A Surprising Start
For many boaters, owning a Sunseeker is a statement of style and power with unmatched luxury and design. This is a huge leap from the company’s humble beginnings in Poole, England when Robert Braithwaite took a chance and went from selling boats to building boats.
In 1969 Braithwaite’s employer, Poole Powerboats, sold various brands of boats, including those of Owens Cruisers, Inc., an American company. When Owens Cruisers decided to stop selling their boats in Europe, they closed their UK boat-building operation. This led to an inspiration: Braithwaite raised some cash and negotiated a deal to buy the boat molds from Owens, and Poole Powerboats went into the boat-building business, even though they had never built a boat before. With this, the Sunseeker brand was born.
Finding Their Niche
In the early 1970s, there was a gap in the UK market for sports and leisure boats. To address this need, Sunseeker launched their first boat, the Sovereign 17 and followed it up quickly with the Sovereign 20. By 1972 they displayed them at the Southampton Boat Show and were well received. Sunseeker listened to their customers and merged that feedback into their new designs. With this input and inspiration, they launched the Sports 23 and the Daycab 23.
John Braithwaite, Robert’s younger brother, joined Sunseeker as its Product Development Director and influenced many award-winning designs. John held that position until he retired, over 50 years later.
Expanding Their Reach
The market for Sunseeker boats expanded throughout the UK and into northern Europe, but the company had their eyes on the Mediterranean market. For this popular and fashionable region, they wanted to create stylish racing boats. To take on this challenge, the brothers hired Don Shead, a leading boat designer.
Shead had experience designing both racing boats and superyachts, and understood Sunseeker’s vision for a completely new kind of cruiser. He designed the Offshore 28 with an innovative hull design. This became Sunseeker’s first performance model. As sales took off in Spain, Germany, and the south of France, the company relaunched itself as Sunseeker International.
By the mid 1980s, Sunseeker excelled at evolving design and innovation to accommodate their owners’ desires. They listened to customers and learned how an owner wanted to use the boat, then designed around that goal. Sunseeker’s emphasis was on a combination of maximum enjoyment and high performance.
In the 1990s, style became Sunseeker’s focus as they pulled inspiration from the softer shapes of automotive design. The boats were getting bigger, and jet drives were making them faster and more maneuverable. As for the interior, the furnishings were more sumptuous than ever before. Sunseeker was becoming one of the world’s leading boat builders as they merged imaginative boat design with luxury, range, performance, and handling.
Rise of the Superyachts
In the 2000s, Sunseeker launched its biggest yacht to date, the 105 Yacht. Using advanced composite materials and innovative design, the 105 won two International Superyacht Design Awards.
Larger superyachts followed, including the 37M and the 42M. In just 20 years from the release of the 105, Sunseeker delivered 140 superyachts.
The 50M Ocean model was developed in partnership with ICON Yachts, a Dutch builder, and was Sunseeker’s first-ever aluminum yacht. The move to metal-built vessels helps Sunseeker meet the demand for even larger yachts.
Full Circle Back to Day Boats
Having gone huge, Sunseeker decided to incorporate a return to the small, launching a high-performance day boat in 2019. The Hawk 38 draws on the racing heritage of Sunseeker, providing up to 62 knots of speed. To design the Hawk 38, Sunseeker joined forces with Fabio Buzzi Design, winner of 55 World Championships and 43 World Speed Records.
Sunseeker’s success stems from their unrelenting commitment to set new standards and exceed what they previously accomplished.
Over the Decades: Important Boats from Sunseeker