BOAT TEST SUNSEEKER MANHATTAN 52
The baby in the Manhattan range offers designer living and a stellar big-city pad from which to toast the sunsets with a namesake cocktail, writes TONY MACKAY
The naming of the Sunseeker Manhattan series flybridge cruisers is quite apt. The exterior with its racy European lines, huge flybridge, spacious cockpit and foredeck sunpad awaits a crew who steers for crystal waters under sunny skies. Our happy little band of sun seekers. But sliding open the polished stainless steel saloon door reveals an interior as modern and stylish as an enviable Manhattan penthouse apartment. Passing a cheque to your friendly Sunseeker agent, casting off the lines and cruising away, one soon discovers why Sunseeker has become an award-winning, world-class luxury yachtbuilder. Welcome aboard.
Sunseekers are built in Poole, England, and have evolved over a 40-year period from a range of small runabouts to an impressive lineup of high-quality and high-performance motoryachts ranging to the imminent 46 Metre. An earlier collaboration with designer Don Shead laid the foundations for construction of race-derived, deep-vee hulls, and the latest offerings benefit from Computational Fluid Dynamics software that helps the naval architect confirm and predict how the different hull shapes will behave in specific sea conditions.
Meanwhile, CAD drawing plans allow for precision manufacture of parts for a perfectly engineered fit. With a modern factory, dedicated staff of 2500 and high-quality materials, plus testing in the rigours of the English Channel, one can expect to take delivery of a very well-conceived and -manufactured boat.
The 52 is the baby of the Manhattan fleet yet loses nothing in quality or convenience. Interior-wise, naval architect Ken Freivokh is highly regarded for his cunning and imaginative use of space and a sectional profile, as well as layout plans of the boats, should be viewed to understand exactly how clever his utilisation is on these boats. The stepped main saloon and wheelhouse allow a fabulous master cabin and impressive lower galley, two other guest cabins, and voluminous storage. Remarkable in a 52-foot boat.
The exterior styling is of the modern European look, which eliminates traditionalists but is very popular worldwide. The finely pointed bow and droop snout, along with the severely angled windows, give the appearance of going very fast even at a standstill. With twin 800hp MAN diesels under the floor, the looks soon become a 30-knot reality. The bulk of the hull is in the middle sections and this styling exercise specifically increases volume to allow for huge interior spaces cunningly laid out. Slice her in half and you will see what I mean. Under the water, the deep-vee hull has prop tunnels aft and her race-breeding ensures she slices through inconvenient chop with consummate ease.
A hydraulic swim platform lowers to launch the tender, while two large hatches, or a boot in the transom create a huge storage facility for ropes and fenders. The test boat had been fitted with the now popular hoop railings on the swim platform to provide great security for guests when boarding or handling lines in difficult conditions. Given the immediate movement when the engines are engaged in gear, the rails are a worthwhile addition.
Two gates on each side allow access to the generous laid-teak cockpit. A central sofa is fitted aft and this opens to reveal a climb-in lazarette, which can also be fitted out as a crew's quarters. Not for this little black duck, as I would not last the night. Perfect, though, for a little workshop, commissary, rubbish storage, etc, and a really worthwhile space for all the boating detritus that needs to be stored somewhere. The ladder was a little awkward and could definitely do with some tweaking.
The cockpit space is partially covered for sun protection and the moulded tongue-and-groove deckhead is attractive and easy to clean. To port is the companionway stairs to the flybridge and to starboard is an L-shaped bar and fridge unit with some additional cupboard space. A small hatch allows ingress to the engineroom and the layout of the teak shows a border that would allow removal of a large hatch panel in the unlikely and unfortunate event of major engine rebuilding.
The twin MAN 800hp straight-six units are very well installed with a vee-drive system. The 9.0kVa Kohler generator and ancillary equipment is easily accessible for inspection and service. Fuel tanks of 2140lt capacity appear well made and the whole room has a well-fitted appearance, with plenty of room to move around. Some 625lt of freshwater are carried aboard. The ladder was the same as the aft one and is not easy to negotiate.
