Sessa C42 used boat review: High-speed cruising in considerable style

Our resident used boat expert Phil Sampson explains how to pick out a top quality Sessa C42 on the secondhand market and what features to look for…

In build: 2014 – current day
Price range: £380,000 – £408,177

There is a delightful typo on the Sessa Marine website which informs the reader the company entered the marine industry in 1968 when it participated at the “Genoa Bot Show”.

But as any follower of Italian fashion will know, there is nothing robotic about designs emanating from a country where flair, style, dash and panache count every bit as much, and arguably sometimes more, than mundane matters such as functionality and practicality.

Fortunately for the boating community, while proudly prizing its innovative designs Sessa has never lost sight of the fact that its products actually need to work as well as looking good, and in the 50-odd years since it hit the market, the brand has established itself as a solid contender in the mid-range motor boat market.

Today, the Sessa line-up spans 38ft to 68ft over three lines; Cruiser, Flybridge and Yacht.

Article continues below…

VIDEO: Sessa C42 review

The Sessa C42 marks the welcome return of the Italian yard after a period of uncertainty. Jack Haines puts it

The Sessa C42, the subject of this review, is the smallest of the Sessa Yacht class, but don’t be mistaken into thinking it’s a small boat – it’s not; for with its deep hull and relatively tall superstructure, the C42 is a spacious machine indeed.

One consequence of the C42’s height is its imposing presence, and while Sessa’s designers have done a remarkably good job in containing its lines through the use of sweeping curves and tapering side windows, the vessel has a distinctive visual dynamic, which we suspect some will love but others might label as chunky.

On the other hand, as Sessa C42 owner John Whybrow points out, more height equals more space and places to put things: “It’s very roomy,” he confirms. “We looked at three or four boats before we bought our Sessa C42, Panjo, but she stood out for being particularly well appointed.”


The table in the saloon drops down and can be covered with an infill cushion to create an extra bed

Pristine condition

Before purchasing Panjo, John had been a lifelong sailor. For him and wife Paula, the move to motor boating would be an entirely new venture. “The trouble is, the years catch up with you,” explains John.

“So we decided to try a motor boat instead. Panjo attracted us as she had hardly been used – in fact Paula couldn’t believe that, in her view, the oven and fridge had never been used! So here we were with a boat that despite being five years old was in near perfect condition.

“Also, I did like the IPS. I’d never come across it before, and the ability to move sideways without having to think about bow thrusters, wind, the kick of the props and all the rest of it was quite extraordinary. So we thought, yes, we’ll give motor boating a try and in the spring of 2021 we bought Panjo.


Three part sliding glass doors and windows flood the saloon with light

Unfortunately things didn’t work out for John, Paula and Panjo, and by the end of the year the boat was back on sale, being offered by Bates Wharf’s Poole office at an asking price of £380,000.

“We used her in the summertime when we went down to the West Country,” says John. “But two things happened. Firstly, while the boat went very well indeed, I realised that I’m a sailor at heart who enjoys being out at sea using the wind.

“Secondly, I realised this wasn’t the way for me to extend my sailing life. Instead, I may now get a small sailing boat so I can still be out on the water using just a sail.”


Swivelling pod drives making berthing simple but need to be kept clean to maximise speed and fuel efficiency

That said, John has nothing but praise for the performance of the Sessa C42. Panjo features Volvo Penta IPS500 pod drives powered by twin 370hp D6 engines (the alternative option is IPS 400s with two 300hp D4s).

“She’s very good at sea, I was quite impressed with that,” confirms John. “Going across Lyme Bay, I had no problem cruising at 25 knots. I didn’t push it up to 30 or 35, I don’t believe in that sort of thing, but 25 was really comfortable.

“She wasn’t smashing around, just straight across, so from a seaworthy point of view the boat was very, very good.”

John’s experience was borne out by MBY’s deputy editor Jack Haines, who tested the Sessa C42 back in 2017. With grisly conditions and a short chop to contend with,

Jack found the Sessa ironed out the worst of it without complaint. One point to note though is that the engines are mounted far back, giving a tendency to run bow-up unless a meaty handful of trim tab is applied.

Go too far, however, and the hull will run low in the water, creating unwanted spray. To get the best from it, it appears, there’s a balancing act to be achieved with the Sessa C42.


To reach the engines you have to descend through the cockpit hatch, which is a bit of a squeeze

Access to the C42’s engines is interesting, to say the least. There are two hatches; one in the saloon and one in the aft cockpit. On Panjo, the saloon entry point offers a ladder which takes you down to an area forward of the generator.

Once you’re in, access to the surrounding equipment is good, but to reach the engines themselves a descent through the cockpit hatch is called for. Here there is no ladder, so you have to gingerly lower yourself down.

It all looks a bit tight from on deck, but once you’ve made the plunge, things aren’t quite as restricted as we had feared, with OK access afforded to the daily service items. However, if either of the engines ever have to come out, that would be another story.


The aft cockpit has a sturdy fold-out table surrounded by bench seating

Back on deck, the aft cockpit provides a large, spacious and sociable space. The sturdy fold-out table is surrounded on two sides by bench seating with plenty of room available for additional chairs if required. An electrically powered awning extends from the hard top overhang to provide protection from the elements.

Unusually for a boat this size, the wet bar and grille unit is mounted on the transom and accessed from the swim platform, which also lowers for the launch and recovery of the tender. It’s a neat use of space and keeps the cockpit cook in touch with the guests.

