what methods/materials Contest used in construction over the years as they've been building boats for a long time. However, I have found them to be very responsive to questions. Trying asking the question of them at

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 23-02-2012, 10:00   #13
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Re: Contest Sailboats

hi, i have been looking at this boat: Contest 31 Used Boat for Sale | TheYachtMarket

what can you tell me about it?, mainly for coastal cruising in the mediterranean.
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Old 23-02-2012, 10:21   #14
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Re: Contest Sailboats

I,spent 2 day's lookng at a Contest 38 Absolutely no faults ease of access to engin mechancial compontents,deck access fore and aft was great,interior space and layout was fantastic,all in all the best boat I,looked at in my search for a sea going boat.Unfortunately the draft was 6 ft plus,not good in S Fl.
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Old 23-02-2012, 12:57   #15
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Re: Contest Sailboats

I prefer the older models over the new ones, well build classic sea boats. Not that the new ones are no good, they just don't have that classic look.

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