Issue: March 2005
To call Sunseeker’s XS Sport purely a chick magnet does this extraordinary race-breed machine a great injustice. This boat has much more to offer than just horny good looks. She’s around 40 feet of oceanracing muscle that can pull more than 65 knots, but remains easy to handle for maximum thrills and excitement in complete safety. Famed race boat designer Fabio Buzzi designed the XS Sport. And she’s been tested to the absolute limit, so, with a minimum of acclimatisation behind the wheel, any new owner can get maximum enjoyment out of their new acquisition without bringing themselves undone. Barring blatant stupidity that is.
Powered by twin 350hp Yanmar diesel engines, with two-speed ZF gearboxes driving through Trimax surface drives, the XS Sport is the ultimate fun machine, whether she’s leisurely cruising along at 45 knots, or going for broke at more than 65 knots. So, how does the XS Sport give this extreme performance, while delivering a soft, comfortable and amazingly dry ride. It isn’t one thing, it’s the culmination of many, the first being this boat’s stepped hull. Directly beneath the driver’s cockpit, on the section of hull the boat rides on when correctly trimmed, there are two steps.
As the boat moves through the water at speed, the extremely sharp bow entry slices cleanly through any chop or swells, riding on the cushion of air trapped between the outer chines and the keel. Because the hull is stepped where the boat comes into maximum contact with the water, the surface tension is broken. This allows the hull to slide across the water easily on a cushion of aerated bubbles and works in conjunction with the large chines to retain lateral stability. The hull also has a large pod that extends past the surface drives and props. To a limited degree this extends the planing surface of the hull when underway, but its main roll is to control the bow when the boat comes off the top of a wave.
As the boat comes down on her transom, because of the weight of the rearmounted engines, the pod strikes the water first, which forces the bow down quickly. This ensures the bow slices through the next swell cleanly and reduces the tendency for the boat to jump off the top of the next wave. The Sunseeker XS Sport also has extremely large tabs for a boat of this size, but these are required to maintain lateral trim, because this 38 and a bit footer has a relatively narrow beam of only 7′ 8″. Up front, the bow is of an extreme design. The keel is razor sharp, but the top deck flattens out to form a small, square roof. Here, the upper portion of the hull also extends on each side to ensure no water is thrown back onboard in rough conditions.
This is one, dry, and open boat. For a boat with so much power, she’s extremely easy to drive. The driving position has you standing in what can only be described as a helm pit. The gunwales are almost shoulder high and the wrap-around seats ensures driver and observer don’t get thrown around. These seats are bolsters, but standing is definitely the way to go. The rear lounge consists of three individual wrap-around seats, while another six passengers can travel comfortably in the bowrider cockpit, or stretch out on the forward sunpad to soak up a few rays. As far as handling goes, what she has in flat out straight-line speed, she loses a bit in turns. Surface drives may throw a big roster tail, but they have to be trimmed in for turns and the turning circle is quite large.
Also, being so narrow in the beam means the props are quite close together, so manoeuvring around the marina can be a bit tricky, but it only takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. There’s also a bit of technique required when driving this beast. Being an ocean racer at heart you would normally have a throttle man to give you a hand, but in this day-boat mode you have to do it all yourself. Push the throttles forward until the tachos pass 2200rpm; then, flick the switch to engage second gear the turbos cut in and she’s off like a scolded cat.
Once the hull levels out you can adjust the trim tabs to get the maximum speed out of the hull. She basically runs on the rear third of her hull. In choppy conditions if you are travelling over 50 knots the hull does dance from chine to chine and it takes a little getting used to, but there’s no way those large chines will go under. The hull is completely safe and almost foolproof. Once you’ve been behind the wheel for a couple of hours and get the feel of her handling characteristics you’ll be out there mixing it with the pros. So there you have it, 38’9″ of a heart pumping adrenalin machine with a build quality and standard of fixtures and fittings that’s second to none. Sure, this boat isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you have a need for speed, or want to win a few Poker Runs, this maybe just the boat you’re looking for.
Words by Ian Macrae