Back on deck, the companionway stairs to the flybridge have a large hatch that opens to reveal a very impressive and spacious area for guests. A huge U-shaped sofa and folding table will easily seat six for lunch or sunset drinks. The helm seat will hold three in comfort and a large sunbed fills the portside section forward of a sink and mini bar. We do love a mini bar!
The helm station repeats the electronics and dials from the lower station and this is all very conveniently laid out. The test boat had a full-length bimini top, an essential in our strong sunlight.
Opening the saloon sliding door, a luxury apartment awaits your pleasures. Crème carpets, superbly styled and finished joinery, and soft leather sofas beckon you to enter the world of Manhattan. It is a multi-layered area of curves and radiuses, all very attractive in a contemporary style. The sliding door opens from the port side and a single tub chair and entertainment unit cabinet with electrically raising television is to port. To starboard is a huge semi-circular dinette sofa with a superb folding table that expands for dining.
The floor section is of mocha brown Amtico timber floor-tiling, which is attractive and practical, and also repeated in the galley. Two huge timber wall-mounted towers conceal grilles for air-conditioning and speakers and also delineate the lower saloon from the split-level helm station, which is carpeted.
Two steps up and the raised section of the helm has panoramic raked windows that offer excellent visibility. To port is a twin-share guest chair, which faces forward and allows the skipper some extra companionship during the cruise. It was quite the perfect spot to sit and critique the navigation and handling of the vessel, sharing the same view as our intrepid skipper, but without the stress.
A strategically positioned wine fridge is a step or two away behind the helm station. The helm itself is a large and well equipped wraparound affair with a two-seat chair to settle into. The rake of the roof at this point reduces the headroom considerably and it is a helm to sit in with little ability to stand, particularly for the tall among us. In fact, both helm stations have you seated, much like in a car, and gone are the days when would-be admirals can stroll up to the helmsman and leisurely enquire as to the state of the sea. With all that speed on tap, best be seated.
A comprehensive Raymarine package includes radar, plotter, VHF, remote cameras and all the usual gadgets for navigation. Bow and sternthrusters will assist with close-quarters handling. Sunseeker uses a combination of analogue dials set into a veneer fascia in conjunction with the electronic digital display from MAN that is quite difficult to read at a glance. Certainly the tachometers are easily read from the big dials. A row of ancillary switches, stop/start buttons, and so on, complete the layout with most of the significant electrical breakers and generator controls located in the lobby below.
An electric window next to the helm lowers for fresh air, and this is the only opportunity for fresh air, which is slightly disappointing. You will need the generator and air-conditioning on even in mild weather, particularly given the heat loadings from all the glass. Unfortunately, the exterior styling prevents the addition of a side door and the skipper will have to be quick to exit the saloon when mooring, particularly in the absence of capable crew.
A stylish stairwell with superb stainless steel railings, to port on this upper level and forward of the guest seat, leads below to the attractive and spacious galley. This atrium-style space has no hint of claustrophobia usually associated with below-decks galleys and is a beautifully appointed area that is bright and welcoming. The chef is still connected with conversation from above, but all the mess is below and out of the way. I do prefer galleys where the disasters of cooking can be separated from guests, particularly in the event of a slightly more elegant soiree.
There are huge storage spaces hidden behind high-gloss veneer cabinets, Corian benchtops, convection microwave, and sink. Opposite and mounted amidships is the fridge-freezer and a drawer dishwasher to deal with the mess. The Amtico flooring is repeated here and it all looks very inviting, the only defect being the absence of any fresh air or porthole.
Farther forward in the bow is a VIP cabin with double bed, two portholes and a hatch above, while flatscreen TV, hanging lockers, shelves and reading lights offer every comfort for the weary sailor. The guest head with two-way doors has vacuum-flush toilet, bowl-style basin and the circular-tube style shower stall reminiscent of the space program. A guest cabin has upper and lower single bunks, which are more generous than some offerings, a hanging locker, porthole and flatscreen TV.
One of the most impressive features of the Manhattan is the superbly spacious and stylishly appointed master cabin. With the double berth cleverly offset on the diagonal and under the floor section of the saloon, there is a feeling of space and luxury, accentuated by the triple oval windows, one of which opens, on either side.
