“Space, elegance and flexibility,” is how sunseeker have described the theme of its new flagship 161 yacht as the shipyard releases details of the project designed by British studio, Design Unlimited. But this time, an entirely British project she is not, as the 161 takes her form at ICON Yachts in Holland marking the elaboration of Sunseeker’s Superyacht Division which sees the construction of metal vessels and described as a “momentous step” by the semi-custom shipyard.

After confirming a serious letter of intent of hull #1 in the series, one that was brokered by the shipyard’s Monegasque division at the end of September, Sunseeker has outlined its pivotal decision that promises to cater to its existing client base looking for larger vessels. With an increase in size, I believe, comes an increase in flexibility which is why Sunseeker’s venture into metal superyacht construction is one that marks an important development in the evolution of the brand and broader opportunities for prospective owners.

From a design perspective, Sunseeker’s decision to venture into metal yachts is also interesting, as the quest to provide a more flexible platform than GRP offers new design opportunities in what is an entirely new size range for sunseeker.

From a design perspective, Sunseeker’s decision to venture into metal yachts is also interesting, as the quest to provide a more flexible platform than GRP offers new design opportunities in what is an entirely new size range for sunseeker.

After being approached to design the project in April 2018, Design Unlimited began developing a highly flexible platform for the new 49m flagship. “We have a really good connection with Sunseeker, and they felt that we were the right people to bring the Sunseeker DNA into the superyacht range and bring our understanding of the superyacht world into it as well,” explains Mark Tucker, CEO of Design Unlimited.

Having designed a large proportion of the Sunseeker range, Design Unlimited’s understanding of the shipyard’s brand and design ethos is substantial, and were therefore well positioned to create the new Sunseeker 161 flagship vessel.

“We spent a long time with ICON and Sunseeker doing extensive general arrangement development,” continues Tucker. “We came up with many different combinations, which is something that we have learnt to do through working with Sunseeker on the smaller boats,  as well as standardising customer choice on the GA.”

The speculative approach is something that has been considered in the fundamental of this design. Through a series of different layout configurations owners are still given a huge amount of options when they come on board with the project, but the very foundations of the 161 will remain consistent in the series.

“The idea is if we can get 80 per cent of the accommodating correct and the spaces right, then the effect of changing systems design and productions design further down the line is a significant saving to the yard and the engineering departments,” says Tucker. “If the approach is smarter in the beginning, then hopefully when a customer comes along, you don’t have to completely re-engineer the boat and the owner doesn’t feel that they have to change the boat significantly to get what they want.

“It is about giving people the right amount of options,” he continues. “Giving them the fun, but having the guidance from the shipyard on the way boats are priced with its interior and trying to keep that under control while giving the customer the feeling that they are getting all of the freedom that they want.”

“It is about giving people the right amount of options. Giving them the fun, but having the guidance from the shipyard on the way boats are priced with its interior and trying to keep that under control while giving the customer the feeling that they are getting all of the freedom that they want.”

Here the point is that while this is a semi-custom project, clients are still given the high level of service and options to extensively personalise the boat. On the construction side the bare bones of the project and the layout options will be similar, but the interiors are still available for a great deal of customisation, or as Tucker puts it - the fun part.

“Clients get that very personal level of service,” explains Tucker. “The customers are invited here to the studio and ICON is treated as if it were any other client at any level in the industry. At the end of the day, you can call it a semi-custom project, but the design and the look of the interior is done to give them guidance, and a helping hand to start the process. We have three very different looks, and they are different enough to take a customer into one direction and then we can sit down and choose the personal touches, fabrics and other details.”

Sunseeker’s venture into metal boats at the upper end of the size spectrum is clearly a welcome option as far as the market is concerned, having the first letter of intent for a 161 Yacht signed, and others expected in due course. The brand is considered to be one of the strongest in the GRP market, and now it would seem that there are exciting times ahead for the brand’s existence in the metal market as well. Delivery is expected to take place in September 2022. In the meantime, discussions are ongoing for confirmation of hulls number two and three.

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