2012, June; Middle Harbour, Sydney: The Sport 31 is the second smallest in the Bavaria line of cruisers that range from around 8.5 metres up to the near 14-metre 43 Hard Top. All models feature exceptionally good use of space and the 31 size in particular is often purchased by owners who were originally looking at larger boats. The design is an appealing package of a one-level cockpit with safe, wide side decks and an open plan layout below including a double berth forward and a separate aft cabin.
At just over 10 metres overall length, the Sport 31 is compact enough to be easily handled yet spacious enough to offer comfortable accommodations for weekends or longer on the water. The styling is contemporary European with external lines that are perhaps a little more flowing and more visually appealing than most counterparts. Pricing is competitive too from $239,000 to our as-reviewed boat at $250,000 (all pricing at time of writing) which includes a number of options that add to a strong list of standard features.
The owner demographic is widespread, but the Sport 31 has particular popularity for couples in the 35 to 50 age group who are discerning enough to look for a boat that’s a bit different – not so much that it’s a brazen ‘look at me’ style, but one that has that air of extra quality and ‘charisma’. The aft cabin allows family or friends to stay aboard in comfort, or to just have somewhere private to change clothes. The salon is roomy enough for entertaining, although the large cockpit and aft sunbed will be the areas of choice for most occasions.
Here’s a quick review of the company background. Producing a wide variety of award-winning sail and power boats, Bavaria is a well established German manufacturer with high-tech facilities that mix automation and hand-built attention to detail. A large production facility has the capacity of building up to 4,000 boats a year. Highly efficient systems keep costs under tight control and enable selling prices to offer top value. A predecessor of the 31 Sport won the prestigious European Powerboat of the Year Award in 2009 and other models have won that award since then, so Bavaria’s designs are widely recognised for quality and style.
First impressions of the Sport 31 mix appreciation of the elegant lines with thoughts of lazing away summer days on the large sunbed that dominates the back of the boat. Actually we were aboard on a winter’s day and even then the sunbed became a popular spot for our crew. Beneath the sunbed is a very large storage locker that’s perfect for fenders, covers, watersports gear and so on. And then both the locker and the sunbed lift on a power ram to reveal an unexpectedly deep and full-beam-wide engine bay; this was an initial clue to the deception of that external low-ish profile hiding generous internal cavities.
With the sunbed raised, a non-slip metal step and ladder take you down to check out twin MerCruiser 5.0 MPI V8 engines, each rated at 194 kW (260 hp), that are coupled to MerCruiser Bravo Three twin-prop sterndrives. The V8s are strongly mounted into a box-section grid of stringers and cross-braces that are fibreglassed into the hull for a tough unitary structure. The surrounding equipment and engineering, including an automatic fire extinguishing system, was efficiently installed and there was easy access to everything for normal checks and maintenance. It was all as clean as a whistle too and set a high standard that the rest of the boat easily matched.
The sunbed is surrounded by a teak-surfaced boarding platform with steps either side leading up to safe side decks protected by guard rails that allow you to walk along to the foredeck with no concerns about slipping overboard. The deck hardware is simply styled but, perhaps partly because of that, it looked strong and easy to use. The side guard rails continued around the foredeck and included extra bracing near the anchor locker so there would be good support when tending mooring duties.
Back aft, from the boarding platform a step or two takes you up into the main cockpit area with a wet bar over a fridge on your right and U-lounges around a removable table to your left. A clever aspect of those lounges was that the front inboard seat could be reversed to alternatively face forward and provide a companion chair across from the helm position.
The lounges were covered in a soft creamy vinyl that was very comfortable, and that applied to the helm chair as well which was pleasantly supportive to my back and had hip-high sides for holding me steady during tight turns or rougher waters. At the front of the seat, a fold-up bolster allowed standing to drive and, whether doing that or sitting, there was good vision in all directions as well as looking down to the dash panel with its gauges and displays.
In what has become an appreciated standard practice on upmarket craft, there was a mix of analogue and digital data with clearly marked gauges covering speed and drive trims as well as fuel level plus revs and temperature for each engine. Inset digital displays added to the range of information the skipper can monitor, whilst navigation was assisted by a Garmin GPSMap4008 GPS/Plotter. A graphic touch panel had controls for functions such as the horn, stereo, anchor winch and so on whilst there was a separate panel for the bow thruster and a twin-binnacle for the throttle and shifts with inbuilt drive trim switches.
