By: Mike Brown, Photography by: Mike Brown

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Sunseeker proves it’s not a Northern Hemisphere-centric luxury yachtbuilder by incorporating a larger cockpit on vessels bound for its Australian audience. MIKE BROWN checks out one of the new breed of Aussie-inspired Sunseekers, a Manhattan 52

Sunseeker Manhattan 52

At a time when the boating industry's importers generally are doing it tough, Sunseeker Australia might not be grinning but there is more than a trace of a smile. They are not quoting figures, but say that current sales and deliveries of Sunseekers are healthy and the future looks good.

One of the reasons has to be the British currency. It is one of the very few to fall more than Australia's and, against competitors from the US and the Euro zone, this British company's products look relatively cheap. Of course, relative is a key word here, because the price tag for the Manhattan 52 under review is a still noticeable $2.23 million. That said, it offers a sterling boat for the money.



The 52 is essentially an updated version of the Manhattan 50, a boat that won itself a healthy reputation. As well as stretching the hull and making detailed changes, Sunseeker has made an Australia-only version that incorporates the most asked-for feature of a larger cockpit. This probably stemmed from Western Australia, the state where boatbuilders have made good money over the years stretching various cruisers to create more respectable cockpits.

Sunseeker managed the trick without much structural work; the large sunbed that was a feature at the rear of the 50's cockpit is now abbreviated into a lounge. Sunbeds have always been doubtful assets in our climate, anyway, and the 600mm gain in cockpit length far outweighs the loss.

The flybridge remains vast, its deck providing a hardtop over most of the cockpit, and the day and night accommodation and above all, the internal living space, are still at the top of the class.



The hull is hand laid, with a solid bottom featuring stitched multi-axial reinforcement, and balsa-cored topsides to remove the chance of an unwanted ripple. When the sun made its fitful appearances I was able to check on how successful this was. The aging eyes could detect no imperfections in fairness or gelcoat.

Engines are an upgrade on the 50, the twin MAN six-cylinder diesels mustering 1600hp between them. They delivered us a maximum of 32kts, at which speed a small calculation gave a range of 215nm from the 2140lt fuel capacity. Dropping to the suggested 23kts cruising speed lifts the range to 250nm, with a small reserve in hand.

That sort of range rules the 52 out as a Kimberley cruiser, but this is not the kind of boat those adventurous people buy. On the other hand, they would love the 52's air-conditioning power with its five separately controllable systems. That amount of cooling is the reason Australian Sunseekers get the American specification 15.5kW genset. The European specification gets a 9kW genset; no air-conditioning, and sunbeds - says something about their views on not being cold.

You reach the engineroom through a hatch in the cockpit deck at the saloon entrance. The main engines are handed to allow easy fluid level checking and servicing from the central alley. Having in-line sixes instead of V8s gives that bit more lateral space; the alley has plenty of elbow room to go with its standing headroom. There is a fair bit going on mechanically, but the layout is logical and well executed. If 10 minutes exploration in an engineroom gives me the grasp of what I would need to know as an owner, then I reckon the designer's work was well done. This one passed the test. 

Electricians will probably love this engineroom, too. Not only is the wiring colour coded, but individual wires are labelled with their function every 150mm.

Although several models in Sunseeker's range are available with Volvo's IPS drive, it is not yet an option on the 52. Manoeuvring on a medium-breezy day, we found the combination of differential power from the grunty MANs and the highly efficient bowthruster gave excellent levels of control.



The 52 has the currently fashionable narrowish sidedecks, which maximise the 4.63m beam for internal living area. The resulting wide saloon is on two levels, the forward part being raised mainly to increase headroom in the cabin below it, but the extra height allows a commanding view from the lower control station without elevating the driving seat above the other furniture.

This set-up eases conversation between driver and companion and the occupants of the settee to port. And, perhaps fortuitously, it gives great sight lines to the driver. Glance over the left shoulder and - provided the port side transom door is open - through the rear saloon door you can see the port quarter: reassuring for inserting into pens. Another nice touch for the fastidious driver is the electrically opened window alongside him or her. Big enough to stick a head and shoulders through, it makes starboard side-to berthing an accurate operation.

The console features analogue gauges for the engine functions. These are mounted near the console's upper edge, needing minimum eye movement for frequent checking. There are also electronic gauges to monitor the likes of fuel consumption and engine load. To his side, the driver has a Raymarine E26 all-in-one screen, and two smaller multifunction screens.

Among the bank of switches are very useful battery controls. Not only can you parallel the batteries for an emergency start but also, in the event that all the batteries are depleted, you can gang every battery on board to start the genset.

Behind the driver's seat is another bar with a difference: this one has a wine cooler. Like all the other joinery on board the bar is in black American walnut in a satin finish. Nowhere near as dark as the name suggests, the shade is closer to maple.

The upper saloon is carpeted. Stepping down to the lower saloon puts your feet on what looks like timber but is actually a synthetic product, mock Wenge Amtico. Non-absorbent, unlike teak, it is ideal for the dining and drinking area, and is also used in the galley.

