Founded by Idris Braithwaite in the 1960s as Poole Powerboats, the company was rebranded as Sunseeker in 1979.
It wasn’t until Idris Braithwaite moved his chandlery and outboard business down the road from Christchurch to Poole in the early half of the decade that the Poole Powerboats story got started.
The change in location gave Idris and his business partner, John Macklin, shoreside access and they branched into sportsboat sales, becoming a dealer for Scandinavian, American and British-built sportsboats.
In 1962, Idris’s sons, Robert and John, joined the team and it wasn’t long before the foursome hatched a plan to produce their own line of boats, taking the best aspects of the boats they’d been selling for others and incorporating them into the new range.
Moulds were purchased from an American company called Owens Cruisers Incorporated, and in 1969 the first Poole Powerboats-built Sovereign 17 rolled into the water. This was soon followed by a Sovereign 20.
These boats were a combination of American robustness, Scandinavian finish and British conservatism, and were among the first British sportsboats to standardise on outdrive power.
Production of these boats ticked along, but Poole Powerboats was still more a boat dealer than a boatbuilder, and was appointed the distributor for Coronet, Windy and Draco – sportsboats from the part of the world that at that time dominated the market, Scandinavia.
Poole Powerboats’ ties with that part of the world were further reinforced when it found itself the largest UK parts distributor for Volvo Penta engines.
The company prospered as a distributor for other people’s products, but the drive to establish itself as an independent boatbuilder never waned, and in 1976 Poole Powerboats was back with a pair of boats designed in-house that it hoped would capture the imagination of the rapidly expanding daycruiser marketplace.
The Sports 23 and Daycab 23 were the company’s first real hits, and were also the first boats to be prefixed with the name Sunseeker (Braithwaite believed that the name Poole Powerboats was likely to be confused with ‘poulet’ on the Continent – the French for chicken). The Sports was a sleek, low-profile sportsboat with a two-berth cabin, sea toilet, stove and a large cockpit.
But it was the 36-knot Daycab that really took off. This boat had four berths, a galley, a toilet, and a hand-crafted teak bathing platform. Moreover, the build quality, fitout and handling were equal to anything coming out of Scandinavia.
More than 120 Daycabs were built between 1976 and 1979, when the model was replaced by the Sunseeker 235. The success of the model put Poole Powerboats firmly on the boatbuilding map, and there was no looking back.
As the company looked to break into the Mediterranean market in the late 1970s, a key design partnership was formed with legendary naval architect Don Shead. His previous works included superyachts and racing boats, but the Sunseeker Offshore 28 was his first production boat and its sporty performance and innovative hull design saw Sunseeker snap up sales in France, Spain and Germany, leading to a rebrand as Sunseeker International.
The emphasis on fun in the sun saw two iconic models launched in the 1980s – the Portofino 31 and the Tomahawk 37, which were capable of hosting large parties in their spacious cockpits, whilst retaining a wicked turn of speed.
Jet-drive boats pushed the game on further still in the 1990s, with the Renegade 60 and the Predator 80 turning heads – the former was welcomed to the 1990 Southampton Boat Show with widespread acclaim, from buyers and competitors alike.
At the turn of the century, Sunseeker began a Hollywood partnership, which was to last for the best part of a decade, with their yachts appearing in four James Bond films: The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Currently owned by Chinese group Dalian Wanda, Sunseeker remains a British company with manufacturing still based in Poole.
The current Sunseeker collection ranges in size from the entry-level Predator 50 to the Sunseeker 155. Hull number one of this superyacht series, Blush, was commissioned by Formula 1 supremo Eddie Jordan and launched in 2014.
Looking to the future, Sunseeker plans to expand its range in both directions, with a Hawk 38 performance boat and a Sunseeker 161 Yacht both under development.
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