Used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best open sportscruisers on the market, from the likes of Sunseeker, Sealine, Windy and Neptunus…
The worst thing about open sportscruisers is always the canopy, and the bigger the boat, the bigger the canopy and the greater the swearing and the hassle.
It’s precisely why hardtop sportscruisers have become very popular. So popular, in fact, that many models, the Princess V40 for example, now only come with the option of a hard top. It’s easy to see why. Remove the small aft section of canopy, press a button to slide the roof open and voila, an open cockpit.
However, it’s just not the same. The sides of the hardtop mean that the effect is more akin to a car with a sunroof rather than a convertible. And you can’t fit a bimini of course, only shut the roof.
So the effect is the reverse of what you actually need, the sun beating down from above but the sides enclosed, whereas a traditional sportscruiser is a fully open experience with the ability to provide shade.
So this month we’re celebrating the best open sportscruisers because there’s no finer feeling in the world than helming such a boat in fine weather.
4 of the best open sportscruisers for sale
Neptunus Carlton S41
Neptunus is a marque that you may not have come across. A Dutch yard, it built some very solid craft, mostly big flybridge boats but also the occasional sportscruiser, like this one.
A broadly conventional interior for a 40ft sportscruiser, it has the owner’s cabin in the bow, a mid cabin back aft with two single beds that run transversely beneath the cockpit, and a dinette opposite the galley between them. But it did have one AUSP (almost unique selling point). A second heads.
Pretty much unheard of at the time, it was ensuite to the mid cabin, giving your guests total privacy, not something you’d have found on a Princess V42 or Fairline Targa 43 of the same era. (The Sealine S41 had one, hence ‘almost’, but that was a far bulkier looking boat).
With its powerful haunches, raked transom and chunky GRP sweep of windscreen frame (positioned such that it’s easy to see over when stood, although it can limit vision when seated), the Carlton S41 is a distinctive-looking boat.
It’s practical, too – the side rails extend right aft so that access to the side decks feels secure and protected, and the boarding ladder has hand rails that extend vertically above the swim platform to aid egress from the water.
Unusually, there is a small breakfast bar arrangement on the port side of the cockpit, and it’s this that creates the headroom for that second heads.
We tested a Carlton S41 with a pair of Volvo Penta KAD 44 EDC engines. With a maximum speed of 30 knots (although the manufacturer claimed to have seen 34 knots), we felt that the larger KAD 300 EDC engines coming on line at that point might be a better match. Fortunately, that is the engine option fitted to this boat.
We put the slightly breathless performance down to the sheer weight of the boat (a Princess V42 of that era with KAD 44EDC was achieving 37 knots). However, it is a sturdily built craft offering refined cruising.
LOA: 42ft 8in (13.0m)
Beam: 12ft 4in (3.8m)
Draught: 3ft 2in (1.0m)
Displacement: 8.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 750 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta KAD 44EDC 260hp diesels
Location: Channel Islands
Contact: Moore Yachts
Article continues below…
Best hardtop sportscruisers: Our top picks from the used boat market
Secondhand buyers’ guide: 4 of the best 50ft sportscruisers for sale
Sunseeker Superhawk 50
The Superhawk 50 was originally launched as the Superhawk 48 and could be purchased with anything from a pair of 230hp diesels through to triple 300hp Yanmar diesels.
Naturally, Sunseeker (heavily performance-orientated at the time) opined that a little more performance would be lovely, so it developed the 50.
A longer bathing platform allowed triple surface drives to be connected to 420hp Yanmar 6LY2-STE engines, putting 50 knots within reach.
Designed by Don Shead and an evolution of the Thunderhawk 43, itself based on Shead’s race-winning Rejuga offshore powerboat design, the Superhawk has a pencil of a hull; narrow, low and deep of vee.
It’s why there is a gently curving channel to walk along through the centre of the cabin to gain a little extra headroom. There’s no mid cabin as the cockpit is also kept low. It is trimmed in classic Sunseeker high-gloss cherry with the thick cappings the company did so well. Yes, it’s small inside, but so is an Aston Martin Vantage.
Again the narrow beam makes itself felt, but the cockpit of the Superhawk 50 is a lovely place to be. There’s a huge sunpad aft above the motors, with a walkway past it to port, a deeply sunk dinette opposite a wet bar and three heavily padded stand/sit bolsters at the business end.
