The Sunseeker 86 Yacht may have its sights set on long-distance cruising but it still has speed and performance in its soul.
You might never have bought an expensive handbag in your life, but you still know that Gucci makes them – just as you know that Hermès does silk scarves, Poltrona Frau sofas are pretty plush, and Hackett has a good line in rugby tops.
In the same way, even non-boating people know that Sunseeker stands for speed and performance.
It’s one of Britain’s prime luxury brands, and one of the most potent names in world yachting.
Even though the shipyard hasn’t actually built a boat directly from the hull lines of a Don Shead racer for years and years – the last one was the fabulous Thunderhawk 43, back in the 80s – it is still well aware that it has an image to keep up.
So the new Sunseeker 86 Yacht has all the style and panache expected of the brand, and, outwardly at least, with its angular, dramatic and streamlined looks, it also promises the necessary thrills.
But this is a Sunseeker with a difference.
According to the company’s design team it has a new kind of hull, intended to satisfy an increasingly vocal section of the market which demands that a yacht of this type shouldn’t just be about going fast, but should also be able to cruise comfortably and economically at moderate speeds.
That’s a fair request – it might not be what the hard-chine planing hull form is actually designed for, but many constructors build such yachts, with comparatively modest horsepower and a moderate angle of vee at the stern to provide plenty of lift, hardening up as it runs forward into a finer forefoot to minimise slamming.
And the new 86 is Sunseeker’s take on the concept.
Inside, though, it’s business as usual. It has to be – fast or slow, a luxury motor yacht needs to keep up appearances, and with its huge windows, voluminous accommodation and high-quality fit-out, the Sunseeker 86 does not disappoint.
There are numerous seating and layout possibilities on the main deck, all of them centred around an elegant dining table amidships, an attractive and spacious galley on the port side – complete with a curved bar facing into the wheelhouse – and the irresistible option of a spectacular balcony that unfolds from the starboard gunwale.
There is also a choice of one or two routes down to the lower deck, according to which cabin layout you prefer.
Our test boat had the two companionways, which somewhat counter-intuitively means the cabins can be bigger – there being no need for a central corridor.
The forward one goes down to a generous VIP suite in the bows, which has the feel of a private apartment, while the midships companionway leads to a central lobby with a full-beam master suite forward and two versatile twin cabins aft, whose berths slide together to make doubles.
There is also a five-cabin option, in which the full-beam master is divided into two.
Everything is full-size. This feels like a big yacht for its length.
Minimum headroom is 6ft 5in (1.96m) in the VIP, while all the beds are 6ft 6in (1.98m) long and even the singles are a full 32in (81cm) wide.
Big, bright windows add to the sensation of space.
The crew quarters, too, are remarkably well-proportioned, taking up a generous section of the stern with two single cabins, a dinette and a shared head compartment.
Steel-framed hatches in the lower deck open up to reveal cavernous stowage areas.
And perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the engineroom, which has superb headroom, plenty of access all round the flat-mounted engines and their V-drive gearboxes, and genuinely seems to have come from a much bigger yacht.
The flybridge is both long and wide, with room at the end to store a two-seat personal watercraft, while the garage can accommodate a 3.85m Williams-sized RIB, and there is room on the hydraulic platform for another of 4.45m.
Complementing the cockpit and flybridge seating, up on the foredeck there is another relaxation area, complete with sunbed, table and sofa. The Sunseeker 86 is a lot of yacht.
Driving the Sunseeker 86 Yacht
It’s also a new kind of yacht for Sunseeker: one with a flatter-sectioned, more easily driven hull than the company usually uses, and horsepower specified with efficiency and range uppermost in mind, rather than outright performance.
Of course, with its sporting, deep-vee heritage, Sunseeker’s idea of a moderate deadrise for a 70-tonner might surprise other shipyards.
It’s 17º at the transom, which would be regarded as pretty deep by a lot of Italian yards who build yachts of this type, although it only sharpens to 29º at the bow.
That’s very full, and taken with the less steeply raked stem, by Sunseeker’s rakish standards the bow is almost bluff. Modest horsepower, meanwhile, turns out to be two 1,622hp MTU V10s.
However, it works very well. There are no sudden trim changes as the Sunseeker 86 accelerates; it just starts planing, and before you know it you’re doing 20 knots.
Throttle back into the zone at which the hull is designed to excel, and it stays on the plane and slips along quietly in the mid to upper teens with a cruising range – even allowing for our fanatically conservative 20% reserve – of nearly 500 nautical miles.
With full water tanks and about one-third fuel we found that a few judicious tweaks of the trim produced another half-knot or so, while a top speed of just over 26 knots is pretty respectable.
At displacement speeds of 10 to 11 knots, range is well over 1,000 miles.
But although designed as a medium-speed, long range cruising yacht, the Sunseeker 86 is still a Sunseeker, so having first remembered to switch the stabilisers off – they are rigidly, unyieldingly effective – we spent a happy few minutes at full throttle trying to turn it inside out.
It didn’t put a foot wrong – although with wide, down-angled chines running ‘downhill’ all the way aft, it was clear that Sunseeker’s naval architects have designed more lateral stability into this hull than they usually do.
There was never that sense in hard turns that you could touch the water from the flybridge. Nevertheless, full marks. It’s fun.
And while this is a design optimised from the outset for cruising economy, with a pair of relatively sensible 1,622hp MTU V10s, it wouldn’t be a Sunseeker if you didn’t also have the option of fitting some much more powerful motors – the 1,950hp V12 variant of the MTU 2000 M94.
And with those installed, the Sunseeker 86 Yacht is capable of an impressive 31 knots – although, of course, it is far less economical at cruising speeds.
According to the shipyard’s figures the V12 version has a range at 15 knots some 180 miles less than the V10 version. The Sunseeker 86 Yacht was launched in September, simultaneously at the Cannes and Southampton boat shows, and was an immediate success.
When we tested it a month later the fi rm had signed build contracts for no fewer than 14 of them. But guess which version is proving more popular? Yes, the faster one. Obviously. It must be something to do with Sunseeker’s image.
First published in the February 2015 issue of MBY.
Length overall: 86ft 3in (26.30m)
Beam: 21ft 3in (6.47m)
Draught: 6ft 5in (1.95m)
Fuel capacity: 2,420 gal (11,000 litres)
Water capacity: 310 gal (1,400 litres)
Displacement: 67 tonnes (half load)
Test engines: 2 x 1,622hp MTU 10V 2000 M94
Optional engines: 2 x 1,950hp MTU 12V 2000 M94
Top speed on test: 26.2 knots
Crusing speed: 13-23 knots