In the lower area is a vast dinette, with a table that adjusts in size for dining or for drinks and snacks. Opposite is a range of lockers containing, among other items, the Sunseeker-supplied wineglasses, and racks for (owner-supplied) bottles. The enormous flatscreen TV powers its way out of storage in the same unit.



A staircase with LED step lights leads down to the galley, and cabin companionway. They share the same space and nowhere is used exclusively as passageway.

In Sunseeker style, the galley is spacious and well enough equipped to cater for large groups. Ranks of lockers and drawers house the builder-supplied crockery and cutlery, with space left for masses more gear. The bench is solid granite, a convection-microwave and a ceramic hob take care of the cooking, and cold storage gets exceptional space. The Waeco fridge-freezer is domestic size and, domestic style, has freezer over fridge. In a space saving move, the pair is then mounted above the dishwasher.

The master suite is located where it should be: at the point of greatest beam, and in the lowest motion area. It goes without saying that it is large and well lit, enhanced by extensive areas of mirror. Like all cabins the master suite has a flatscreen TV, in this case a 19in model. The king-size bed, like that in the forward cabin, is extraordinarily comfortable. It has drawers under it and the mattress base lifts on gas struts to expose cavernous storage, adding to the abundant smaller spaces throughout the cabin. All wardrobes on board are timber lined and fitted with illuminated hanging rails.

The en suite bathroom has the luxury of space and luxurious fittings. Its sullage system features tanks and valves with instant access, allowing simple diversion to overboard in open areas.

The bathroom is virtually a duplicate of the combined dayhead and VIP cabin's en suite. The island bed dominates the VIP cabin, but has plenty of space around it. This cabin is also well provided with hanging and other stowage, as is the third cabin that houses double-decker singles. These are wider and longer than typical, and the cabin's air volume is similarly generous.



The cockpit is the outdoor social area that so many imports minimise. The plea that an extensive flybridge is a superior substitute is dodgy; the link with the saloon is not immediate and visible, and you have to climb stairs to reach it. On the Manhattan 52 it is much more Australian: roomy, shaded, and reached though wide doors.

Teak sheathed, the cockpit has access on both sides to the teak rear platform that, new for the 52, has hydraulic lifting and lowering: a system many people prefer for tender carriage than a davit and flybridge stowage. It also has its advantages for returning swimmers and divers.

Between the port and starboardside doors is a unit that contains a boot for fenders and lines facing the platform, with access to the crew cabin below the settee on the cockpit side.

The term crew cabin is perhaps accurate for Europe or the USA, but few people would employ a crew for this sized boat in Australia, and even fewer people would consent to live in such a confined, windowless space. But it is a great storage space, and could be emergency spill-over accommodation for children or mothers in law. On the test boat, it permanently houses the washing machine and temporarily any bulky items that need a home.

A first-class barbecue inhabits a forward corner of the cockpit. This is comprehensive enough to guarantee that the bulk of cooking will take place here. The amenities unit includes a fridge, sink and icemaker as well as the barbecue.

Getting out of the cockpit in most directions is easy and safe. An excellent staircase gets you to the flybridge via a large safety hatch, and nothing could be simpler than reaching the saloon or platform. Reaching the foredeck along the sidedecks, though, is a little more fraught. The steps are there, and a rail to help you up. But there is a gap between grabrails for the first couple of paces along the deck. It's enough of a hazard to make you consider an alternative route at sea.

Anchoring and retrieving, of course, are handled by remotely operated capstan, upgraded in power for Australian specifications. For our higher local winds, a 40kg anchor replaces the European 25kg, and the stem head hardware is beefed up. The stainless steel platework is a couple of millimetres thicker, and it has round bar nosings that both stiffen it and provide low-friction surfaces for any rode that passes across them.



The flybridge is large and well organised. Making up for the abbreviated sunbed downstairs, a full-sized number lives up here alongside the helm position. Since these boats are imported with no overhead protection for the bridge, the bed gets full use of the sun. Practically none of them stay naked, however, though many owners choose different styles of canopy.

The helm position is a duplicate of the lower station, with another excellent seat. Aft of it is a settee, and aft again a U-shaped settee around a coffee table. To port is the stairway and the wet bar. Facilities for making and keeping things cold abound on this boat.

We chose the upper position for the at-sea stuff, although the breeze and resulting sea was not enough to give the hull any sort of workout. Realistically, we had the sort of conditions this boat's owner would choose for voyaging. For the record, the ride was good, sound levels negligible, and movement on board, even flat out, was easy.

The style of Sunseekers and their cachet are major reasons for buying them, but the Manhattan 52 adds practicality to the list, too. A fitting British motoryacht that seems at home Down Under.


Specifications: Sunseeker Manhattan 52






Material:    Handlaid GRP; balsa-cored topsides
Length overall:   17.60m
Hull length:   17.02m (inc. platform)
Beam:    4.63m
Draught:    1.26m (max.)
Weight:    24,800kg (half load)



Berths:   6
Fuel:   2140lt
Water:   625lt



Make/model:   2 x MAN R6-800
Type:    Six-cylinder diesel, turbocharged and intercooled
Rated HP/kW:   800/597 at 2300rpm
Displacement:   12.8lt
Weight:    1297kg



Sunseeker Australia
Phone: (08) 9231 5909

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