27 Feb 2014
Sunseeker's 155 yacht proves it's a dominant force
If you can assess the value of a company’s products by the combined value of the vehicles in its car park, then Sunseeker International, in the sleepy seaside town of Poole on the South Coast of England, may be one of the richest yacht builders in the world. On the day of my visit, the company’s fleet of custom Overfinch Range Rovers were bookended by a Mercedes sports car and a Bentley with a prominent gold hood ornament.
“One of our clients has just flown in to have a look at the 155 with an eye to buying the second one,” James Hall, superyacht sales manager said as we hopped into one of the Overfinches for a quick drive to the yard. Mustafa Galadari, one of the global roster of Sunseeker dealers who deliver customers to the British boatbuilder (and owner of the Bentley) was in, and it was one of his clients from a prominent Middle Eastern family who was going to pay the company a visit. His imagination had been captured by the gleaming new 47m superyacht on the quay, which was only a month away from final handover to its customer, Formula One racing impresario and commentator Eddie Jordan.
While much of the breadth of the superyacht industry has seriously struggled to make ends meet during the fallout of the global financial crisis that started in 2009, the size and ambition of Sunseeker’s output has been remarkable. In the highly competitive market for yachts between 30-50m under 500gt, since 2009, Sunseeker has delivered 54 yachts, including 17 of their massively successful 40m series. In the same time, Benetti, Gulf Craft and Princess have each sold 6 yachts at that size.
But this new 47m yacht is an entirely new beast altogether. A full tri-deck yacht in fibre-reinforced plastic with carbon structural components, she’s bigger than anything the yard has delivered before, and required an entirely new approach to the build.
“Rather than scale up from our smaller yachts, we knew with this one we’d have to start with a blank sheet of paper,” Sean Robertson, Sunseeker’s sales director told me. “We’ve got some people on the engineering team who’ve come over from Maclaren racing, bringing their experience with high-performance composite construction with them. We hired in an independent project manager to oversee the build, so that our every procedure could be considered with fresh eyes. And for the first time, we’ve painted and faired the hull and superstructure; she’s a completely new breed of Sunseeker.”
And perhaps surprisingly, she’s a looker as well. There’s an unmistakeable brand identity in her zigzagged lines and forward superstructure, but the overall appearance of the yacht is beautiful, and she’ll certainly draw viewers when this first one settles into her berth with the big boats in Golfe Juan.
Inside, Sunseeker’s design team have created a general arrangement for the guest cabins that focuses on quiet and privacy. Using the skills of Van Cappellen Consultancy, the yard have developed their own floating floor, ceiling and wall panel system which should satisfy the ever more pressing demand for silence from superyacht clients. And for these largest yachts, Sunseeker is now opening their interior styling department to their clients at any level of engagement they want. For this first one, the customer—for whom this is his 10th Sunseeker—is happy with the interior styling, and has only added flourishes with the use of a personal interior decorator. But Sunseeker are keen to promote their willingness to push the boundaries of interior style for their clients. At the moment, the only major constraint to interior finish they say is weight.
She’s set up for 10 guests in five staterooms: Two twin-double adjustable bed sets on the lower deck, with two double staterooms on the main deck port and starboard featuring enormous windows and the master stateroom forward, with its own private interior balcony feature. She carries a crew of 11 in MCA-regulation cabins that are simple yet modern. One of her unique little features is the laundry room below the lower deck—literally right in the keel—taking advantage of the benefits of FRP construction. On this first vessel, the galley has been outfitted to a commercial standard, as she expects to charter heavily, and has already booked 10 weeks before she's even delivered.
The 155 comes with a standard MTU power and propulsion set up using twin MTU 12V 4000 M73L engines which will give her a top speed of over 20 knots and a cruising range approaching 4500nm at 12 knots. The yard is looking at installing the 16V version of the same engine set for the next customer. She’s got Quantum’s quiet pack hydraulics running their stabilizer system and a set of Sleipner Side-Power electric thrusters at bow and stern. Sanitation and air conditioning benefit from a completely new approach, and overall, the engine room is uncannily ordered: It may be the most logically set up machinery space on any yacht of its size.
With Sunseeker’s recent investment by China’s second-richest billionaire Wang Jianlin via his Dalian Wanda Group Co., the company is being given the resources to continue its remarkable growth. While Robertson admits that sales of Sunseekers in the smaller ranges below 24m are struggling, it’s clear that the path ahead for the brand is wide open. The British builder has, almost under the radar of the big superyacht yards, emerged as one of the strongest players in the industry, with quality products and service at prices that clearly are attracting the buyers. With a client list as good as any in the industry and a reported repeat-business approaching 80 per cent, is there any question that Sunseeker has finally established itself as one of the great superyacht brands?
Be sure to pick up the May issue of The Superyacht Report for the full, in-depth look at both the 155 yacht and at the business of Sunseeker International.
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