The helm is a plethora of gauges – this boat predates electronic instruments so the full analog dial display is repeated three times, and six levers control the engines – three throttles and three gear shifters.
It’s fast. Seriously fast. And with those surface-piercing Rolla propellers, other boaters get treated to the sight of a huge rooster tail of spray as you leave them for dead.
Out at sea is where that narrow beam and low profile pay off. The race-boat DNA creates a hull that scythes through the rough stuff, allowing all of that towering performance to be unleashed.
LOA: 52ft 1in (15.9m)
Beam: 10ft 10in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 11.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,000 litres
Engines: Triple Yanmar 6LY2-STE 420hp diesel engines
Windy 37 Grand Mistral
Quite often there is a single boat that inspires this feature, and this month it’s this boat. The vast majority of Windy 37 Grand Mistrals went out with the optional hard top, which makes good sense. But when I saw this open version I immediately thought “she’s just about perfect”.
Some makes of boat have an unmistakeable vibe, and Windy is no exception. I could be lead aboard blindfolded, but once inside I’d know exactly what it was. The combination of beautiful woodwork, including the practical wooden floor, the well-fitted linings and the subtle colour scheme just scream, or more accurately whisper, “Windy”.
The layout is snug but entirely conventional and none the worse for it – double cabins at either end are split by the saloon and galley. The centreline bed in the owner’s cabin forward is a nice touch in a sub-40ft boat.
It’s a similar deal in the cockpit where neatly paired instruments down either side of the helm console, plenty of chunky grab rails, a thick wooden cockpit table and practical touches such as the steps up to the port side deck let you know you’re aboard a proper boat from a proper builder.
Although early Grand Mistrals (the boat launched in 1997) were offered with a variety of twin Yanmar, Mercruiser or Volvo Penta engines, the vast majority got the Volvos, and in fact the other makes soon disappeared from the options form.
In production for well over a decade, the KAD 44 260hp and KAD 300 285hp engines were usurped in 2004 by Volvo Penta’s brand new D Series motors, hence the D4-260 engines in this example, which should push the top speed into the high 30s.
Designed by Hans J Johnsen, this is an extremely capable boat. When we asked powerboat racer Steve Curtis to test a number of like-sized sportscruisers in June 2005, he concluded that the 37 “had the best combination of ride comfort and agility of all the boats tested”.
LOA: 36ft 7in (11.1m)
Beam: 10ft 6in (3.5m)
Draught: 3ft 2in (1.0m)
Displacement: 6.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 800 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D4-260 260hp diesel engines
Contact: Salterns Brokerage
Sealine 360 Ambassador
In 1993, when the 360 Ambassador was launched, Sealine’s range stretched from a 21ft 210 Senator that you could put on a trailer through to the 450 Statesman – a 45ft flybridge cruiser, putting this model firmly into the centre and encapsulating exactly what Sealine did so well: good-value user-friendly boats.
Despite it being almost 30 years old, this is still a great looking boat – well proportioned and curvaceous.
The user-friendliness is particularly evident inside the boat. Whilst many other manufacturers were still filling their interiors with dour and heavy- looking teak, the 360 Ambassador welcomes you in with light woods and pale fabrics.
It’s well equipped, too, with a three-burner hob, gas oven and grill, plus a microwave, and there is a stack of storage. A conventional layout sees a master cabin forward and guests in the mid cabin aft.
The forward cabin gets a centreline double bed instead of being squashed against one side and the mid cabin has a single and a double berth, making this area particularly adaptable. Even the toilet and the shower are split off into two separate units.
The cockpit is on one level, without any steps to trip up or stumble down, and the backrest of the aft seat can be configured to provide seating or sunbathing space. There’s even a little wet bar with a sink and fridge.
Unusually, Sealine offered this boat with Mercruiser (petrol or diesel) or Yamaha diesel engines, as well as the more commonly found Volvo Penta KAD 42 230hp diesels fitted to this boat.
All were twin installations, and all running outdrives. We tested the boat with 247hp Yamahas and reached a fraction over 31 knots.
Sealines of this era vary greatly in terms of seakeeping ability, but the 360 Ambassador (and later S37) has one of the best hulls Sealine produced at the time, with a soft ride and capable handling.
LOA: 37ft 1in (11.3m)
Beam: 12ft 2in (3.7m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (0.9m)
Displacement: 7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 660 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 42 230hp diesels
Location: River Thames
Contact: Tingdene Boat Sales
First published in the July 2022 issue of MBY.
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