British yachtbuilder Sunseeker – which has delivered more than 125 yachts over 30m since entering the superyacht bracket in 2001 – has announced that it will start building yachts in metal for the first time in its 50-year history. The new additions to the range will be built in partnership with Dutch shipyard ICON Yachts, and will be known as Sunseeker by ICON. The first model will be a 49-metre aluminium yacht based on a fast displacement hull form, with completion expected in 2021.
“The problem we’ve always had,” Sunseeker’s sales director Sean Robertson tells SuperyachtNews, “was that we knew we were building a great marketplace up to 40m, but then those clients disappeared [to other yards]. We tried [to extend our offering] with the 155 Yacht back in 2014. It was a success in terms of the design and the engineering, but there was one problem – it was composite.”
Despite selling the first two 155s within a few months, Sunseeker faced an uphill struggle convincing brokers and independent experts that composite was a good choice for a large yacht build. “I think it’s market perception,” says Robertson, “and the perception is that once you get above 40m and nearer to 50m it has to be a metal build, and there are very few clients who will buck that trend.”
"It closes a gap between where we are normally and where Sunseeker is normally. The two companies also figuratively speak the same language."
The partnership with ICON Yachts has been brewing for the last 18 months, and the synergy between the two yards is clear. ICON was founded in 2005 and immediately promulgated the idea of selling a fully engineered platform which could be customised from the waterline up. And as Robertson points out – if you want an engine you go to Germany, if you want fabrics you go to Italy, and if you want a boat built in metal you go to Holland.
“We connected very well to that,” says Jen Wartena, CEO of ICON Yachts, “because we’ve built a lot of 60m-plus yachts, and while our competition is always looking to go bigger, we have been interested in moving into the smaller brackets – and that’s when we bumped into Sunseeker.”
The partnership is very much a collaboration but both Sunseeker and ICON are keen to point out that the yachts will remain very much Sunseekers, and won’t merely be ICON aluminium yachts with a Sunseeker badge on them. “We are an established superyacht brand in our own right and so we are merely combining the metal build expertise of ICON with our design DNA, technical expertise and market know-how,” confirms Robertson. “She will absolutely be a Sunseeker.”
“Behind ICON we also have our complete supply chain,” Wartena adds, “but on top of that there’s a huge difference in volume and in the amount of interior production going from 40m to 49m, and that fits with us really well. It closes a gap between where we are normally and where Sunseeker is normally. The two companies also figuratively speak the same language.”
“It’s an important step into metal, and it’s as close to a Sunseeker as you can get in metal – the fast displacement hull, the looks, the feel of the whole project is Sunseeker."
The new 49 metre – which, from the provisional renders looks to be called the 161 Yacht – taps into the naval architecture know-how of Van Oossanen Naval Architects and the efficient rounded displacement hull that featured on the 155 has been replaced with a Fast Displacement Hull Form design. Moreover, the profile borrows distinct styling cues from the current Sunseeker range, ensuring a seamless transition of DNA to the new aluminium yacht.
Key points will include a configuration that will typically offer accommodation for 10 guests in five cabins, but with an option for 12 in six cabins, and a plunge pool on the main deck. The design also features a comprehensive beach club area with drop-down bulwarks and transom creating a remarkable entertaining space right on the water. Details of the interior for hull number one have yet to be released, but with Sunseeker’s Bespoke service the choice of finishes and styles is extensive.
The partnership with ICON also opens the door to larger Sunseeker builds in the future, although neither Robertson nor Wartena will be drawn on what or when that might happen. “I think this is a baby step,” says Robertson. “It’s an important step into metal, and it’s as close to a Sunseeker as you can get in metal – the fast displacement hull, the looks, the feel of the whole project is Sunseeker with the knowledge behind it of ICON. But yes, if this works then it opens up a terrific future for the collaboration. ICON’s capability is for 100m-plus yachts…”
“There is a great synergy between ICON and Sunseeker because we are combining both our strengths – our capacity and metal yachtbuilding capabilities with Sunseeker’s sales expertise and marketing power,” Wartena concludes. “We believe the Sunseeker by ICON will revolutionise the industry in a positive way. It is an exciting period for ICON Yachts and this new partnership with Sunseeker is part of our ongoing growth strategy where we are investing heavily in facilities and people to improve our capability and capacity.”
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