Upholstered panels, plush carpeting and gloss joinery make this a delightfully appealing cabin for our brave skipper to retire to, perhaps for a movie, a snooze or a romantic assignation. Perhaps all three? The en suite is similarly equipped with vacuum toilet, space-age shower stall and the stylish basin and vanity arrangements. Hanging lockers and a desk complete the package. Everything is very tasteful and superbly detailed.
Right through the Sunseeker range, quality joinery is a feature and all this is made using the JIT (Just In Time) system, meaning that it is made just before installation to minimise any damage. The quality of joinery, veneers and upholstery is virtually faultless right throughout the boat and even the most pernickety person will be smiling after even stringent inspections. There are no rough edges here and the styling is modern and smart. Nor have practical requirements been glossed over for the unsuspecting punter. I appreciated the eye-level electrical control panel, the generous storage lockers all around the boat, and the thoughtful attention paid to so many details which are the hallmark of high-quality and progressive boatbuilding.
The electrics are generally controlled from the lower lobby control panel where the illuminated and eye-level display is easy to use. Circuit breakers, generator control, chargers for 12 and 24V systems are logically placed on the panel, with the battery switches located in a locker in the cockpit. Shorepower is located in a locker adjacent to the cockpit entry gate.
The sidedecks are slightly narrow and are not the place to be when the boat is in motion, particularly given the forward sloping angle of the foredeck and diminishing railing toward the bow. There was no handrail along the cabin roof and I would have one installed for added safety. The non-skid has a soft pattern that I thought a little slippery, yet the crew reliably informed me that it is practical in normal use.
A self-stowing Delta anchor with 60m of galvanised chain, remotely controlled from upper or lower stations, has a locker adjacent for lines and fenders. There are eight deck cleats logically mounted and the usual sunbathing pad is fitted on the foredeck. A small pulpit with flagstaff is also included with the stainless steel railings.
The test day was hot and humid - welcome to Sydney in February - and we required the air-conditioning to make the cabins comfortable. The twin MAN 800hp diesels are smooth and well-insulated and the underwater exhausts remove much of the noise in the marina berth, or when underway.
In fact, there is little vibration to speak of and the typical MAN turbo whistle will be the only disruption at high speed. Plus the water roaring past at 30kts. Electronic throttle controls are superb to use and the stylised handles are very attractive.
MY ISLAND HOME
The Sunseeker runs very much like a big speedboat. She is extremely agile, smooth and stable, particularly when crossing wakes or turning in tight corners. There is not a moment of concern and with the most superb hydraulic steering it is just a matter of leaning back and zipping about wherever you want. It is one of the easiest big boats at speed that I have driven, totally belying her 24 tonnes.
Hard acceleration used for our photo shoot did expose the turbo lag in most modern engines and the MANs are no exception. You can push the levers hard down and expect to wait a few moments before everything comes online. Once away, they are superb units and have no fuss or fandango right up to the full speed of 30kts.
A speed/consumption graph shows the performance and one can summarise this by the simple formula that the whiter the wash the more fuel you are using. Fuel should not be a concern to a buyer of a Sunseeker, however, slower cruising speeds will dramatically improve consumption. What is the rush in any case? As I was enjoying the thrill of free fuel, a deft hand on the throttles was a lot of fun, and very well rewarded.
With an impressive list of international awards, a high-tech manufacturing facility and an enviable service network, one can sit back, relax and enjoy years of very safe and pleasurable boating experiences aboard the Sunseeker Manhattan 52. Given the number of repeat buyers, it is an association that may last a lifetime.
Specifications: Sunseeker Manhattan 52
Approx $2 million, depending on options
Material: Vacuum infused, handlaid GRP
Type: Deep-vee w/ prop tunnels
Length overall: 17.6m
Hull length (inc. platform) : 17.02m
Berths: 6 in three cabins.
Holding tank: n/a
Make/model: 2 x MAN R6-800
Rated HP: 800
Max. RPM: 2300
Gearbox: Direct drive
Propellers: 4-blade NAB bronze
Full 2100lt fuel and 625lt water, no passengers onboard, tested in 20-knot southerly, average of two runs on Sydney Harbour.
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