Sunseeker 108

The new Predator 108, the largest yet, offers the scale of a larger yacht and the performance of a sport cruiser.

Sunseeker is one of the oldest of the modern generation of British yards. They have built their reputation and their market on a combination of lifestyle, advanced technology and style. In the midst of taking motoryacht design forward they have retained some of the quintessential British elements of yacht design, the use of teak, the club-like interiors and the legendary seagoing performance. But in setting forth to build a statement yacht in the form of its new 108, Predator faced a knotty question: When you are good at what you do, how do you get even better?

The answer in Sunseeker's case was to get rid of the outside contributions to the designs of their yachts and do it all in-house. For years Sunseeker had been loyal to its hull and interior designers and in turn they have taken this builder on a very successful path, establishing its position at the top of the tree as far as style is concerned. But all the time, Sunseeker was learning-until the realization came that perhaps they could now do a better job themselves. After all, who knows the Sunseeker ethos better than Sunseeker?

Still, it was a gamble. And it paid off, as with this newest and largest of their Predator range of performance cruisers they have shown that they can go it alone-and then some. In fact, the one word to describe this yacht when you see it for the first time is: magnificent. It seems to fill your horizons, its scale way above what you might expect on a 108-footer.

Much of this impact, I suspect, comes from the hull, which is very deep, smooth (not even a rubrail) and beautifully proportioned. The raking bow, adorned by the stainless steel anchors, speaks of performance. The oval windows and portholes seem to disappear within the navy blue section of the hull and all you see are majestic flowing lines of what indeed proves to be a seakindly hull.

The superstructure matches the hull precisely, and is a departure from the past. Gone is the crescendo of curves that used to identify the Sunseeker motoryacht. This has been replaced with a stunning pilothouse that flows in one sharp curve, up and over, its mirror windows echoing the shape. The sharpness about the design is quite attractive at first glance, and stands up to closer inspection.

Step on board and you are greeted by teak decks. (The teak carries on into the large saloon, where it is used decoratively.) The swim platform is huge, because it has to provide a cover for the Arneson drives underneath; on the test boat it also provided the stowage for a Zodiac RIB. There is a garage in the stern, designed for a RIB tender or a Jet Ski but this area would also make convenient stowage for fenders and ropes.

The scale of this yacht again becomes apparent in the cockpit where there is space for a bar counter, a teak dining table, a settee and a small sun bed. Most yachts have just one of these, but on the 108 the cockpit is the primary outside area; a roller blind extending out from the aft end of the superstructure provides sun protection. Another social area is on the foredeck, this one dedicated more to sun worship: Sun beds surround a hot tub to create the fun area of this yacht.

For all its sheer presence outside, you need to enter the saloon to get the full impression of the scale of this yacht. It seems almost cathedral-like with nine-foot headroom, something rare even on a superyacht, let alone on a low-profile sports yacht. The spacious feeling does not stop there: The Sunseeker designers have added roof windows at the aft end and a huge opening sunroof over the forward dining section. This is great for the fresh air at speed, of course-but it also allows formal dining under the stars at night.

All this fresh design thinking does have its quirks. To get a view out forward from the helm, this has been raised up nearly three feet-with the result that when you sit in the saloon there is no view out forward to see where you are going. Also, the backs of the four black helm seats, raised up on the helm platform, seem to loom over the saloon in what I would have to say is a rather dominating way-one that does take some of the excitement out of this area. But there is room for four people at the helm and this may well be enough to give everyone a forward view at speed. (Or you could go out and enjoy the view from the forward social area.)

Overall, Sunseeker seems to have made a good compromise here and the space in the saloon is the main benefit. The cream leather settees in the lounge look particularly handsome against the matt finish of the cherry wood paneling, with the wide vertical side pillars encompassing the air-conditioning grilles.

The eight-seat dining table is angled across the forward space with a bar counter and stools on the opposite side. The dining table is a bit removed from the galley, which is accessed via a stairway down from the aft end of the lounge. Here the galley and the crew quarters form a barrier between the guest accommodation and the engineroom. It is possible to specify a dumb waiter to help the flow of food upstairs.

Access to the staterooms is alongside the helm. The amidships master suite offers options; on the test boat the stairs led straight into a study/lounge as part of the master suite. The other option is for this space to be incorporated as part of the master bedroom, which then becomes huge, leaving room for a lounge area inside. The bathroom is aft with a full-size tub and shower and on the opposite side there is a walk-in closet.

Forward there is the usual layout of two twin cabins and the VIP cabin in the bow. These may be on a less grand scale than the master, but they are still very comfortable; all come complete with en suite marble bathrooms.

It is hard to believe that all this luxury and comfort comes in a package that can achieve close to 50 mph on the water. That is a serious level of performance for a yacht on this scale and not only is there high speed but it comes from a hull that is more capable than most. The 108 is based on a deep-V with relatively fine lines that are hidden by the scale of the yacht. We ran the boat in a five-foot swell and it cut cleanly through the waves, generating very little spray-a sure sign of an efficient hull.

In addition, we had quite a lumpy sea off Ft. Lauderdale, the result of strong onshore winds the previous day. While the seas did not allow full speed to be used, they did allow the capability of this yacht to be fully appreciated. It would turn like a sports boat and progress majestically in a straight line, giving the overall impression of a fine boat for the connoisseur who appreciates quality performance.

The power units that propel this yacht are equally impressive. Three 16-cylinder MTU diesels from the 2000 Series have been shoehorned into the engine compartment to provide a total of 6,000 hp. These engines are coupled to Arneson Drives to create a compact package that is dedicated to high performance. The engineroom itself is accessed through a cockpit deck hatch. Given the three MTUs, getting around below is a bit of a hands-and-knees job. But everything looks well engineered. For more modest speeds you can specify a twin-engine installation with conventional shafts and propellers (though it is hard to think there will be many takers for this version).

With so much power at the throttles the low-speed maneuvering is often a problem, but the three-engine installation means that you can use just the center engine. Bow and stern thrusters certainly help to park this yacht precisely.

This 108 will certainly enhance Sunseeker's considerable reputation for building quality yachts-a quite magnificent motoryacht, equally at home on the sea or in harbor. She makes a true flagship of Sunseeker's Predator range, although we hear there are even larger siblings in the offing.

Contact: Sunseeker, (954) 786-1866; www.sunseeker.com.