Elements of Style
The 86 Yacht puts a new spin on Sunseeker’s traditionally sporty outlook.
The new Sunseeker 86 Yacht is more than just a cool contender making its head-turning debut in a competitive market sector. She’s also a new kind of Sunseeker. A shipyard which made its name in the 1980s and ’90s with a fabulous series of sport boats, and now known for sleek, high-end express motoryachts, Sunseeker has a lot of image invested in performance. The early models were based on offshore racing hulls, fitted out with cool stripes and plush upholstery, and few could match them for looks or handling. Their clients were the type of people who liked their martinis shaken, not stirred.
More than any other shipyard, Sunseeker has managed in the intervening years to translate that high-octane ethos into its larger motoryachts. Bigger and beamier they may be—which of us isn’t?—but they can still get the adrenaline pumping. After all, if you haven’t firewalled the throttles on an 80-footer and heeled it over so far that you felt you could dangle your fingers in the water from the flying bridge, you really haven’t lived.
But the new 86 Yacht is not like that. Perhaps the first Sunseeker ever designed to be sensible, it has a milder deadrise and modest horsepower, and geometry calculated to produce a comfortable, efficient ride at moderate speeds. MTU diesels of 1,622 horsepower per side were deemed sufficient. Generous fuel capacity combined with a flatter, more easily driven, and stable hull form combine to ensure a relaxed cruising experience and excellent range. This, according to Sunseeker’s research, is what the market wants.
And the 86 provides exactly what you might expect of such a luxurious machine. Her wheelhouse boasts a balcony and an excellent curved bar in its galley that gives the wheelhouse the air of a sociable speakeasy. The deck saloon strikes just the right balance between spectacle and sybaritic indulgence. Several different layouts are available for the belowdecks accommodation, but they have one thing in common—excellent headroom of at least 6 feet, 6 inches everywhere, and full-size berths at least 6 feet, 6 inches long. This is a truly substantial yacht. Huge windows bring the outside in, and, when you actually want to go outside, an enormous flying bridge, full-beam cockpit, and comfortably furnished foredeck will not only swallow up all of your guests, but all of theirs too.
Having the Horses
Although designed around the 1,622-horsepower MTU V10s fitted to our test boat, the 86 Yacht is also offered with a pair of the considerably more brawny 1,925-horsepower V12 version of the engine. The extra cylinders hardly matter in an engine room the size of the Sunseeker’s, but the extra horsepower has quite an impact on the yacht’s performance: According to the shipyard’s test data, they give it a top speed of 31 knots, and although considerably less economical at the modest planing speeds for which the 86’s hull is optimized, they’re not far off from the smaller engines’ fuel efficiency at 22 to 26 knots.
Sunseeker has a sporty image, of course, so the idea of its naval architects burning the midnight oil to create a hull that’s good at going slow might have raised a few eyebrows among the cognoscenti. It’s always the market that has the last word—and at the time of our test, of the 14 customers so far signed up for an 86, guess how many wanted the smaller, more economical engines? Just one. The designers must be wondering why they bothered.
In keeping with her long-distance cruising credentials, stowage volumes aboard the 86 are impressive and, crucially, the engine room is enormous. Accessed through the crew’s quarters in the stern, it has full standing headroom throughout and excellent service access all around the engines, which are on V-drive gearboxes. Quality construction aids efficiency: not just resin-infused laminates but lightweight carbon frames and superstructure.
Modest deadrise also improves efficiency by providing lift, especially aft, and that lift is put to excellent use. The hydraulic aft platform can handle a 15-foot, 1,800-pound Williams 445 jet tender, while the garage is designed to accommodate a Williams 385 and a PWC. Up on the flying bridge, meanwhile, there is the space and load capacity for a two-seat PWC.
Differences between the two lower accommodation layouts are dictated by the option of a forward companionway in addition to the one amidships, and it’s the layout with two companionways, which has no need of a central corridor to link all the cabins, that offers the most space down below. This, by the way, was the option seen on our test boat, the second off the production line, with a pair of generous twin cabins sharing the amidships beam with the master stateroom, and the separate VIP, with its own private access, in the bow. The alternative version does have a larger master amidships, but would otherwise appear to offer few advantages. A five-cabin layout can be created by dividing the master into two.
While in general the 86’s guest areas are an undoubted triumph of space planning and design, there are a few elements that I found bewildering. In places it seems a strange mixture of the refined and the functional. Hidden, low-level LED lighting all around the flying-bridge furniture ticks the right boxes, but then one wonders about the steel channels for the sliding berths in the twin cabins, set into the middle of the carpet, or the frames around the sole hatches. Of course form can follow function, but it was slightly jarring to see something so hard and cold underfoot set into a thick woolen carpet. The slide-adjustment levers sticking out from under the flying-bridge helm seats, on the other hand, are perhaps an example of form following function to an inevitable, shin-jarring conclusion.
Although smaller than you might expect on a 65-ton, 86-foot yacht, twin 1,622-horsepower MTUs still provide plenty of horsepower. As we took the yacht to sea off Sunseeker’s home port of Poole, on England’s Dorset coast, the air had the chilly feel of fall but the sea was calm and the breeze fairly light. Sunseeker’s naval architects have optimized the hull design for efficient cruising at between 12 and 18 knots, and leaning upon the throttles a bit soon confirmed that this is indeed an easily driven hull, with no obvious need for trim changes between displacement and planing modes.
Trundling along at about 16 knots and 1,800 rpm we found a little downward trim tab was good for an extra half-knot or so, and thusly set up, the 86 felt content. Across the channel, Cherbourg was about 50 miles away: We could have gone there and back five times before needing to think about refueling. And with low noise levels and a relaxed running attitude the 86 provided proof of Sunseeker’s efficient cruising concept. They can do sleek, they can do stylish, and now they can do sensible.
But whatever the designers tell you, the 86 Yacht is still a Sunseeker, so we had to firewall the throttles and see what she could do. A terminal velocity of just over 26 knots came up rapidly enough, and while we found the fin stabilizers could keep things on a rigidly even keel in even the hardest turns, we soon turned them off and really started to enjoy ourselves. It might have been deprived of some speed and deadrise, and it might be a new kind of Sunseeker, but the 86 Yacht is still highly competent and rewarding drive.
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NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Platinum Package, including zero-speed fin stabilizers, carbon hardtop, 28-kW and 33-kW generator upgrades, thrusters upgrade, flying-bridge teak, fuel polisher, CCTV, extra cleats, separate Miele washer and dryer, electric barbecue, oil-change system, burglar alarm ($530,000 approx.); Bose Audio Package Upgrade ($18,500 approx.); Simrad Premium Lower Console ($7,000 approx.).
Generators: 2 /28-kW Kohlers, Warranty: Hull and fiberglass structural components 5 years. MTUs 24 months materials and workmanship plus 36 months major components.
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 54°F; humidity: 82%; seas: 2-3'; wind: 7-9 knots
Load During Boat Test
930 gal. fuel, 396 gal. water, 13 persons, 250 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF2150V/2.92:1
- Props: CJR 5 blades, 42.5 x 46
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.