James Bond’s favourite dayboat has had a lifestyle update. Elaine Bunting finds the 17.1-metre Superhawk 55 optimised for fun and fresh air...
It is a baking hot blue day off the coast of Dorset when Sunseeker shows off its new Superhawk 55. This is the British company’s home waters, and a latitude the boat will soon leave and probably never see again.
There must be wizardry at work: the chalk cliffs of Old Harry Rocks, usually whipped by wind, have fallen under the spell of a glassy calm. There’s not a cloud in the sky. The bay is almost deserted. We can take turns to push up to full speed, 37.8 knots, and crank it over one way, then back again so that the wake pays out like flamboyant handwriting across the sea surface.
These are the conditions and experience that the Superhawk 55 was born for. With its open top, big cockpit and fast speeds, it is a hedonistic machine, the keenly awaited reimagining of a famous line that dates back to the early ’90s.
The Superhawks were the company’s superboats and they found their way into movies as stunt boats. The Superhawk 34, launched in 1997, was filmed tearing along the River Thames on a high-speed boat chase in the Bond movie The World is Not Enough. A special triple-engined Superhawk 43 was pursued by 007 in the 2008 movie Quantum of Solace.
Back then, the company’s Superhawks could touch 50 knots, so you might think today’s version would be a firebreather, too. But no, the new Superhawk is a different kind of boat. If not exactly a tamed beast, it is certainly one with refined manners – the kind of beast you’d invite aboard for the weekend.
“We are following the trend for a more open dayboat style of boating,” says Sunseeker’s sales and marketing director, Sean Robertson. “What we're seeing is almost what we saw in the ’80s and ’90s coming back again, with people either wanting a second boat or having their house with the boat outside. They want something that’s very easy to use as a luxurious day tender with maybe occasional overnighting, but it's really an entertainment platform.”
This Superhawk is a quick, agile, comfortable high-performance boat that can easily be wound up to 38 knots at half load. The adoption of Volvo Penta’s IPS 950 725-horsepowerpod drive system is more than enough for thrills and fast passages, while making it easy to drive and intuitive to manoeuvre at full speed or at close quarters.
It is, however, primarily dedicated to the pleasure of being afloat with friends. The price tag, which starts at £1.535 million excluding VAT, puts it in a special category for a sportsboat, a select but growing cadre of high end dayboats that look and feel pretty special. It is therefore brimming with ideas, and testament to an enormous amount of careful thought and ingenuity from the UK builder and designers.
The Superhawk has a definite, muscular look, pumped with volume in the bow sections, a ripped glazing line running aft and a profile that curves back to a step three-quarters of the way to the stern. Here, a hydraulically operated bathing platform extends aft.
The aft area of the Superhawk conceals some ingenious functions. The sunpad lifts hydraulically to reveal storage for two Seabobs or other water toys, while the entire bathing platform can be lowered down to just below water level to create steps and open up a garage large enough to house – and launch – a Williams MiniJet. The design is clean: a shore power socket and a shower are tucked neatly to the side and aft fairleads,cleats and warping winches are nicely inset into the quarters.
The polished stainless steel safety gates that separate the bathing platform from the aft deck take the British Union flag emblem as their theme. But other elements of the detailing are easy to miss at first glance, such as the engine air intake curved like a snail shell. Both are achieved with the use of 3D printed parts.
“What we are doing is changing this process to use 3D printed parts as far as possible on non-structural mouldings,” explains Jared Hall, Sunseeker’s new product development manager. “Some of our stylists have worked in F1, where you are seeing a trend in some high-end cars that allows them to go further without the limits of glass fibre [mouldings] and to reduce wastage in mould tooling, and that is now being echoed in the styling of boats. To get the shape at the aft fairleads, we used a 3D printed part painted white.”
Undoubtedly, the large socialising space in the cockpit is going to be one of Superhawk’sbiggest selling points. A sunpad at the aft end can be converted into a bench facing forward or aft. This is flanked by two L-shaped sofas that can either be pushed out to almost the maximum width or slid inwards on runners around a folding table to create a dining arrangement.
Further forward, there is a wide wet bar with a grill top, sink, fridge and a pop-up television. An option on the boat we tested that most owners will want to include is the glossy black open-sided hardtop. It provides shade during the day, lighting at night – plus it tops off the profile of the Superhawk and just looks right.
The helm position is superb, set centrally in race boat style, and flanked either side by co-pilot seats with bolster options. The visibility forward over the bow is excellent, either while seated or standing, and the dashboard lays out everything you need to operate the engines and systems in a cool-looking mix of race car style rotary dial displays and two big Garmin multi-function displays. The Volvo IPS system allows throttle and joystick control, and the boat is fitted with a bow thruster to help thread it into tight marinas and stern-to berths.
The forward deck area has been equally well thought through. It is accessed via big side-opening pantograph doors, and well-protected side decks take you forward to a large sunbed. Like the cockpit seating, it can be configured into a different arrangement. Pop a catch and slide the front section forward and you produce two facing bench seats. This creates a second social area, and it can quickly be shaded by setting up a canopy on four carbon poles.
The foredeck is kept clean and uncluttered. The anchor and windlass are concealed in lockers beneath the deck level, which is another innovation by Sunseeker on a boat of this size.
If the Superhawk 55’s space on deck feels surprisingly large, wait until you go below. That muscular appearance and powerful bow have allowed the designers to maximise volume and height. This feels like a much larger boat than its 17-metre LOA would suggest.
The few steps down from the cockpit lead to what can only be described as an atrium. The saloon and galley have acres of headroom, an impression emphasised by the light that floods in from hull windows and a large glass panel in the roof. The fan-shaped coachroofglazing is divided by Union Jack pattern mullions, and besides being a continuing theme on the Superhawk, these mouldings incorporate LED strip lighting that shines down into the saloon and illuminates the emblem in the deck above.
Every last centimetre has been calculated and used to maximise the living space. “To give a good example,” says Hall, “in the aft owner’s cabin and the forward cabin it got down to the stage where we had to specify a Samsung Smart TV as that was only 20 millimetres in depth rather than 50 to 60 millimetres.”
This approach has allowed Sunseeker to fit in a really decent galley, an owner’s double cabin and en suite forward and a double guest cabin and en suite/dayhead aft. The headroom in the guest cabin is slightly restricted but this is still a comfortable space. Sunseeker says it sees the Superhawk being used for day trips and occasional weekends, but if you wanted to you could easily live on board for longer spells and not feel cramped. You could really cover ground, too: the cruising range at 25 knots is 250 miles.
In an established niche market of high end sportsboats and superyacht tenders that ooze sophistication and bristle with technology, Sunseeker needed to produce something special and distinctive. The Superhawk 55 sits up against virtuoso competitors such as the Vanquish 58, Maori 54 and Wajer 55 HT, not to mention the ravishingly gorgeous Wallypower58.
Sophisticated, handsome and smart, the Superhawk is a Swiss Army knife of a boat. It folds out and up in ingenious ways to accomplish a variety of uses in really practical fashion. It is capable of getting you quickly to your favourite spots, where you can put the anchor down and enjoy the day with a crowd of friends, and it will get you back home at a lick. If you want to spend longer on board and go further, you can. The Superhawk 55 can be and do a lot of things, and that does make it a bit special.