105 — By Richard Thiel
— December 2000
A Vision Realized
|The man behind Sunseeker sees his longtime dreamboat become a reality.|
The name Sunseeker means many things to many people: style, performance, affluence, and (if you're a fan of the recent movie The World Is Not Enough) James Bond. But to those who have dealt with the U.K. boatbuilder directly--especially if they're the builder's customers--Sunseeker is Robert Braithwaite. Little wonder. Whether at boat shows, at owners' rendezvous, at media events, or on the factory floor, Braithwaite is omnipresent. In fact, he seems to know every specification of every model and every owner of every boat.
So it is also little surprise that the biggest--by a margin of more than 20 feet-- Sunseeker ever is very much the child of Sunseeker's founder, joint owner, and managing director. This is not to diminish the work of Robert's brother John, who is largely responsible for the engineering and exterior styling of all Sunseekers, Don Shead, who has drawn all of Sunseeker's hulls, Ken Freivokh, who has crafted all of the current Sunseeker interiors, or the hundreds of dedicated Sunseeker employees. But there is no doubt that the Sunseeker 105 is Robert's dream realized.
He can't say for sure just when the dream began. Certainly he never conceived of such a yacht when he started Sunseeker in 1968 with a 17-footer. On the other hand, he grudgingly admits that when he introduced the 84 five years ago and told everyone that he wouldn't build anything larger, he was already working on preliminary drawings for a larger yacht. By that time he may or may not have known it would be a 105--only he knows, and he's not telling--but he did have a clear vision. He says he wanted to build "a pure yacht," which is why he made such a large leap in length. He wanted her to appeal to owners seeking to avoid the hassles of hiring a naval architect and stylist, shopping plans around to various builders, and overseeing a two-year build process, but who still wanted to create a yacht with no restrictions other than a few structural bulkheads. Most important, he wanted this vessel to embody all of the things Sunseekers are known for: style, comfort, and performance.
That last requirement was a prodigious one. Sunseekers are universally fast, and Robert wanted to build a fully found yacht that could keep pace with them. To accomplish this feat, he again turned to Shead, who lofted a hull with a length-to-beam ratio of roughly four to one, aggressive for a yacht of this size. He also gave it a true planing configuration with sufficient deadrise to make it seakindly in deteriorated conditions but not so deep a V that it required excessive horsepower to plane. John Braithwaite was given the hard job: a target weight of 75 tons. To meet it, he employed a variety of advanced materials, including powder-bound mat, multiaxis fabrics, balsa coring in the superstructure, which is supported by costly foam-and-carbon fiber stiffeners, and also costly foam-cored bulkheads and floors. All furniture was built by Sunseeker out of the boat in a full-size mock-up and using special adhesives that allowed for thinner, lighter woods. John nearly hit his target: On launch day the 105 tipped the scales at 76 tons.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.