Years ago at the London Boat Show, I asked someone at the Sunseeker stand why she was giving away so many luxurious brochures. In marked contrast to other exhibitors, anyone who wanted one got one. Another boy ran off, clutching his prize.
“He’s the buyer of the future,” the attendant said.
She was right, of course. Mention the brand Sunseeker to virtually any European yacht enthusiast, and the name conjures images of sleek, deep-V powerboats with curved windscreens, impeccable seakeeping and the sort of sex appeal that made boys stick pictures of the boats on their bedroom walls. Sunseekers were, quite simply, cooler than anything else on the water.
The world has changed, bringing new competition, and Sunseeker has worked hard to reinvent itself. No longer just a purveyor of glamorous weekenders, Sunseeker today is a builder of substantial, authoritative cruising yachts that positively drip with luxury. Now Chinese-owned, the Poole shipyard is less concerned with cultivating the buyers of the future than with persuading people in the present—people who probably didn’t visit the London Boat Show in the ’80s, and certainly never stuck pictures of boats on their bedroom walls—that the one thing to guarantee their earthly fulfilment is the purchase of a big, beautiful yacht.
“The new yacht owners aren’t boating people—their yardstick of luxury is hotels and apartments,” says Sunseeker’s John Braithwaite, who founded the company with his brother Robert more than 50 years ago. “They start boating by chartering a yacht and base all their expectations on that unreality.”
It’s not immediately obvious, but Sunseeker’s new 95 Yacht is based on the same platform as the 28 Metre Yacht, which caused quite a stir when it launched a few years ago. But whereas the 28 is a flybridge yacht with its wheelhouse forward of the deck salon, the two-and-a-half-deck 95 Yacht has an elevated pilothouse, which allows for a full sweep of accommodations on the main deck, in a design with serious large-yacht credentials.
“We always try to get two boats out of a platform,” Braithwaite says. “It was always the plan to develop the 95 from the 28; the main requirement was to ensure that there was a difference between them, and from other models in the range. You don’t want to be stealing market share from yourself.”
Indeed, the 95 is a substantially new yacht. The long sweep of salon leads forward to an owner’s suite arranged on two decks, with a double berth offset slightly to port. A curving flight of stairs leads forward and down, past a landing lined with mirrored closets, to a bathroom on its own deck level. The master is a two-floor apartment, in effect, and with its entrance lobby, sofa, berth and 6-foot-5-inch headroom, I half expected the view out of the side windows to be of Manhattan’s Central Park.
With the master taking up the whole of the yacht’s bow, on both levels, there is less guest accommodations space on the lower deck of the 95 than on the 28 Metre. On the first 95 to be completed, a full-beam VIP is just forward of amidships (an alternate layout lets owners divide it into a pair of twin-berth staterooms). Along with that space is a pair of ensuite guest staterooms with sliding berths that convert to doubles or twins. Belowdecks headroom is even more generous than on the main deck, and the proportions of the heads in all three staterooms feel substantial. Windows ensure that the lower deck will never lack for daylight.
The American package for the 95 Yacht includes a hardtop, air conditioning, Sleipner digital fin stabilizers and underwater lights, while a salon balcony remains on the options list, as do the hardwood sole and gloss wenge paneling that were aboard the first hull. Black American walnut and white oak are also available. China by Royal Doulton, crystal by Dartington, Robert Welch cutlery and Robert Langford dining chairs are all standard.
Our sea trial was on a calm day in the English Channel off Dorset’s chalk cliffs. Fitted with the MTU engines, she topped out at 26 knots and proved comfortable cruising around 20 knots, with a practical range of about 400 nautical miles.
My abiding impression wasn’t so much the speeds the yacht achieved as the way she achieved them. You could forgive a yacht of this size and weight for having the driving characteristics of a bus, but the 95’s acceleration was smooth and linear, her handling deft and her steering light and sure-footed. The world may have changed, but Sunseeker still likes to build boats that drive well.
For more information: sunseeker.com