Author: Capt. Tom Serio
The call came. The mission: Get on the new Sunseeker Predator 80 for a sea trial and report back. Did I choose to accept it? Yes! Five seconds later, the phone — solely for the purposes of this intro — self destructed.
Racing to my laptop, I found the Sunseeker website and accepted the cookies (those requested by the site and those next to my coffee). I pored over the images and specs, gaining a newfound appreciation for the Sunseeker line. Having captained a Sunseeker Predator 61 a number of years ago, I anticipated that this new Sunseeker entry would exceed my expectations.
Arriving at the rendezvous point, I stealthily snapped photos and studied the subject. The website intelligence did a good job detailing the yacht, but up close there’s a different sense. Boldness of style is evident thanks to the high freeboard forward, the innovative in-hull window design and the swept-back house. And it’s big, with stout “shoulders” to knock down bad seas while keeping passengers comfortable and secure.
You might think a yacht of this size and style would find a particular demographic niche, but that’s not been the case, according to Miles Moorhouse, director of marketing and communications at Sunseeker. He has seen buyers move up and down the yacht ladder. And with a broad product line, Sunseeker can keep clients in one of its yachts for a buyer’s yachting life.
Everything is built by Sunseeker in a lean, just-in-time production environment. With 2,300 employees at Sunseeker’s plant in England, the build schedule for a Predator 80 is only seven months, and that’s to order.
Slipping on board our test boat via one of the two staircases up to the aft deck from the swim platform, I found a U-shaped settee for at least eight surrounding a teak table with a glass inlay. It is just forward of a huge lounge pad, which is large enough for multiple sun worshipers.
A quick test of the depth and sturdiness of the settee/sunpad cushions revealed them to be so rich and thick it would take 100 years to wear them out but only a moment for your body to say “ahhhh.”
Aft-deck features include a grill and prep area, a refrigerator/ice-maker, a sink and a chill box. With all this, you’d think life is good, and it is, but step inside, and it gets better.
I noted the tastefully appointed main deck, which is open from end to end and full of windows. A large centerline skylight, complete with a sunshade, runs the length of the salon. It doesn’t open, but it allows for copious ambient lighting.
Salon seating is to starboard, with a U-shaped white leather settee flanking a walnut coffee table. Seatbacks are low and comfortable and don’t block visibility. To port is the entertainment center, which houses a 55-inch LED TV, a Bose surround sound system, a U-Line wine cooler and a Hoshizaki ice-maker.
Meals can be enjoyed at the port-side dining table, complete with a wenge wood finish with a stainless steel inlay and Amalfi hazelnut leather details. An L-shaped settee runs along the outside of the table, and three chairs fill the opposite side. With this entire area open and unobstructed, everyone will feel included in the relaxation.
Comfort and ease of operation are key at the helm station. Twin Besenzoni helm seats look space-age, with a diamond-pattern stitched seatback and bottom, eight-position electric seat controls and a wide footrest. Designed for long-range durability and to reduce fatigue, the captain’s seat incorporates operating controls into the oversized armrests. On the right are the throttle levers — low profile, so your wrist and arm are not at an awkward angle — and on the left are the autopilot controls and a joystick.
The leather-wrapped helm console is cleanly laid out. Three 19-inch screens are housed in a tilt-up console, displaying systems, charts, video and anything else you need. Engine displays, navigation modules and other system switches and buttons are on the main console and the front face.
Appearance isn’t everything, as I learned during the sea trial. My initial thought about the helm-seat setup and how it would work wasn’t pleasant, but my time at the wheel proved me wrong (yes, I can admit it). The controls were easy to operate, my arms and elbows were securely on the rests, visibility was good all around (the height of the seat helps) and bowrise was minimal, so keeping an eye out for others was no problem. Oh, and the Predator 80 rode like a rocket (would even look like one if you stood it on end).
Speed runs showed an impressive range, thanks to twin MAN V12 1,800 hp powerplants, from approximately 10.5 knots at 1200 rpm to 19 knots at 1600 rpm (burning about 68 gph) to a wide-open pace of more than 32 knots at 2370 rpm (174 gph). That’s pushing more than 123,000 pounds of England’s finest in yachting.
With a name like Predator, you might get the impression the yacht is aggressive in the water, and you’d be right. It drives like a sports car. A little heel when turning. The bow down slicing the waves. No sliding, jostling, banging or creaking. And interior noise levels were acceptable for normal conversation, around 76 to 78 decibels.
Access to the engine room is via a diagonal hatch in the aft-deck floor. Drop down between the MANs, and you’ll see a cavernous area that is chock full of engines, pumps, ancillary devices and everything else you need to make the Predator 80 zoom, stop, be cool, etc. Space is well utilized thanks to the V-drive transmission gears, which allow the motors to be mounted backward.
Like many other European yacht builders, Sunseeker likes to bring the outside in, and vice versa. In addition to the center skylight, there are overhead atrium windows forward, above the dining table and the helm. Their tinting is sufficient to prevent heat-lamp syndrome. I expect it would be cool docked near a favorite city while you take in the skyline or watch a passing thunderstorm (from the dock, of course).
Sunseeker designed the Predator 80 with the galley down a few steps from the helm. Within a room that can be closed, the galley has all the necessary appliances for ample food storage, preparation and cleanup. A full-sized Sub-Zero refrigerator and pull-out drawer freezer blend into the décor, as they are skinned with a wood finish. A Miele-brand dishwasher, four-burner stovetop and under-counter combination microwave/oven complement the large double sink and the black counter space. A yacht this size may have a crew, and the chef can create culinary delights within this private domain.
Resting weary bones is necessary after a long day on the water, and Sunseeker doesn’t skimp in the relaxation department. A full-beam master is situated amidships and uses various finishes in wenge and finished anigre wood and tinted leather to break up the room, which eliminates monotony and ties all the components together. Space utilization is effective. The master berth is just off center, which creates room for a corner desk on the opposite side, a lounge chair and single-doorway access to either closet or head. The flat-screen 40-inch LED TV is mounted to the opposing wall, surrounded by a louvered wenge panel. Nice feature.
Ambient light comes from hullside windows. Two large rectangles on both sides make viewing easy, and a center porthole dividing the pair opens for air circulation.
The walk-in closet carries the surface finishes and has hanging rails, storage above and cabinetry below. Opposite is the en suite head, with a large glass-encased shower, a frosted window, a single sink and a toilet on a white porcelain floor.
In the forepeak is the VIP stateroom, styled like the master, with a centerline berth, side windows and an opening porthole. There’s a private head with a glass-encased shower stall. Two additional staterooms are to port and starboard of the lower hallway. Both have dual bunks, nightstands, a window and a porthole. These rooms share a common head off the hallway. An optional lower salon with an L-shaped settee and a table would replace the port stateroom and is open to the hallway.
On deck, access is easy all around the yacht. Wide sidedecks with drains and high gunnels keep water out. Forward, large storage compartments can hide fenders and dock lines. The real focal point on the bow is the hot tub in place of a U-shaped settee and table. A soak in the spa and a nap on the oversized forward sunpad would be one mission I would sign up for. I’m waiting by the phone.