I always have takeaways when I do a review, a word picture if you like that can, in my mind, summarize a boat and a builder; in this case, it would be rugged, strong and light. Multipurpose might also be a word as the 45CS we sailed on that windy and cold day performed so well that one could easily imagine this boat racing or cruising.
Contest sought out Georg Nissen, the experienced German yacht designer, to design the 45CS. Together they have created a wonderful boat – huge down below and performance on the water. The hull shape is true to its designer’s concept; it is easy to steer and easy to manoeuvre. The balanced spade rudder and bulb keel have all combined to give the 45CS its great handling and feel.
Arjen Conijn and I tested the CS45 on a cold rainy and windy day. With winds offshore at 18-25 knots, the boat handled well, stiff in the puffs and light on the helm; the boat was a dream to sail holding 7+ knots under a reefed main and jib. I like the cockpit layout a lot. It had a center-positioned, massive space that can easily hold up to 8 people while allowing the helmsman all the visibility he or she needs. The simple and accessible winches and layout made tacking a breeze. Winch placements were well thought out and easy to use. Harken and Lewmar fittings and hardware have been installed throughout the CS 45 so all the running rigging controls are solid and reliable.
First impressions include the spacious and very clean decks with control lines leading aft to the cockpit making single-handing easy. One thing I really liked was the use of the Selden hydraulic furling systems for both the jib (FURLEX) and mainsail. These are must-have items if cruising long distances is in your sight. I was also impressed with the ease of trim and how fast sails could be furled and unfurled. The main sail built by North Sails for the Selden Furling mast system was the best I have seen so far; it had great shape and the vertical battens were well in control of the leech; this system might have finally turned my opinion around about furling mast and sail combinations. I was impressed with the sail area provided by the large main and the high aspect jib. One thing I would now add to my must have list (especially for the cruising) would be Harken electric winches. They are like having that extra hand and more “Umpf” when you need it.
Of course, the hull is well built. I saw the technique used first hand during the yard tour; what impressed me was how well organized they were and how systematic the process appeared. Contest uses a vacuum injection method; that, combined with solid material specifications, provide the light and strength characteristics that provide this boat such great handling metrics. The teak deck fabrication method is also unique and leading edge using a vacuum foils technique. The theory here: by taking out the air under the foil, a steady pressure is maintained and bonding characteristics are maximized while the weight is minimized. Structural bulkheads are made of a sandwich foam core and fully laminated into the hull and deck with extra laminates in all structural areas including the keel.
The Selden mast is keel stepped and wonderfully integrated below decks. The double spreader rig boasts stainless rigging; clean deck hardware and a solid vang system with controls lead aft. I liked the adjustable backstay as well. Selden continues to impress with its wonderful integrated fittings.
Below decks is a dream with two configurations, a two- or three-cabin configuration available. Working with designer Birgit Schnasse, Contest has conquered the great challenge of matching cruising comfort with huge space below. The large cabin windows add brightness, but there are other innovations that I truly liked. Off to port and aft is the galley; it is not configured in the customary u-shaped layout but extends out along the side with tons of storage space and a full size refrigerator, two stainless sinks and a gimbaled three-burner gas stove. Aft, at the end, is a door that enters into the owner's cabin with a spacious private head and lots of room. They have pulled this off well, as typically aft cabins can be low and dark, but not in this case here. The cockpit being centered and forward in the boat has allowed them to really create a special feel here.
I also liked the chart table to starboard, right at the bottom of the steps and with neat storage features. It's big and comfortable. Forward of that is a wonderful settee that can easily sit four around the dining table. I particularly liked the use of white wood paneling on the sides behind the shelves, emphasizing the clean, neat, bright feel. The white oak floor really complemented the interior. The boat is well lit below with spacious cabin top windows (there are seven) and the well-positioned hatches: four for the main cabin and one aft and one forward. The woodwork and detailing are evident throughout and there are a few neat touches that the true artisans and experienced builders have added such as the small cutting board drawer in the galley and the neat storage and wonderfully designed shelves with stainless steel accent retaining bars.
I came away more impressed than I thought I would be, seeing ideas not common here in Canada and seeing neat tips and tricks and another way of doing things. It's great to see innovation still evolving. The sport is well served by the likes of the Contest team and their great boats, their competitive nature. Their continued passion will be a great value-added component for anyone that buys a Contest Yacht.
It's one thing to transfer responsibility in a family business, it's clearly another to foster the passion. The experience might be there but clearly at Contest Yachts they have also passed along a passion for the business and the sport that clearly runs deep and strong. So when you arrive at Contest Yachts and expect a production yard environment, forget it. Simple and deliberate would describe their approach; performance and elegance will be the lasting impression.
Third generation companies are hard to find these days but this almost 50-year old company has met the challenges of time and built a solid reputation from its well organized and wonderful facility in Holland. The Conijn family has now built over 3,000 boats and you'll find them all over the world. Its partnerships with loyal suppliers are one of the keys to success building together on each other's experiences and learning new techniques and practices along the way.
What one must respect is that old saying or theory “you can’t be all things to all people”, but you can learn from what others do and build it better or at least integrate what you learn into your approach. Getting a solid, well-built cruising boat to perform is always a challenge; adopting the performance methods and methodology is just what Contest is doing. These boats are clearly built to sail and clearly built with care.
Contest is in a market of its own. 20-30 boats per year meet their business model. Make no mistake; these are not production yachts. They combine the disciplines of custom building and quality craftsmanship and as such they really have few head on competitors, certainly in North America. Najad is a brand that comes to mind for those that cruise the world scene; in our opinion, there are very few that fit this niche. It`s all in the name too; Contest (derived from the family Conijn) is clearly a testament to how they marry the family name with a quality boat that tests your sailing ability and the elements with ease.
Length Overall 13.70 m/44'9"
Length Waterline 11.70 m/38'4"
Maximum Beam 4.10 m/13'3"
Displacement 13,500 kg/29,760 lbs.
Draft Bulb Keel 1.95m/6'40"
Ballast Bulb Keel 5,100 kg/11,244 lbs.
Mast Height Above Waterline 21.08 m/68'9"
Mainsail 54 m2/581 sq. ft.
Genoa 109% 49 m2/527 sq. ft.
Fuel tank 320 l/76 gal.
Water Tank 470 l/104 gal.
Yanmar Engine 55.3 kW/75 hp
Other Contest Yachts Models
Contest Yachts is represented in Canada by
Yacht Sails West
South Shore Yachts
By John Kerr
To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!