Most boat tests are easy to write. For anything up to, say, half-a-million dollars in value, you can imagine what it would be like to own the craft you’re testing. On the drive home, when my head is full of impressions, I always imagine myself as a potential owner – where I would moor it, how I would run it, how much I’d enjoy it and, of course, what I would have to sell to afford it.
But when you’re looking at Sunseeker’s $4.5million worth of Predator 72, the imagination simply will not project that far. What we will have to do when writing about this boat is take a deep breath and, well, wing it.
The modern sailing yacht is a fine thing, but older yachts have attributes that would enhance the modern yacht. With powerboats, this rule does not apply. The modern powerboat is streets ahead of those produced 10 years ago. When writing about boats like the Predator 72, I like to talk about the way they look, the way they feel inside. This time, let’s reverse normal procedure; I want to talk about the way it goes.
Beneath the cockpit in their own private room, you find two V12 MAN 1360hp diesels, each one a fraction under 22 litres in capacity. The MANs drive forward to vee-drives and the shafts head back aft to five-blade props, which run in semi-tunnels. Why tunnels? The props are recessed so the slipstream is directed over the blades and the props have a better, almost vertical angle of attack.
The MANs are fed by a common rail high pressure injection system and turbochargers compress the mix once it’s engulfed by the massive cylinders. The result is a bigger bang inside each pot, but a bigger bang that is also quieter and smoother. The common rail system is why European motoring writers reckon the best BMW car engines these days are diesels.
Our skipper for the day (who goes by the name of ‘Wozza’) opens the throttles on 24 cylinders and 2720 horsepower and there is no noticeable lift onto the plane. There is no sense that the hull has to make an effort to climb out of the hole and into the water. Between idle and 20 knots, we guess that the bow has lifted two degrees, perhaps only one. That’s all.
So, we are running at 1600rpm and 20 knots. It feels like 10. The engines burble away somewhere aft, a long way away. We do tight figure eights; the steering is quite direct and this 72ft boat – which, at half load, displaces approximately 32.5 tonnes – feels like a 30-footer. We push her through a few swells. “You can run her at this speed in two-metre seas,” says Mike Garrett, from Sunseeker. Sadly, we can’t find any two-metre seas, but I believe him.
Even when she runs up to a top of 36 knots and a bit, the engine noise is still subdued. To me, this lack of noise is of paramount importance. On a surprising number of boats, even of this size, the illusion of luxury can be promptly shattered when the engines fire up and the boat starts to plane.
On the Predator, the sensation of luxury is, if anything, heightened when under way. Running in smooth water at 20 knots is like flying very low in a remarkably quiet aeroplane. I begin to feel lord of all I survey. I am developing a touch of arrogance; the missing ingredient required to understand such a boat.
The Predator series is Sunseeker’s low-profile range, although low-silhouette is probably a more apt description. The owners of the boat we tested swapped their similar-sized flybridge Sunseeker because they liked the one-level living the Predator offers.
The secret of the Predator is the sliding sunroof, which opens the forward part of the saloon to sun and fresh air. Press the button and the ambience changes from a luxury drawing room to that of a sporty outdoors gallery. It must be like this when you lower the convertible metal roof on your 500SL Benz. Sadly, I wouldn’t know. In a sense, the sunroof replaces the flybridge; you are outdoors while indoors and you have full control over your comfort level.
Cockpit, saloon and helm station are on one level. The galley is down a few steps, while the sleeping accommodation and heads are located on the lower level. The galley has everything one could possibly want. The cockpit has a fridge, ice maker and barbecue, a majestic teak table and a divan that converts to a sun lounge.
There are crew quarters which sleep two in the stern. The garage is in the transom and is long enough to house a three-metre RIB, which is rolled in and out by an electric winch. The full-width landing platform lowers underwater so the tender can float clear. Some owners fit remote control units so that, as they approach the mothership, they can open the garage door, step aboard and put the tender away.
You can describe the Predator as a ‘semi-stock’ boat. This one has four cabins – Sunseeker calls it the Pullman option – because the owners have several grandchildren. The ‘large galley option’ deletes the bunk cabin immediately ahead of the galley (on the lower level), and replaces it with a dinette; this is where you would have breakfast, or, if you prefer, a coffee before facing the outdoors. There are numerous engine and genset options. Flatscreen TVs, sound and communications systems can be fitted to suit personal taste.
