The reserved Sunseeker 101 Sport Yacht breaks ranks with its flashier European counterparts.
By Alan Harper
Stepping out of the midday glare into the cool interior of the Sunseeker 101 Sport Yacht was like turning off the lights. I removed my sunglasses and there was a slight improvement, but my overworked irises still needed a few seconds to adjust to the deep shadow of the yacht’s long salon. There was nobody about. It was calm and welcoming, and not at all what I was expecting.
I’d thought I would encounter the sort of edgy, right-angled, modernist interior in chrome and white leather that seems all but compulsory in sharp European sport yachts. What I found was a dark oak floor, satin-varnished American black walnut paneling, black leather trim—quite a lot of it, in fact—and a massive sideboard capped with a slab of marble so thick I wondered if Sunseeker had to ballast the port side to keep the yacht upright.
But it wasn’t gloomy. It was noon, and daylight flooded through the well-placed skylights in the deckhead. Plenty of pale upholstery and reflective details lent crisp notes of contrast. The overall effect was pleasingly English and, after battling the heat and merciless sun outside, as refreshing as a gin and tonic.
Sunseeker is, of course, such a quintessential English sport yacht brand that to find its products placed prominently in a James Bond movie no longer raises an eyebrow. The builder’s early association with offshore race boat designer Don Shead laid the foundation for its image. Even today, decades later, when the market for sporty boats has never been more flooded, something about the marque still makes the heart beat faster.
The 101 Sport Yacht is designed with a standard four-cabin layout below, with a fairly small galley aft in the crew area that creates space on the main deck for that long, open-plan salon. The cockpit is nearly as voluminous. In spite of being a sport yacht, the 101 also has a substantial flybridge up top and a spacious foredeck seating area, which together provide ample deck space for relaxation. On paper, you might mistake this yacht for a portly family flybridge cruiser rather than a lean, mean performance machine. You’d be tragically mistaken.
Occupying the full beam, the master cabin is well-appointed with big hull windows, a sofa and dressing table, a large head and a walk-in closet. Headroom throughout the lower deck is 6 feet 6 inches (2 meters), and if the designers were pressured to make any compromises to keep the external profile low and sporty, there’s certainly no evidence of it down here. Forward, the VIP is noticeably less spacious than the master, but it’s comparably comfortable and—as with the starboard twin cabin—what it might lack in floor area is reconciled with an unusually capacious shower and head compartment.
There are a couple of departures from the script. This particular 101 is still a four-cabin yacht, but not as Sunseeker originally planned. The owner chose to forgo the port twin guest cabin, instead installing an open-plan office. This works well. It’s airy and spacious, and it has a full-size desk, a small bench seat and shelving. It is served by an impressive suite of satcom equipment, allowing him to work wherever the yacht may be. Just aft, where the guest cabin’s head compartment would have been, is a compact twin-bunk cabin. It might seem an afterthought, but it would be fine for kids provided neither of them needed a bed longer than 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters).
Other owner-specified modifications and options on this highly specified yacht—the extras bill runs to about $1.2 million—include a dumbwaiter linking the galley with the salon bar, a third crew cabin, a commercial-size fridge-freezer in the galley and Sleipner zero-speed fin stabilizers. But none of these undoubtedly useful items has quite the fun factor of the phenomenal Francis military-spec searchlight, with its 18.2 million candlepower and range of 2.6 miles, or the high-powered, joystick-controlled FLIR thermal imaging camera, which is apparently capable of spotting a 7-foot dinghy in the dark from five miles away. Add in the capability of a Simrad 64-mile high-definition radar, and two conclusions seem inescapable: Running at night is going to be at least as much fun as running in broad daylight, and the chances of bumping into anything are pretty remote.
It’s not just the salon and the shower compartments that are surprisingly spacious. The garage is big too—big enough for the yacht’s 15-foot (4.6-meter) Williams 445 jet RIB, with room left over for a personal watercraft. Which brings us to perhaps the only serious drawback in the 101’s design: The machinery space is cramped and so packed with equipment, electrics, hydraulics, cables, valves and filters that I had to place my feet and hands with care. The exhaust system fills the space between the engines and the tender well, leaving a bare 6 inches above the air filters. It’s an engine room with issues, but by stowing the main tender on the aft platform and fitting a small garage athwartships for a PWC, it could be transformed.
Of course, owners could specify smaller engines, but that would be missing the point of a Sunseeker. Those two immense, 4-ton, 16-cylinder MTU 16V 2000 M94s are built for one thing only: performance. It is key to Sunseeker, and the 101 not only packs more than 5,200 horsepower, but she’s built to reap the maximum benefit from it, displacing less than 90 tons at half-load.
This 101’s French captain, Olivier Legrand, who also captained the same owner’s Sunseeker Predator 84, confirmed that they achieved 32.4 knots on the 101’s acceptance trials, a speed comfortably faster than expected. Legrand also noted they tend to cruise at 25 to 26 knots, which gives a range of about 600 nautical miles. He took charge on the yacht’s long delivery from the United Kingdom to the South of France, via Gibraltar and the east coast of Spain, and remarked that she handled much like the 84, praising her seakeeping qualities. On a run across the notorious Golfe du Lion in a Force 6 to 7, he says, he didn’t even have to throttle back.
To hear the captain tell his stories of fast cruising, impressive top speeds and great seakeeping … that’s exactly what I was expecting.
For more information: +44 (0)1202 381 111, sunseeker.com