The foredeck is reached via side decks on either side of the superstructure. These are quite narrow with steps that need to be navigated with care. Along the way, a nice touch are the fender holders affixed to the rails, which flip up out of the way when the fenders are deployed.


There is a mixture of analogue and digital displays in the well-laid-out helm

Unfortunately, those same fenders could present another obstacle to anyone venturing to the foredeck while they are stowed in their holders. Up front, thick, plush sunpads await and speakers for the onboard entertainment system have been thoughtfully added to either side of the headrests.

Modern interior

Entry to the saloon is by way of a sliding patio door. Inside, light floods in from all directions courtesy of vast amounts of glass on each side. The fitments and flooring all reflect the modern day preference for cool, clean lines.

A sofa with leather upholstery wraps around two sides of the fold-out table, which can be dropped and covered with an infill panel to create an extra double bed. The boat’s electrical panel is also mounted in this area.

Adjacent to the patio door, it affords instant access to the power controls the moment you step inside. That’s a feature which will be appreciated by anyone who’s had to ferret around in the dark looking for a panel tucked away behind a locker door.


The galley is down a few steps but is well lit and still feels connected to the saloon

Forward of the seating area is the helm and, to port, the sunken galley. With two angled steps leading up to the wheel and two further steps leading down to the galley, this is another area to be approached with caution. Thankfully, Sessa has thought to include guard rails here to provide a degree of protection.

The well laid out helm features a combination of analogue and digital displays. We like the analogue dials as they enable the user to quickly spot any engine anomalies.

Italian flair

The digital screens do a great job too – especially as the multi-function display on Panjo features a reversing camera to make IPS docking even easier. The helm’s adjustable double seat has a bolster and provides a good view forward, although the sidewards view is partially restricted due to the cut-in of the roofline.

With the boat’s manual sunroof slid open, standing becomes an attractive option with improved visibility to either side.

Italians are famed for their love of food, and the galley is equipped accordingly; everything you could ask for is here, including a sizeable fridge with a separate freezer compartment.


Plentiful storage can be found in the light and airy master cabin

The height of the Sessa C42 also comes into play here as it creates sufficient headroom for two sizeable overhead storage cupboards and an extractor above the hob. Portside windows allow light to stream into this area, making the galley bright and agreeable despite being located on a lower level.

The ample headroom theme extends through the corridor, which leads to the onboard accommodation. The owner’s cabin is light and airy, with generous storage space on either side of the full-size double bed. The two heads, both of which include showers, are also full height and almost identical in size.

One is a dedicated ensuite for the owner’s cabin while the second has doors to the guest cabin and the boat’s central corridor, enabling it to be used both as an ensuite and a day heads.


The guest cabin has access to one of the two heads on board

In summary, the Sessa C42 is a boat with plenty to offer, both in terms of accommodation and performance, and the addition of IPS (plus a bow thruster in Panjo’s case) makes docking child’s play.

The only question we can’t answer is whether its quirky Italian styling will generate squeals of “Ciao bella!” or “Mamma mia!” We’ll leave that one up to you.

Both heads have showers and have full standing headroom

Sessa C42 surveyor’s report

This is a quality Italian-built craft, with good main dealer/importer coverage if kept in the UK. It’s a crowded market place, but this vessel is that bit different in style, and ideal for outside entertaining, having a huge cockpit area. Points to note when considering buying:

  • Carefully inspect the roof assembly. This is such an important selling point on this boat, so ensure all guides are clear and that the unit slides efficiently over several operations. Ensure no structural cracking is evident.
  • The large sliding doors out to the cockpit should be free to open smoothly, and lock into their open positions.
  • In common with most vessels of this type, carefully check hull windows and ports for signs of cracking around radii or evidence of impact.
  • Internally, edges of worktops and furniture modules might look stylish, but are sharp and unforgiving. Take care in a seaway and look out for damage.
  • Claimed top speeds of 35 knots will only be possible with a clean hull and sterngear. Even a few barnacles on IPS props cause a significant drop in performance.
  • Consider a mid-season lift out for pressure wash and anode check. This will pay for itself in saved fuel.
  • Check the machinery service history, and insist on a thorough sea trial. Heat exchanger cleaning regimes are so often forgotten, and generally a good searching sea trial can detect possible issues. IPS seals, anode history and correct bonding to prevent galvanic corrosion must be checked thoroughly.

-Chris Olsen, Olsen Marine Surveying

Sessa C42 specification

Type: Hardtop motor cruiser
Hull: Planing modified vee
LOA: 43ft 0in (13.10m)
Beam: 12ft 10in (3.9m)
Draught: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS500
Displacement: 10.6 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 980 litres
Water capacity: 350 litres
Designer: Centrostile Design
RCD category: B for 12 persons
Max speed: 36 knots
Cruising range: 340nm at 24kn
Annual fuel burn: 2,800 litres (based on 50 hours cruising at 24 knots)
Annual marina mooring: £8,515 (based on the Hamble River downstream of Bursledon bridge)

Sessa C42: What’s on the market

Date: 2016
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 500-D6
Lying: Poole
Price: £380,000 (VAT paid)
Contact: Bates Wharf

Date: 2016
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta IPS 500
Lying: Costa Brava, Spain
Price: €455,000 (VAT paid)
Contact: Internautic Yachts

First published in the April 2022 issue of MBY.

In association with SETAG Yachts. Design and refit specialists SETAG Yachts bring luxury to the pre-owned market – by creating the bespoke yacht of your dreams, with no compromise. To fall in love with your boat all over again visit or call + 44 (0)1752 648618 for more details.

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