So, on the lower deck of this version, there are two cabins amidships – one with bunks, one with twin beds. The cabin forward is called the VIP; a perfect apartment with a centreline double berth, head, TV and sound system. The owner’s cabin is slightly aft of amidships and spans the full width of the hull. This is a big room; words can’t describe it – just look at the pictures!
Decor is your choice. Sunseeker has a big range of ‘colour books’ (recommended combinations of colours and textures), but the choice is ultimately yours. For one Predator on order, the customer wants to complement the gloss cherrywood interior with high-gloss floors and black leather wherever fabric is used – walls, headliner, seats, etc. On this boat, the mirror finish cherry is combined with ivory-toned leather and fabrics, with black around the helm station.
This is a boat of great luxury, but the layout is a good one for Australia as it embraces the indoor/outdoor philosophy which Aussies are used to, even if they sometimes forget it when ordering a boat. Too many big boats – mediumsized ones too, for that matter – get the balance wrong; they’re all about impressing people with the opulence of their living quarters, the number and complexity of toys, and wind up as apartments on water instead of living, breathing marine craft. It is vital to remember that boats are all about the outdoors.
I do not have the tastes of the very rich – nor do I have a chance of developing them – but if the owner’s cabin was the room I was given in a five- or six-star hotel, I would be a happy lad. That is the only way I can rate it.
Mike Garrett has put a lot of effort into detailing this craft. When the boats are delivered, the floors are bare timber. The teak cockpit table is also bare so you can choose your own finish. The cockpit table on this particular boat has been coated with several layers of satin polyurethane over gloss. Mike originally gave the floors a satin finish, but found the sheen clashed with the high-gloss trim, so the floor was redone with matt polyurethane.
There is an infinite amount of detail on this boat. The cleats are small sculptures and behind the circular sunbed on the foredeck is a stylish acrylic fitting with cut-outs to hold drinks. Beneath it is a drain in case you spill the Campari and soda when lounging on the sunbeds. The transverse cockpit lounge folds out to form a sunbed and a powered bimini swings out overhead if you need shade in the cockpit. Struts can be added if you want to run with it extended.
The square table in the saloon has folding leaves, which double its area. It can also be lowered if you are just having coffee. The saloon and cockpit flow together as the indoor/outdoor daytime space, so when you need privacy you can always dive downstairs.
The lower deck is the full quid; a no compromise bedroom area in a roomy, luxury hull.
From pulpit to landing platform, she is 21.26m; the hull is 21.40m and she is 5.40m wide. This is not a small boat.
And when running at planing speeds, you don’t have to suspend eating, drinking, snoozing and schmoozing, because those quiet diesels and (designer) Don Shead’s hull enable life to continue uninterrupted.
We finish our run and Wozza comes aft to the cockpit, where he will use the remote to put her away. He spins her around using the throttles until we are 20 metres from the dock and parallel. The stern thruster – hydraulic and noiseless – pushes her in, then it’s a two-second squirt on the bow thruster and we tie up. If he was quick on his feet, the skipper could get on the stern line himself.
If your idea of the perfect yacht is one that looks like a multi-storey car park, the Predator 72 is not for you. With Predator, Sunseeker has got the name right. And for my money, Sunseeker has got the volumes right, too – the internal volumes that is – those that determine the way a boat feels.
In previous eras, owning a big boat demanded sacrifices as they were often hard to handle in small spaces. And you would have probably needed a skipper and crew, with the resultant compromise of your family’s privacy. Thanks to its hull shape, propulsion systems, thrusters and electronics, this Predator goes, handles and moors like a 30-footer. Technology wins again.
SPECIFICATIONS: SUNSEEKER PREDATOR 72
LOA: 21.26 metres
Hull length (inc. platform): 21.40 metres
Waterline (1/2 load): 16.50 metres
Beam: 5.40 metres
Draught (inc. props): 1.65 metres
Displacement (½2 load): 32,500kg
Fuel: 3900 litres
Water: 720 litres
Engine options: Up to 3100hp
Test boat supplied by: Sunseeker East Coast Australia, tel: (07) 5528 3888 or visit: www. sunseeker.com.au