Sunseeker’s giant Predator 130 sits at the head of the sportscruiser food chain. We find out what it feels like to be top dog for a day.
Monday morning, and Sunseeker’s enormous Southampton Boat Show pavilion was gradually disappearing as carpenters and electricians casually undid the work they had so carefully completed a couple of weeks before.
The show closed the previous evening; down at the pontoons engines were warming up as delivery crews donned lifejackets, singled up mooring lines and adjusted fenders, making the company’s gleaming show collection ready for the routine passage back to the shipyard in Poole.
For a small group of friends aboard one of the boats, however, this was anything but routine. The winning bidders in an RNLI charity auction, their prize was one to be envied by any motorboater with a pulse.
A luxury cruise along the Hampshire and Dorset shorelines to the white cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, aboard the flagship of Sunseeker’s boat show fleet, the mighty Predator 130.
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Costing over £15 million in this guise and with a top speed of almost 30 knots courtesy of two huge 4,250hp engines, the Sunseeker Predator 130 provides a maximum motorboating experience.
However seasoned and experienced you might feel yourself to be, this would be a passage worth savouring.
“It’s not the sort of chance you get every day,” voiced one of the lucky winners with a smile, loosening the cork in a bottle of champagne.
“When I told them at work why I wouldn’t be in today, I did sense a green tinge to their congratulations.”
Out on the Solent
On the aft deck, the Predator’s captain, Mark Solomon, briefed the guests and crew. It was a breezy, autumnal day, sunny but fresh.
With wind against tide the Needles Channel would be lumpy, he explained, so we’d be taking the North Channel out of the Solent, a close shave past Hurst Castle, in the steeply-shelving depths just off the beach.
With hardly a word exchanged between them, captain and crew cast off, cleared the show marina and pointed the enormous motor yacht’s aggressive snout south, towards the Isle of Wight.
The first champagne cork popped and we were off. Fast Red Jet catamaran ferries, normally so tall and threatening, looked a good deal less intimidating from the height of the Sunseeker Predator 130’s wheelhouse.
Hythe slipped by on the starboard beam and we were clear of the restricted speed zone. Mark eased the throttles forward. The effect was immediate.
With no discernible change in running angle, the massive MTU V16s, with more than 8,000hp between them, urged 180 tonnes of sleek style up onto the plane.
In the wheelhouse all was calm, but the cockpit told another story – our track stretched aft in a boiling white tumult, as the wind lifted plumes of spray off the wake.
Our guests battled through the breeze – more like half a gale at this speed – past the forward seating area, and down to the foredeck for a windswept photocall.
Then back again, buffeted along the side decks with the wind at their backs, to the shelter of the Predator’s upper saloon – and that champagne.
Only slightly shorter and built on the same beam as the enormous, three-deck Sunseeker 40 Metre Yacht, the flagship of the Predator range is also one of the biggest ‘open’-style sports yachts in the world.
Our particular Sunseeker Predator 130 was not as open as some, however: the fifth to be built, and destined for a Hong Kong owner, its enclosed upper deck is an expensive but very worthwhile option, with its own private bar, sofas, games table and excellent, elevated views.
Less formal than the main deck, this is a space dedicated to having fun, and would be the perfect place to relax or party with friends.
From this insulated capsule of luxury, there was little except the attitude of the sailboats flashing past to indicate what conditions were like outside.
The south-westerly wind raised a firm chop against the outgoing tide, and as we turned west at Calshot for the run down the Solent the occasional splash of spray found its way up to the windscreen.
The Predator punched the seas aside with casual grace.
Living areas on the Sunseeker Predator 130
On the main and lower decks the vast accommodation volumes showed just why the Sunseeker Predator 130, and indeed the 40 Metre, have proved so successful.
The massive dining table seats 12 and even with our small crowd of guests on board, there were plenty of quiet corners for small clusters to sit and chat.
Our owner had pushed the boat out, literally and financially, by specifying the optional balconies too – one on each side of the saloon and one on the port side of the owner’s cabin.
We couldn’t enjoy these under way but it wasn’t hard to imagine opening them up in some idyllic bay, and settling down with a drink to watch the sunset.
It’s the stuff of dreams – and not just for advertising copywriters. The owner’s cabin itself deserves a special mention.
Positioned forward on the main deck, this superb suite occupies the full beam of the yacht, with an equally impressive bathroom complete with a gallery of forward-facing windows.
