Hawk 38: Test Driving Sunseeker's High Performance Day Boat
by Simon de Burton
Sunseeker is going back to its high-performance roots with the Hawk 38, a fitting legacy for founder Robert Braithwaite, says Simon de Burton
Christian Marti, then Sunseeker’s CEO, hands me the controls after an extremely good (alcohol-free) lunch at the Hut beach restaurant on the Isle of Wight’s Colwell Bay. Opening up the taps on the new Hawk 38’s twin Mercury 400Rs must give the other diners the impression that we are “doing a runner” in the most spectacular style.
This boat is quick. From a standing start, we are up on the plane fast, with 20 knots showing on the 16-inch touchscreen of the steering-wheel-controlled Simrad navigation system. It is acceleration as exhilarating as the most adrenaline-inducing sports car and makes Sunseeker’s claims of an “out of the box” 62-knot capability seem not only plausible, but possibly modest.
The only way to test such claims, of course, is to take advantage of the day’s relatively flat, almost traffic-free sea. So, encouraged by the Hawk 38’s skipper, I open up the digital Zero Effort throttles to somewhere near their maximum – and feel almost alarmed at the rapidity with which the speed indicator clicks over to 30, 35, 40, 50 and finally 63.8 knots.
There is undoubtedly more to come, but by now our high-speed orbit is taking us rapidly back towards the Hut in what promises to become a re-run of the Live and Let Die boat chase scene in which Roger Moore’s 007 gets airborne across a road in a rather less sophisticated Glastron GT-150.
It’s no secret that the Mercury Verado 400R, 2.6-litre supercharged, in-line, six-cylinder engine is the pinnacle of high-performance marine propulsion. But there’s no point in having power without control, and it’s largely the long, pencil-like Hawk 38’s hull design that makes it go as well as it does, turn in as though it’s on proverbial rails and provide confidence-inspiring levels of grip.
For that we have to thank the late legendary powerboat racer and boat designer Fabio Buzzi, of FB Design, who set no fewer than 43 water speed records. He was responsible for the patented “structural foam hull technology” and inflatable Hypalon 866 STAB tubes – the latter lending an implausible level of high-speed stability for an 11.85-metre boat with a beam of just 2.32 metres minus the tubes. Indeed, Buzzi’s magic touch on the throttles combined with the efficient shape that features a squared-off bow enabled a topless Hawk 38 prototype to hit an astounding 68.6 knots on glass-flat Lake Como during testing – or 127km/h.
“The Hawk 38 represents a new era for Sunseeker, one in which we’re returning to really high-performance boat- building,” says in-house designer Luke Stride, who has worked on the project from its inception more than two years ago. “After the financial crash of 2008, we placed the emphasis more on comfort than performance, meaning there hasn’t been a true sports boat in the library for more than a decade – which seemed wrong, because Sunseeker has such a heritage in racing that dates back to Robert Braithwaite’s founding of the firm in the 1960s as Poole Powerboats.
“Under the Sunseeker name, the company entered as many as three XPS 34 hulls in the powerboat world championship at various times,” says Stride, who says 7,500 design hours went into creating the Hawk 38. “People who are familiar with the brand will know of models such as the Tomahawk and Superhawk, but the Hawk 38 takes things to an entirely new level. It was CAD designed using computational fluid dynamics testing and built using super-accurate, five-axis machining. It’s undoubtedly the most technologically advanced performance dayboat currently on the market.”
Stride believes Hawk 38 buyers will be people who want to own the ultimate in high-performance dayboats – perhaps those who also enjoy burning rubber on tarmac – rather than superyacht owners looking for a very fast chase boat. And while performance is a given, the new model is also endowed with some attractive creature comforts. The four FB Design Besenzoni racing seats, for example, are fitted with shock-absorbing systems to save spines as the Hawk 38 leaps across the waves, and the front sunpad conceals 1,000 litres of storage that’s sufficient to accommodate a couple of Seabobs and also provides electrical charging points.
Behind the sunpad, U-shaped seats facing aft can combine with an optional carbon-fibre dining table (£3,590 on top) that stores beneath the deck, while there’s further locker space beneath the seats plus a deck locker. There’s also the facility to install fridge drawers (for an extra £3,000) and, beneath a door in the centre console, a decent-sized dayhead – although you can forget about romantic overnight stays. There’s no cabin and no galley, either. That said, this is a boat in which to go fast, safely, have fun and – let’s not deny it – attract attention from all around.
Braithwaite died in March this year and the fact that the Hawk 38 was the final Sunseeker model he worked on has led the company to dedicate the first 10 production hulls to him, with each one carrying a special “RB” signed plaque in the cockpit. After that, output is expected to be stepped up to around 20 boats per year, each costing £535,000 plus VAT. And if the price doesn’t wipe the smile off your face, you’re guaranteed a ride that will keep you grinning all day.