11 Jan 2016
Sunseeker makes a LIBS song and dance
By Tim Thomas
British boatbuilder Sunseeker added a touch of glamour to a cold and wet London International Boat Show preview day by bringing in Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonnevile and singing group The Overtones to officially open its stand. But while the stage glitz was inside, the star attraction was moored to the dock wall outside, representing the largest yacht ever to debut at the show.
The 131 Yacht represents the latest evolution of the 40 Metre Yacht, which was born from the 37 Metre Yacht introduced almost a decade ago. New styling cues, large floor-to-ceiling windows and cutaway bulwarks mark a shift toward enhancing the interior, while extended upper and sundeck mouldings have made a dramatic difference on the available deck space.
The first model, named Zozo (above - photo by onEdition), has been built for an experienced Sunseeker client who had considerable input on the interior colourway and finish. In particular, Zozo features an upper saloon with a generous seating area to starboard where the settees and armchairs have been arranged to face outwards, making the most of the glazing and the spectacular views. A similar principle has been applied to the owner’s suite, forward on the main deck, where the floor-to-ceiling feature windows have replaced the drop-down balcony, creating a wonderful sense of beam and a prodigious amount of light to the cabin (below - photo by onEdition).
The updated styling and adaptable interior layout is a combination which is already proving popular. “This one is sold,” says Phil Popham, Sunseeker’s CEO, “we have a second one on the water in Poole which is about to be delivered as well, and we’ve got three further 131s in build that are all sold as well, so it’s a really exciting time.”
During his opening address, Popham hinted at a return to solid profitability for the marque, which was bought out by Chinese company Dalian Wanda in the latter part of 2013. “The Predator 57 model, which we launched [at the London show] last year has become our fastest selling model ever, we are about 55 per cent up on our order book over the same period last year and during 2015 we started to invest a lot of money in our products and facilities,” he told the gathered crowd of show visitors and journalists. “We are delighted to announce this week,” he continued, “that we are recruiting another 225 people over the next six months to build the new products we’ve got coming through but also to make sure we can fulfil the orders that we’ve got.”
By the end of the first weekend, it appears his optimism might have been borne out, as Sunseeker announced £14 million retail sales in the first three days of the show. “The London Boat Show is an excellent barometer of the European marketplace,” Popham comments, “and we are pleased to have experienced such strong sales in the first three days of the show alone.”
It was also announced that Sunseeker has spent the last year being filmed for a blue chip documentary by the BBC, to be shown later in 2016. “I was telling Hugh [Bonneville] earlier that my patience ran out with them sometimes,” says Sunseeker founder Robert Braithwaite. “I couldn’t believe what you have to go through with retakes, outtakes and everything else, so it’s been quite an experience. A good experience.”
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