And there are four cabins down below: a matching pair of double VIP suites amidships and two roomy doubles.
Sunseeker can fit out the interior in any way you want, with a variety of veneers, fabrics and linings to choose from. Our particular Predator was finished in a tasteful and conservative scheme of gloss cherry.
The yacht was also packed with extras: the three balconies, the enclosed upper saloon, an excellent TRACStar digital fin stabilising system for those idyllic evenings on anchor and longer passages, and a host of other additions, adding over £1 million to the bottom line.
Mark set the throttles at a relaxed 1,570rpm, which gave us 18 knots through the water and, with the helpful tide, around 20 knots over the ground.
The MTU monitors indicated fuel consumption at this speed to be 364 litres per hour, per engine – 160 gallons per hour combined.
The low-lying creeks of Newtown slipped past to port, and over on the mainland shore a thick forest of masts marked Lymington.
Mark was cosseting the Predator’s brand new engines, but there was a powerful temptation to reach across and push the throttles down, as Sunseekers tend to be drivers’ boats, and even their big flybridges can handle like agile sportscruisers.
But the Predator continued its unruffled progress across an increasingly choppy Solent.
Sunseeker Predator 130 accommodation: Rooms with views
In the upper saloon, another cork popped. These were familiar ports of call to our guests, all of them boat owners – although they admitted they had never seen them before from such a spectacular vantage point.
Its commanding height helps make the Predator such a consummate cruising machine – and with acres of glass to bring the outside world in, you and you guests wouldn’t miss a thing.
Yarmouth slipped by to port with its pier and church tower, then the chop over the shoals off Black Rock and Sconce.
The Predator shrugged them off without noticing. The wheelhouse of the Sunseeker Predator 130, some 20ft (6m) above the water, provided an unexpected view of Hurst Castle.
For someone who has rounded the point many times but never in anything so big – eye to eye with the fortifications, and clean over the beach into the shallows and channels of Keyhaven.
An ordered little oasis of old-school small-craft moorings, with not a marina berth or a harbour launch in sight. On the long fetch between the Solent and the approaches to Poole we had the wind off the port bow and seas of a metre or more.
Not that you’d know it from where we were sitting. The windscreen wipers were employed more readily now, but the ride was reassuringly solid and noise levels impressively low, even in the cabins down below.
As Christchurch and Hengistbury Head slipped by to starboard, the chalk cliffs of Studland revealed themselves low down on the horizon and the sea began to flatten out in their lee.
A chance to daydream
At 40 miles or so it was hardly a taxing voyage for a vessel as accomplished as the Predator 130, and it can hardly be said that we were cruising in the waters for which it was designed.
But just being aboard such a yacht fuels the imagination. Making a landfall off some exotic foreign shore, and picking your way past palm-fringed islands into a deserted turquoise anchorage.
Arriving at some belle époque waterfront en route to an intimate, stone-built harbour, where your usual table is ready for you to enjoy an evening of the finest wine and seafood, glancing down occasionally at the yachts – and there she is.
The sun was sparkling off the sea as we turned into Poole. It needed no imagination to appreciate the distinctive outline of Old Harry Rocks, silhouetted against a crisp horizon.
The wind had died down. Small sailing craft zigzagged among the sandbanks, making the most of the late-season sunshine, and our guests lined the forward rail and admired the familiar scene.
It might not be Portofino or Tai Long Wan, but Dorset’s Jurassic Coast still provided a breathtaking backdrop as the Sunseeker Predator 130 made her entrance.
First published in the January 2012 issue of MBY.
Price from: £13.77 million ex VAT
Price as tested: £15.02 million ex VAT
Overall length: 128ft 4in (39.12m)
Beam: 26ft 7in (8.10m)
Draught: 9ft (2.75m)
Fuel capacity: 5,183 gal (23,560 litres)
Optional extra fuel capacity: 1,133 gal (5,150 litres)
Water capacity: 1,089 gal (4,950 litres)
Displacement: 180 tonnes (half load)
Engines: 2 x 4,245hp MTU 16V 4000 M93
Max speed: 30 knots @ 2,240rpm
Cruising speed: Up to 21 knots
Range (80% of standard fuel capacity): 466nm @ 18 knots; 160 gal/hr, 0.112mpg
Range (80% of standard fuel capacity): 342nm @ 30 knots; 364 gal/hr, 0.082mpg