BOAT TEST: SEA RAY 470 SUNDANCER
Luxurious appointments and thoroughbred performance wow JOHN ZAMMIT aboard Sea Ray’s 470 Sundancer sportsyacht with Zeus drives
There is much to be said for never having to worry about wind or current as you approach the dock, being able to precisely manoeuvre forwards, sideways, backwards, with the ability to spin your boat 360 degrees on its axis. Well, as most people know, that's the beauty of joystick docking.
But now imagine also having the ability to pull up at a busy fuel dock to wait your turn, holding station, irrespective of wind or current, without even touching your controls. Or how about pulling up just before your berth in the marina and again holding station, leaving the helm unattended while you go out and casually drop your fenders. Now that's the beauty of Skyhook!
Known commercially as Dynamic Positioning (DP), this computer-controlled station-holding system automatically maintains your boat's position and heading by means of its own propulsion. Initially developed for offshore oil-drilling operations, DP has been used commercially and in the military for some time. Boats that now use DP include cruise ships, crane vessels, oceanographic research craft and mine sweepers.
On the new Sea Ray 470 Sundancer, the Skyhook system is bundled with a joystick docking and the standard Zeus pod-drive power plants. Touch a button at the helm, move a lever, and you can do just about anything. To say the Zeus pod drives were a lot of fun really is an understatement.
While the 470 Sundancer comes packed stem to stern with winning design features, real innovation and wow factor, it wasn't just the luxury that impresses. The performance was formidable and this is real excitement machine!
Zeus feature rear-facing props and a tunnel-mounted design that protects the pod-drive from underwater debris, while floating objects are deflected downward by the keel and skeg. If the unit comes in contact with something substantial, the skeg is designed to shear below the torpedo, minimising damage to the drive and the cost of repair bills.
Powered by twin 480hp Cummins QSB5.9-480 diesel engines, this 47ft3in Sea Ray dreamboat shot out of the hole like a true thoroughbred and then handled like a charm. She produced the tightest turning circle you could ever imagine, at speeds well in excess of 30kts.
Actually, it took me a while to get used to the way the 470 Sundancer banked heavily into tight, high-speed turns. Hey, I could almost see other vessels through the open sunroof. But once over the initial thrill, I couldn't contain my excitement, with an ear-to-ear grin saying it all.
PACKED WITH THE LOT
Apart from the Zeus pod drives with standard joystick docking and Skyhook, there's an enclosed helm with a fibreglass hardtop that incorporates twin retractable sunroofs, and side windows that are electrically operated, as well as the two windscreen vents. The cockpit is air-conditioned, too, so by adding the optional rear cockpit clears you have the ultimate in weather protection and climate control - here's a sports yacht, as Sea Ray deems it, that can be used anywhere in Australia.
The spacious cockpit lends itself to a laidback luxury lifestyle, whether you're relaxing as a family or entertaining a crowd. The cockpit is equipped with U-shaped seating around twin removable tables to starboard, with a wetbar with fridge, sink, solid-surface countertop and a built-in electric barbecue opposite. Going forward is an L-shaped lounge adjacent to the helm.
Behind the rearmost cockpit seating is a large sunpad with a huge swimplatform below. It's becoming popular these days to submerge the hydraulic swimplatform just under the surface to help dampen any rocking of the boat at rest or anchor. I can just picture myself sitting in the sunshine on a deckchair here, feet dangling in the water. Ah yes… I'll have mine with ice and a slice of lemon thanks!
Underway, the 470 is easy to handle, both at close quarters and at speed. Just a few minutes after boarding I was comfortably manoeuvring her out of a relatively tight berth using the intuitive joystick. Up and running, she has sportscar-like handling - the amount of control you feel through the wheel at all speeds is amazing. I found the trim tabs, built into the Zeus drives as standard, a bit sensitive initially, but this wasn't a problem once I got the hang of tweaking them gently.
The helm to starboard is elegant and functional. Lots of reverse sheer over the bow means good vision forward through the large, heavily raked windscreen, and you can also see right to the stern. The adjustable helm seat has a flip-up bolster and armrests, while the electronic shifts are located within easy reach just ahead of the joystick. In all, a good driving position with everything functional and close at hand.
Throughout the test, both the Skyhook and joystick got a real workout when transferring photographers and equipment to and from the camera boat, and while holding station to get the lighting just right for the deck shots. Suffice it to say, manoeuvring at close quarters is an absolute breeze.
