Like all pioneers, Sunseeker’s founders Robert and John Braithwaite’s approach to boat building was to be unique. To be different. They wanted Sunseeker to stand out by standing for something different. And for over fifty years the company has done just that. Year after year, new boats were launched - each as impressive as the last. As time progressed a company style began to emerge and soon it was possible to recognise a Sunseeker at a glance. A fact that remains true today.
Creating yachts with film star appeal and the ability to turn heads, both under way and at rest, begins on the virtual drawing board
Through computer aided design to manufacture (CAD/CAM), lines on screen and paper become reality via high technology and advanced engineering, not to mention a great deal of help from traditional boat-building skill, using hand, eye, spokeshave and smoothing plane.
CAD allows designers and naval architects to juggle at will with sheer lines and flybridge profiles, configure spaces until the ergonomics are right, play with the quality of light, and even experiment with the texture of the soft furnishings.
Building a Sunseeker may well start with hi-tech vacuum infusion moulding, whereby resin is injected in precisely controlled conditions, but it will invariably finish with classic cabinetmaking and polishing techniques.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) allows the designers to experiment with variations of hull shape, length, beam and deadrise angle before a single mould is made or five-axis milling machine programmed. They can then assess sea-keeping, fuel economy, and ride quality, try different drive systems and powering options many months before construction begins.
The design stage is crucial, leaving nothing to chance. Keeping weight to design parameters ensures every Sunseeker performs as predicted, taking heavy seas in its stride and without intrusive vibration. Noise attenuation has long been a goal at Sunseeker. Every generation is quieter and smoother than the last, and the search for ever-better efficiency is ongoing.
Producing A Sunseeker
The boat layout and drive options agreed, the interiors designed, co-ordination and compliance come into play.
With the precision of a military operation, the production of a Sunseeker boat relies on timing, communication and expertise. By the time the hull is moulded and ready for fitting out, every single component will have been production planned and its progress recorded on the central Sunseeker IT system.
Accuracy in manufacturing thanks to the CAD/CAM technology means that each component matches perfectly with its neighbour, even though they may have been produced in factories or workshops hundreds of miles apart. If the smallest piece of wiring is to be countersunk behind a bulkhead panel, the groove will have been specified from the earliest design plans, programmed into the CAM computer, and milled to the exact tolerance required.
At the Technology Centre a highly skilled workforce of artisans, covering disciplines including carpentry, cabinet-making, engineering, upholstery, metal work, electronics and composites laminating produces, tests and hand-finishes the fittings for the boat using only the finest quality materials.
At the ship and boat yards, predetermined thicknesses and weaves of glass fibre and carbon fibre are applied to the interior of the hull by hand with resin by skilled laminators to produce a quality of construction that no machine can replicate. The process of constructing the interior then continues in methodical fashion, from the tanks in the bilges to the radio antenna aloft, then from stem to stern to ensure that no completed section can be soiled or scratched once the gleaming decks and fittings are installed and hand polished.
Every hour of the construction process is logged, monitored and analysed in the pursuit of quality and efficiency; there is constant communication and collaboration between team leaders, production planners and designers to ensure that every single action involved in the construction is right first time, every time.
Timing is critical in the production process, but so is communication. More so when you consider that if something were to go missing, be faulty, or not fit, on a structure that is up to 40 feet high, 120 feet long and weighing up to 190 tonnes, any delay will have serious repercussions down the line. You cannot just move it to one side and let the others pass along. Daily briefings involving all teams and disciplines provide a forum for spotting a snag long before it becomes a problem, thereby averting one.
Imagine the construction materials and mix of trades that are required to build a modern multi storey luxury apartment and your vision will be similar to that of a Sunseeker shipyard today. The exception being that the luxury apartment that is a Sunseeker may be capable of achieving 50 knots in open water. The top of the range brand names on the constant flow of delivery vehicles will also be familiar, from kitchen appliances to audio-visual systems, carpets, glass and chinaware.
Putting all these elements together requires genuine team spirit, which at Sunseeker is not just a nod to its family-firm ancestry. It is genuine, and also remarkable in a workforce that now stands at over a thousand more than it was in 2002. This team spirit and pride in one’s workmanship is what really brings a Sunseeker into being.
Once construction and decoration are complete, finally comes the testing and handover stage. The seas around Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world, offer a variety of currents, winds, waves and conditions representative of just about any to be found where the boats are likely to be used – an ideal proving ground for the world’s finest motoryachts. The yachts are then delivered to their destination ports by land or sea. With 99% of Sunseeker production destined for overseas markets, boat transportation has a dedicated logistics team to ensure that every boat is delivered in pristine condition and full working order.
With the larger yachts, the Master and selected crew are welcomed to the shipyard as much as four weeks in advance of final handover for familiarisation and technical briefing, during which time they live aboard. In line with MCA regulations a detailed manual and build specification is provided for every boat. Any final finishing touches or last minute décor changes required by the owner are also discussed and executed during this period, and all the ships’ systems are fully tested again.
Another Sunseeker takes to the waves, proudly bearing its name and its British heritage.