words - Gary Howard
The Stessl Striker 5.5 runabout promises stability and a softer ride... and it's all thanks to the aluminium specialist's innovative Tri Hull series hull

Alf Stessl has been building boats for many years and in that time has pioneered a number of developments. While some have fallen by the wayside over time, those which have been successful have been implemented into his company's boats.

Thus, over time we have seen continued refinement with Stessl boats in a bid to seize an advantage over the opposition in the highly competitive aluminium trailerboat marketplace.

One of the brand's most successful innovations has been its Edgetracker concept. This design sees rail-shaped hull extensions at the chines which work to enhance stability. To a small degree, they also improve the ride of the boat.

The Edgetracker's main market has been the V-nosed punt sector for freshwater and partially smooth waters where it is available in models from 3-5.2m.

The success of the Edgetracker has led to Stessl's new Tri Hull - a design released around a year ago after several years development and one that is better suited to larger craft.

At this stage, Stessl offers the Tri Hull in five models and lengths from 4.6-5.5m.

Along with conventional open, tiller-steered models, there are the Trophy series of centre consoles, the Hawk half cabin and Mako fishing cuddy. Perhaps most popular to date, the 5.15 and 5.5m Strikers are Stessl's Tri Hull runabouts. I sampled the top of the range 5.5m model.

Essentially, the Tri Hull design features a deep 23° centre vee and two chine-mounted symmetrical sponsons. In other words, it's a deep-V aluminium boat with two smaller outer hull extensions, the bottom edge of which are parallel with the main hull.

While these sponsons may look like add-ons, according to Stessl they form a vital part in the overall design and have been factored into the construction of the hull from scratch. The advantage of this style hull in an aluminium boat is that it offers a softer ride, increased stability and quicker lift onto the plane.

Anyone who has been in a few aluminium boats will know that they can tend to be a bit bone-jarring in a short chop. This is a characteristic that is hard to get away from in relatively lightweight hulls.

In the case of the Striker Tri Hull 5.5, however, the air and water spray trapped in its 'tunnels' does soften the ride to some extent. Meanwhile, the deeper vee of the hull minimises the slam as the main hull enters the next wave. You will still hit into the chop (there is no way around this) but with the Tri Hull I can report that the ride is much softer on the body and on the boat.

When it comes to powering up on the plane it's only if you have been in a few boats that you appreciate the increased lift that this hull generates.

I really noticed it on one occasion when we had the Striker fully loaded with both people and gear. With such a load, you would expect even a 90hp engine to be a little slow to get the boat on a level plane, perhaps even struggling on the initial take-off - but this wasn't the case. In fact, I didn't even need to use full throttle on the four-cylinder Mercury two-stroke to get us up and moving along nicely.

As far as stability goes, once again you probably don't really notice the benefits of the Tri Hull until you get a few anglers fishing on one side of the craft.

Although those side sponsons don't look overly large, they do offer a significant amount of buoyancy and hence stability - more so at rest than on the move.

At rest the boat naturally sits a little deeper in the water so the full benefit of the sponsons can be utilised. However, it's not just the buoyant capacity of each sponson that helps out here - remember that the air in the tunnel does act as a cushion even at rest.

If you don't have the best sea legs in town then you will appreciate the stability of this rig.

More good news is that general handling is not much different from conventional alloy craft this size, though that deeper centre hull and the improved stability obviously contribute to a generally softer ride.

Should you need to do a few tight turns you'll notice that the boat remains more level than most conventional runabouts. This will come in handy if you do a bit of bar-crossing work and need to move quickly.

We found the two-stroke 90hp Mercury fitted to the test craft had plenty of urge to handle even average to heavy loads. Top-end speed was around 75kmh - more than you'll need on most occasions and a killer on the hip pocket.

An added bonus of the Striker's deep-V centre section is that it allows a substantial fuel tank to be fitted underfloor - in this case 120lt, enough to deliver a good eight hours running as long as you don't use all that top end all of the time!

Moving away from the hull design, the Striker has a smart and straightforward layout with the helm and split windscreen well forward and a spacious cockpit which will keep even the keenest angler happy.

Load in your esky, a few tackle boxes and a couple of mates and there's still plenty of room to move around.

An aft bait station gives you a couple of rodholders, knife storage, cutting boards and tackle tray. And as with most good bait stations, this can be easily removed for cleaning or for those times when it is not required.

The transom of the boat itself is more of a full-width duckboard than an engine well. Clear and uncluttered by a single outboard, this area can be used to lounge around on after having a swim or as a generous area to board the boat. Of course, it also delivers the safety feature of a full-height transom.

Stessl makes the most of this set-up by fitting a full-width bench seat (which folds down when not in use) and provides a large open storage area underneath. It's perfect for fishboxes, buckets and the like.

Battery and oil bottles are located in dedicated recesses, ensuring that they are both well secured and easy to access.

The Striker's helm area features two padded swivel seats and a smartly moulded fibreglass dash. The dash has a logical layout with a clear display of instruments ahead of the skipper and a useful mini-esky ahead of the passenger. This unit has a drain plug and there's adequate room for a few drinks and a cut lunch.

In front of the helm there is limited storage under the bow section. It's not a lot of room, but provides adequate space for safety gear, ropes etc.

The anchor well is accessed through the split windscreen and a lift-up foredeck hatch. This set-up enables you to walk through to the anchor well, making ground tackle operations safe and easy.

Overall, the team at Stessl has done a good job on this boat. The hull delivers an improved, softer and more stable ride while the layout is equally suitable as a fishing or family boat. And at around the mid-$20,000 mark, it is quite competitively priced too.

Well done, Alf...

Price as tested $26,000
Factory options fitted
Canopy, sounder, safety gear, nav lights, bilge pump, cutting board, trailer with brakes
Base price (hull only) $13,350
Material: Pressed alloy
Type: Stessl Tri Hull, deep-V
Deadrise (at transom): 23°
Length: 5.5m
Beam: 2.35m
Weight (hull only): 460kg
Fuel capacity: 120lt underfloor
Max rated hp (outboard): 115hp
Make/model: Mercury
Rated hp: 90hp
Type: loop-charged, inline three-cylinder two-stroke
Displacement: 1386cc
Weight: 139kg
Supplied by Stessl Aluminium Boats, Gold Coast (Qld), tel (07) 5597 5548.

Published : Sunday, 1 November 1998

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. Automotive Data Services Pty Ltd (Redbook) makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.