The rise and rise of Sunseeker Motoryachts in Australia has evolved into something of a Cinderella story. It's not that earlier imports from this renowned British boat builder were in any way dirty or lack lustre, far from it. Anyone who has visited the Sunseeker factory in Poole, England, will attest as to just how clean its factory is, it looks like Cinderella cleans the floors on an hourly basis, and the excellent products it builds reflect this. Sunseeker with its 40-plus year history, has gone from being a small English builder of 18-foot runabouts to one of the world's biggest motoryacht manufacturers. A true Cinderella rags to riches story.
However, unlike many other motoryacht builders, Sunseeker continues to expand globally, because not only does it offer a large and varied range of vessels to the world market, but any country it does import into also gets the dealer and customer backup services, which are so important in gaining and retaining new business. There are now 24 vessels in the Sunseeker arsenal, including 135-foot luxury motoryachts, a variety of flybridge and performance cruisers from 56 to 74 feet, express cruisers, sportfishing machines and four high performance race-breed speed machines. Obviously, the Australian market hasn't grown sufficiently yet, note, I said yet, to a stage were the entire Sunseeker range is imported here, but that said, you only have to ask.
The latest vessel in the Sunseeker range to grace our shores is the Portofino 46. She's an Express Cruiser with all the style and luxury of her namesake, Portofino, that magnificently beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera south of Genoa. According to the brochure, the Portofino delivers more than you might expect from an offshore cruiser of this calibre. A range of unexpected extras complete a stylish interior; elegant, without being overly fussy. Her broad beam also means you can look forward to a roomy deck layout and more than adequate accommodation.
Yes, she is a lady with a broad beam, but it's her broad beam that is one of the reasons why this lady stands out from the crowd. And while all will appreciate the extra room below deck, it was out on the high seas that her extra beam really turned the Modern Boating team on.
ON WATER PERFOMANCE
Rounding Sydney Heads I pointed the Portofino's bow due East, taking the 1.5 to 2m swells rolling in through the Heads at 45 degrees, in an effort to lessen the force of the waves impacting the hull amidships. At 15 knots the boat lumbered out over the waves, but there seemed to be something missing, power. I wasn't giving her enough stick to make the hull work. Nudging the throttles up a couple of notches, the Portofino lurched forward, almost instantly reaching 25 knots, but she still had plenty left in reserve. This boat didn't slice through the swells she carved her way out to sea.
No banging or crashing, just the smooth effortless ride that comes from a hull that combines wide down-turned chines, sharp bow entry and a prominent keel to create a cushion of air for the hull to ride on. Over the years I have also found that all Sunseekers have another outstanding attribute, and the Portofino didn't let me down. If you turn the helm a couple of centimetres you can see the bow move a couple of centimetres in that direction. These babies steer and handle like sportcars, no matter how big they are. Why ? Well, all Sunseeker motoryachts and cruisers have their props positioned in mini tunnels, which ensure the hull tracks straight, even in a following sea, so they turn like ski boats. That's not a bad rap for a 46-footer. Back to her broad beam.
The helm is positioned amidships and here the beam is 4.2m, or 13' 8", for we of the old school. When the boat is trimmed properly, the hull rides on this, the widest part, causing all spray and wash to begin to rise about 1m behind the driver's position. This means even those seated on the transom lounge aren't going to get wet, no matter how rough the conditions get. Sure, punching into a head sea, with the wind quartering on the bow, a certain amount of spray is going to hit the screen, but that's what it's for, to stop the spray and it does its job efficiently.
The boat cruises effortlessly at 22 knots and it would take a pretty big sea to force the skipper to throttle back, because this is her optimum operating speed.
Other speed to rpm figures recorded on the day were: 8.5 knots at 1000rpm; 15 knots at 1500rpm; 22 knots at 2000rpm; 28 knots at 2500rpm; 30 knots at 2750rpm; and 33 knots at WOT, with a clean bum that is. With a full load of 1310lt of fuel and cruising at 22 knots, the Portofino 46 has a range of around 200 nautical miles.
Step below deck into the spacious saloon with its deep, upholstered seating around a folding dining table, and a surprisingly large and well-equipped galley. This galley is larger than those found in most small flats and features all the bench space, cupboards and accessories to help the cook prepare the sangers for lunch, or a banquet for four guests. As with all Sunseekers, the workmanship is flawless, the surroundings are opulent and the fixtures and fittings are too numerous to mention in these pages. Suffice to say that all the required items for living and entertaining at sea – fold-out dining table, bar, icemaker, DVD, flat screen TV and top-of-the-line stereo are included. There's accommodation for up to six adults.
Two on the island double bed in the forward stateroom, two in the amidships double berth cabin and two on the saloon settee, which folds out to a double bed. Both owners and guest's cabin are finished with the same luxury surfaces and fabrics as the main saloon. The main stateroom and the guest's cabin have their own en suite, which ensures privacy for both owners and guests. For ventilation, all portholes open, as does the round hatch in the main cabin's roof. They are covered with flyscreens, so insects aren't going to be a problem.
Air-conditioning is a standard fitting on the Portofino, so you can while away those hot sticky tropical nights, after cruising the islands all day, in cool comfort. I must admit to preferring fresh air to air-conditioning any day, but I'll also admit that it is pleasant to escape the 40-degree tropical heat and 99 per cent humidity we regularly encounter around Northern Australia. The main realm of an Express Cruiser is above deck. The entire helm station and aft cockpit is designed for entertaining. The comprehensive instrumentation and appealing dash layout keep the skipper fully abreast as to what's happening in the engine compartment, while the seating arrangements allow them to remain part of the conversation. Drop anchor and cook up a feast for the hungry crew on the superb barbeque.
Thirsty ? Grab a coldie from the cockpit fridge, but make sure you drop in a couple of ice cubes from the icemaker. Chows ready come and get it!? Set up the large cockpit table and dine like a king. The Sunseeker Portofino 46 Express Cruiser was designed for comfort and speed, with all of the little luxuries to make life onboard easy and pleasurable. She's also a top entertainer's boats that can comfortably accommodate 10 people for day trips, or sleep up to six adults for that weekend away. However, for me anyway, being a family man with two children, the 46 is easily handled and exactly the right size for that extended holiday away from the maddening crowd. The Whitsundays at this time of year, or any time for that matter, sounds pretty damn good to the Modern Boating team.
Words and Photos by Ian Macrae