Glass Marine Industries
The Contender was created for the man who wanted the biggest 24 foot yacht on a $4000 budget. - 1966 Columbia Brochure.
For all intents and purposes, the Contender is an Islander 24. Before Columbia was in the boat building business (or had changed its name from Glas Laminates) they entered into a joint venture with a fellow named McGlassen. Glas Laminates produced the fiberglass parts for the Islander 24 and sold them to McGlassen, who had a woodshop and built the wooden parts and assembeled the boats. Glas Laminates also produced parts, paid McGlassen to finish them out and then sold them. Thus there are some Islander 24s that were sold by Glas Laminates.
The companies had a disagreement and went their separate ways. Dick Valdes, president and owner of Glas Laminates was interested in boats and saw an opportunity. They purchased the molds for a Sparkman & Stephens design called the Columbia 29 and went into the boat building business on their own. Two fill out their product line, they took the Islander 24 hull, added four inches to the sheer, and designed a house similar to that on the 29 and called it the Columbia 24. They stretched the 24 to create the Columbia 26 and then put a raised deck on the 24 hull to create the Columbia Challenger to compete with the Jensen Marine Cal-20. By 1965 Columbia decided to build a boat primarily for the east coast that was sportier than the Columbia 24, but more traditional than the Challenger. They dusted off the original Islander 24 molds, modified the ports, and the Contender was born - or should I say re-born.
Like it's sister 24s, the Contender has a full keel with cutaway forefoot. It's hull looks like the other 24s, but its shearline is about four inches lower than the cabin trunk 24. But with a longer cockpit and shorter, lower cabin, the design leans more towards sport and daysailing than the cabin trunk version.
Like the other 24s and the 26s, the Contender has motor well in the lazerette. Patrick M. Royce, author of Royce's Sailing Illustrated Vol I, owned a Pink Cloud, a Challenger 24. He shows a diagram of a venting system for motoring with the hatch closed without choking the engine and he advocates stowing the motor fore and aft rather than athwartships - presumably when sailing. This prevents water draining into the powerhead when the boat heels to that side.
Below are the two versions of the Contender 24. Rozinante, a 1965 model, is the "classic" version and shows the distinctive two large main ports - a trait shared with the C-24 full trunk cabin model, the early C-26, and C-29. Petit Mal, a 1968 model, has the more modern looking long, single port. This same styling cue was incorporated into the C-26 MkII, the C-29 MkII, and most models designed in the mid to late 60s. The latest Contender I know of with the original double port configuration is hull 114.
I think all classic Contenders had a mahogany plywood interior. The first bullet port versions also had a plywood interior, but the later ones had a fiberglass liner.
The Classic version with no liner is reputed to be faster on the water than the bullet version with the added weight of the liner.
The early boats came with two berths in the main cabin and built in cabinets for a stove, sink and ice box. The later liner versions came with a drop down laminate table to port. The liner was molded to receive it dropped for use as a settee or berth. Some came with built in factory galleys, some did not.
On the later models the gelcoat was thinner, and there is a tendancy toward cracking of the factory gel on those models.
An interesting identification note. Although the Contender is referred to as a 24 foot boat in Columbia's literature, Columbia designated it as model "C-23", probably to avoid confusion with the other 24 footers, the Columbia 24 (C-24) and the Columbia Challenger (C-20).
Rozinante Neil & Eileen Calore's 1965 Contender 24. (click on image to see full size)
Petit Mal Tab Bruner's 1968 Contender 24. (click on image to see full size)
The following are specs taken taken from PHRF rating lists and guesses based on similarities with the other two 24s:
Engineering drawings and literature available for the C-24, Contender & Challenger
Single window Contender diagram.
I sailed a Contender-24 for years and here are my thoughts; sails well in rough weather, good single handler, very stable, buries rail, slows down spills air and pops back up, looks like a pocket coastal cruiser with the bridge deck and she was first made in Costa Mesa, Ca., which might mean something.
- Charles "Fitz" Fitzsimmons
I always think of the Contender as more of a daysailor or a weekender, at best, but here is the "testimonial" of another Contender owner:
I sailed a Contender for quite a few years. Went to the Bahamas several times. Sailed it in eight to ten in the Gulf Stream. A little wet but never a problem. Spent three weeks with my wife and kids once. Everyone thought we were crazy but today the kids (now grown) look back on it as a wonderful trip. I would have taken that little Contender anywhere. Best sailing boat I've ever had. When I put the 150% on it I used to keep up with 30 footers all the time. I'm now restoring a C26. Same design, just a little longer and standing headroom.
- W. Miller
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