The dash was nicely laid out with a Raymarine E120 screen incorporating GPS-plotter and fishfinder, Cummins SmartCraft digital engine display, VHF radio, Cummins Precision Pilot (incorporating autopilot and Skyhook) and an array of rocker switches, with enough room left over for a second large screen. A spread of analogue gauges are housed in an overhead console, and while nice to have as a backup, I'm not sure I would ever use them. I much prefer to view my info digitally these days.
Engines access is via an electrically actuated hatch in the cockpit that lifts on gas struts. The Cummins are room a good amount of room around them, with the Zeus pod drives directly aft. There's an 11kW Onan generator, fuel filters on the rear bulkhead, with the main DC breaker panel, automatic fire-suppressant system and battery charger all forward. Everything is neatly housed. I noticed there weren't any covers on the pod drives, but was told these will be fitted.
To get to the sidedecks, there's a step on the portside of the cockpit, otherwise you you'll have to clamber over the seat - not ideal - on the starboardside. The sidedecks, however, are nice and wide, with movement aided by a slightly raised bulwark, high bowrail and ample handholds. You'll find a lot of room on the bow and it serviced by a big sunpad and built-in drinkholders. The anchor winch is a low-profile number with chain lockers either side, foot controls and a freshwater wash-down.
When I finally dragged myself away for a look belowdecks, I was immediately taken by the style and elegance accentuated by abundant light through the oversized, horizontal hull windows and twin large overhead hatches. The combination of high-gloss dark cherry timber, stylish timber blinds, concealed indirect lighting, and lots of thoughtful details, like the polished chrome surrounds on the light switches, all add to the sense of luxury. A large L-shaped leather lounge around a removable table takes up the entire starboard side and can be converted into an impromptu double bed.
The galley to port has a full suite of appliances, enough to satisfy the most discerning chef, including convection microwave, stainless steel two-door fridge/freezer and a two-burner electric hotplate recessed into the bench top that's handy for a couple of reasons. First, things won't slide off easily and, second, there's an infill that hides the hotplates when not in use (with a similar infill for the sink), leaving the whole benchtop clean and uncluttered. Loads of storage was noted, too, both overhead and under the counter, designated for plates, glasses and pots.
Now, there are a number of other advantages with pod drives over conventional shaft drives, such as freeing up a lot of space amidships. Sea Ray has taken advantage of this. The mid-stateroom (aft cabin) is both stylish and cleverly setup, with roomy twin beds that slide together to form a large double, there's hanging space with shelves and under-bed storage. A mirrored vanity and sink are in an alcove opposite, with a separate shower and head compartment adjacent. There's loads of light, too, from large portlights. Add the convertible lounge in the saloon and you can sleep six in comfort.
The elegance and luxury theme continues in the master stateroom forward with its large island bed, built-in storage cabinets either side, large portlights with timber blinds and opening hatch above. The en suites are split between a powder room, incorporating the head and a mirrored vanity to port, and separate shower room to starboard. Full-length mirrored doors are a nice touch and accentuate the space on the 47ft 3in long boat overall. And without the droopy deck lines back aft on former Sundancers, the 470 looks smart, more European and edgy.
FACTS & FIGURES
SEA RAY 470 SUNDANCER
The 470 Sundancer was taken through the whole rev range on a day that was blowing 25 to 30kts. Unperturbed, we performed serpentines at WOT (3400rpm for these engines) and recorded 34kts top speed. Not that you'd want to be travelling at that all day, but it's nice to know that you've got it if you're trying to beat a weather front. At 3000rpm she produced 28kts, which makes for fast coastal cruising, but the sweet spot was at 2500rpm for a very comfortable 19kts using just over 100lt/h of fuel - very respectable for the size of these engines.
PRICE AS TESTED
Upgraded 11kW generator, ducted vacuum system, engine upgrade to QSB 480 in lieu of QSB 425, premium sound-system upgrade, Raymarine electronics package, sunroof shade, cockpit Ultraleather upgrade, cockpit refrigerator, cockpit grill, hydraulic swimplatform, underwater transom lighting, windlass (all chain), and more
Refer to dealer for pricing options
LENGTH OVERALL: 14.4m (w/ swim platform extended)
DEADRISE: 19 degrees
WEIGHT: 12.92 tonnes (dry)
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 4 + 2
HOLDING TANK: 159lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Cummins QSB5.9-480
TYPE: Six-cylinder common rail diesel
RATED HP: 480 (each)
I was mightily impressed with the Sea Ray 470 Sundancer. It's a luxury sportsyacht and, in my view, that says it all. The mix is just right in terms of the amount of 'sport" blended with 'yacht' giving outstanding performance, the convenience of Joystick docking and Skyhook 'anchoring,' and all the comforts of home.
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