Sunseeker Racing

Corporate XS

A team of young Brits is putting together a unique program designed to bring powerboat racing into the sports mainstream. And you can be part of it.

By Alan Harper — June 2003


Photo: Will Stirling
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Sunseeker Racing
• Part 2: Sunseeker Racing
• Part 3: Sunseeker Racing

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Let's see now: You want to go powerboat racing but don't want to kill yourself. You fancy the glamour of high-end offshore competition, but you'd never persuade your company's finance director to spend that kind of money on a sponsorship. You could use an excuse to spend some of your company's marketing budget, but it would have to show some kind of return. Your clients are bored with golf--and so are you.

Why not take them to Cannes or Barcelona for the weekend? Give them a glamorous waterside venue, exotic machinery, professional catering, and seamless event management. Treat them like kings, then scare the bejesus out of them--safely, but unforgettably--and send them home with some seriously feel-good memories.

Like the idea? Then you should meet Ian Sanderson. This 38-year-old Englishman is a former racing driver for the Porsche Works Team in Europe and a recent convert to the rough and tumble world of offshore racing, but he's already put more high-speed nautical miles behind him than most racers manage in a career. He plans to bring the marketing know-how of auto racing to offshore with a fleet of identical 39-foot Sunseeker XS 2000s.

It seems like the perfect boat for this venture. A Fabio Buzzi design, the Sunseeker XS 2000 is arguably one of the most sophisticated muscle boats in the world. With diesel power and surface-piercing drives, she can trace her ancestry directly back to the Italian maestro's legendary CESA raceboat, which conquered the watery world back in 1988. As a production boat, the XS will do about 70 mph with twin 420-hp Yanmars. The racing prototype can better that, even with more fuel aboard: Production versions are expected to be 1,000 pounds lighter and good for 80 mph.

The boats will be owned, maintained, repaired, and transported by XS Racing, of which Sanderson is CEO. The group is backed by the independent German-based dealership Sunseeker Europe and also supported by the boats' manufacturer, Sunseeker International. They will be built by Halmatic of Portsmouth, England, and engineered and rigged by Sanderson's team.

Sanderson knew he'd need a technical director to navigate the politics of powerboat racing, and that's where Peter Dredge comes in. A seasoned racer, Dredge is also a hardened committee man who served for years with the U.K. governing body of the sport, the Royal Yachting Association. His inside knowledge of the sport has made it possible--and imperative--to negotiate independent status for XS Racing with the international authority. So now, with the blessing of the world's powerboat racing governing body, Union Internationale Motonautique, in Monaco, XS Racing is an autonomous, one-design series, run by its owners and beholden to no one. The only politics it's going to have to deal with is whose turn it is to make the coffee.

Dredge embodies the race experience of XS Racing: A prominent campaigner in Class II throughout the 1990's, he won U.K. National, World, and U.S. titles in Buzzi Buzzard, a 105-mph RIB based on the same hull as the XS 2000. Not even Sunseeker's test drivers have more experience on this boat.

Next page > Part 2: Acceleration was awesome... > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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