In the third part of our 'Big Four' series, we trace the history of Sunseeker motorboats
Princess and Fairline have always been rivals – the companies began at roughly the same time, and produced boats for a similar audience. Sunseeker has always somehow remained aloof from the fray, due in the early years to its focus on sportier craft.
In later years, Sunseeker too would start building boats with serious accommodation, but back in the 60s, it was all about fun in the sun.
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.
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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. 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.