Back in 1969, in the English seaside town of Poole, Robert Braithwaite dreamt of building a new kind of boat.
Using revolutionary materials and technology, his early designs were tailored to a handful of customers, keen to embrace new found freedoms.
A dramatic turn of events steered the direction of the firm forever
Throughout the sixties, Robert worked at Friar’s Cliff Marine, a company that sold various brands including small boats made by American boat builder Owens Cruisers Inc.
Friar’s Cliff Marine became Poole Powerboats in 1969 when it moved into the town of Poole. But then a dramatic turn of events steered the direction of the firm forever.
Back in the USA, Owens Cruisers decided they would no longer distribute their craft to Europe, announcing their decision to close the UK operation down.
It was at this point that Robert saw a unique opportunity. With the blessing of others, he raised some cash, drove to Owens’ offices in Arundel, and negotiated a deal to acquire their boat moulds.
Now there was just one problem for Poole Powerboats.
The company had never built any kind of seagoing craft before.
Image caption: Poole Powerboats inauguration – (from left to right) John Braithwaite, Jennifer Macklin, John Macklin, Sybil Braithwaite, Idris Braithwaite, John Blackaller, Robert Braithwaite
In the early seventies, there were simply no significant builders of boats for the sports and leisure markets in the UK.
The first craft to launch was the Sovereign 17 in 1971, closely followed by the Sovereign 20. By 1972, the company was exhibiting at the Southampton Boat Show and keen to meet new customers.
One visitor (none other than Formula One driver, Henry Taylor) loved the boats, but wanted one to accommodate a full width sunbed.
In an early example of Sunseeker giving customers exactly what they want, the team set about designing this unprecedented and ultimately-successful new boat. It was at this point that Robert’s younger brother John joined the business, learning the ropes and increasingly influencing the designs; a role he retains to this day as Product Development Director.
Riding this wave of early triumph, the company could fulfil the demands of the growing sports cruiser market, launching the Sports 23 and the Daycab 23.
Sunseeker had arrived. Now the real voyage could begin.
By the late seventies, Sunseeker were selling well in the UK and northern Europe.
But they still yearned to be the first to break into the burgeoning Mediterranean destinations by creating boats with enhanced style and racing capabilities.
And so Robert and John enlisted the skills of leading boat designer, Don Shead.
The designer of racing boats and superyachts, but never a production cruiser, saw the potential of combining Sunseeker’s vision with his own unique craft.
So he began to design a totally new kind of cruiser.
A leap of courage and imagination, the Offshore 28 was the first of its kind made in Europe. It was our first true performance model, winning sales in the south of France, Spain and Germany, and launching the company as Sunseeker International.
As the innovative hull designs set greater performance standards, so the sense of Sunseeker’s luxurious style was finessing.
Looking at things differently was always a Sunseeker obsession. By the mid eighties, it was an unrelenting passion.
Taking cues uniquely from how their owners wanted to use their boats, this refreshing and prolific stance put distance between Sunseeker and their competitors. Not to mention bringing them closer to their customers.
In the Portofino 31, the focus shifted from overnight accommodation to cockpits that could host large groups of people, yielding a wide and comfortable two-cabin boat that oozed style.
Sunseeker had put the emphasis on enjoyment, fun and high performance, an era of confidence that manifested itself in the remarkable Tomahawk 37.
Still loved to this day, this icon was yet another example of a practical boat delivering on absolutely everything Sunseeker promised.
Into the nineties, style became an even bigger factor. With this firmly in mind, Sunseeker began to observe the softer shapes employed within automotive design.
This, combined with an awakened desire amongst owners for larger boats, led to the Renegade 60, our very first production boat with twin jet drives, seamlessly fusing performance, style and exceptional maneuverability. The true recognition? Applause by the competition on its dramatic entrance to the Southampton Boat Show in 1990.
Another perception-altering boat of this time was the Predator 80, with the most sumptuous interior seen in a Sunseeker yet, but more importantly, it was fitted with astonishing triple Arneson surface drives.
This new benchmark in luxury boating combined accommodation, incredible performance, range and handling like never before, confirming a reputation not just for imaginative boat design but increasingly, as one of the world’s leading boat builders.
The turn of the century saw Sunseeker set the pace with the launch of their then-largest ever motoryacht, the 105 Yacht. Advanced composite materials and the latest construction techniques created a true triumph.
Continuing apace – literally, with a top speed of 32 knots – the industry’s true innovators had delivered a motoryacht of inspirational design, winning two of the world’s most prestigious accolades in the International Superyacht Design awards.
But this particular journey had only just begun.
The meteoric 37M Yacht has since inspired the new 131 Yacht. Then, just fifteen short years after the 105 Yacht’s inception, a truly exceptional milestone…
The delivery of our 100th luxury performance motoryacht in the 100ft+ superyacht category defined the sheer breadth of a range of exceptional yachts including our previous flagship 155 Yacht.
A feat that was celebrated in September 2015, helping us to mark several decades of Sunseeker innovation and craftsmanship.
With each new creation, a new best.
Continual investment in exciting, innovative new products is key to Sunseeker’s success, including, but not limited to, smaller performance craft and larger builds at the top of the range.
In 2018, we unveiled a truly momentous new model, the 161 Yacht. This exciting new vessel will be developed in partnership with renowned Dutch builders, ICON Yachts, and will be the first aluminium-built yacht in Sunseeker’s 50-year history. Latent demand for even larger Sunseeker yachts is the driving force behind our move into metal-built vessels and there is a great synergy between us and ICON.
We are never one to rest on our laurels and following several years of speculation, we have recently announced the forthcoming launch of a brand-new high-performance day boat – the Hawk 38. We have returned to our performance roots, drawing on the company’s racing heritage to deliver an exciting and dynamic new high-performance model in conjunction with Fabio Buzzi Design (FB Design), winner of 43 World Speed Records and 55 World Championships.
Having worked previously with FB Design on the XS2000 and XS Sport, we have always dominated this segment and will continue to do so with this technologically advanced cutting-edge new model.
Sunseeker has always stayed true to this thought. With their passion to seek perfection and exceed boundaries stronger than ever.
The brand’s enormous global strength can be greatly attributed to its commitment to constantly set new standards and exceed what came before.
Breaking new waves. Discovering new horizons.
And always seeking more.
When Robert sailed his first little cruiser in 1971, it wasn’t just a boat he launched. It was an entirely new world of boat making.
Throughout the decades, Sunseeker has always pursued the more advanced, the more ambitious, the more creative – and consequently, the more successful.
Today, Sunseeker International employs a dedicated team of over 2,500 highly skilled designers, engineers and master craftsmen supported by a worldwide network of over 120 retail and service locations, exporting c.150 yachts a year to more than 74 countries.
On March 7th, 2019, Robert passed away in Dorset, having recently fought Alzheimer’s. He was 75 years old. A true entrepreneur and pioneer of the leisure marine industry, Robert’s contribution to the marine industry globally was pivotal. He was inspirational to anyone who met him, recognised as a pioneer, a maverick, a true visionary; he changed the face of boating forever. Famously, Robert is quoted as saying: “When I was young, I was told it was impossible to have a career in boats. I guess I proved them wrong.”