The tilt-adjusting wheel varies anywhere between near vertical and near horizontal so you’ll surely find the angle that suits you best. A foot rest is handy when sitting and that bolster is good to lean back against when standing. The throttles/shifts/trims fell right to hand for me and made it feel just right as I ran the Sport 31 through its paces. The steering is quite direct at just under three turns lock-to-lock and was not quite as light as I’d expected, but nonetheless gave good feedback on what the hull was doing. Mostly that ‘doing’ was giving enjoyment and periods of excitement to the crew.
Accelerating from rest resulted in a fair degree of bowrise that hid the horizon for a while if sitting to drive. Even full in-trim for the drives couldn’t prevent the period of high-angle running until the boat was properly on plane. I was told the 150-litre water tank is located right forward (under the vee berth) and was empty for our run, so it’s likely that if it had been full the trim angle would have been reduced, or held for a shorter time. Even so, the hull settled after a pause to a good running angle and we were off for a comfortable cruise.
From 3,500 rpm and up, the MerCruiser V8s had the Bavaria well under control. At those revs, the GPS was reading 34.3 kph whilst a few hundred more turns at 3,800 brought up 43.5 kph. The props preferred the drives to stay trimmed just a few touches up – again the empty water tank probably influenced that, and higher trim angles might be advisable at faster speeds with a full load of water. The 520-litre fuel tank is intelligently positioned at the front of the engine bay where it is closer to the centre of balance for the 31, and so would have less effect between full and empty.
The hull banked into turns like a fighter jet with the underwater surfaces keeping hold for a secure feeling. The two sets of counter-rotating props on the Bravo Three drives were well suited to the boat and also kept hold with no ventilation or slipping. Response to the wheel and throttles was quick and gave precise control so that driving was rewarding when using the performance potential that the 31 offers. Most of the time on a boat like this though will be cruising, and that was easy on the skipper with a relaxed hand on the wheel all that was needed – although with a vigilant outlook at all times highly recommended.
Full throttle brought up 4,750 rpm and a healthy 60 kph, whilst mid-range mildly-hurrying cruising (say to outrun a forecast change in the weather) was best anywhere between 4,000 rpm for 46.5 kph and 4,500 rpm for 58.3 kph. We had calm waters for our run, but the heritage of the boat with its home base in often–rough European seas augurs well for handling short haul coastal cruising. Charging through a few wakes certainly gave a soft ride and a feeling of both strength and seaworthiness.
Just forward between the helm and that clever-convertible companion seat is a sliding lockable door that opens into the belowdecks accommodations. Downstairs there is a bright well-equipped salon with an L-shape dinette to port and a double berth forward that can be concealed behind a privacy curtain. Around the berth are stowage areas, and natural light flows through port holes and an overhead hatch – useful too for ventilation.
To starboard of the dinette is a galley with a two-burner electric cook top, sink, fridge/freezer and plenty of drawers and cabinets for stowing all the utensils and supplies. There’s a TV and stereo system there as well. A generous 1.9 metres of headroom helps the impression of spaciousness, and the use of fabrics and timber-tones makes the whole area most welcoming.
In the rear port corner of the salon, a door opens into the aft cabin which has a double berth running across the hull to starboard. The berth has a centre-foot removable section with sitting headroom (under the cockpit) whilst at the foot of the berth to port is standing headroom to make changing clothes more comfortable. There’s a seat there too, and again plenty of stowage.
Aft of the galley on the starboard side is another door into a bathroom with a basin, toilet, hand-held shower and spots for overnighting requirements. All the accommodations have room to move around and would make staying onboard a real pleasure for a family or two couples. Bavaria has been very good at fitting such a wealth of facilities and interior space into the external dimensions.
Whether downstairs or upstairs, the Sport 31 has a lot to offer with a pleasing combination of style, comfort, value and performance. The spacious one-level cockpit is perhaps the highlight of the boat, but that aft sunbed and the overnighting features keep it close company.
Length (overall): 10.06 metres
Beam: 3.31 metres
Draft: 1.21 metres
Weight: 5,470 kgs
Fuel: 520 litres
Water: 150 litres
Power (as tested): Twin MerCruiser 5.0 MPI V8s, 194 kW (260 hp) each
Sterndrives: Twin MerCruiser Bravo Three
Top Speed: 60 kph