Smart and Stylish
AS A SUNSEEKER, ITS PEDIGREE IS HIGH STYLE AND SOPHISTICATION, YET THE MANHATTAN 52 IS ALSO A SENSIBLE FAMILY CRUISER. BY ALAN HARPER
The Manhattan 52 from Sunseeker combines high style and sophistication, but her real charm lies in how her design works as a family cruiser. By Alan Harper
Let’s begin at the end. The back end, if you don’t mind. Before you step up into the cockpit, have a look at this hatch in the transom. It reveals a useful locker, big enough for plenty of lines and a couple of fenders, stowed right where you want them. But now look up at the hatch lid: Yes, set into a plate of stainless steel, that is indeed a mixer faucet with the generous, circular head of a freshwater shower overhead. There is even a mirror.
Now step to your left. Those seams in the center of the transom also conceal a couple of hatches, although—you’ve guessed right—they aren’t just hatches. The lower one turns out to be a small upholstered seat. Who thought of putting that there? It’s the perfect place to sit and watch your kids having fun in the water, or to relax with a cocktail and drink in the peace of an evening anchorage. And above it, the other panel folds down to reveal an electric grill and a chopping board, for preparing and grilling the freshest fish your family has ever eaten.
Every now and then it’s good to be reminded that for all the showbiz glitz of Sunseeker’s boat-show events—which feature its everexpanding range of yachts from 75 to 155 feet aimed at the world’s super rich—and even allowing for its corporate self-image as a builder of high-performance sports machines thanks to the speedy Predator line, ranging from 57 to 68 feet, this British boatbuilder has been successfully turning out sensible family cruising boats for nearly 50 years. The company now builds four boats in the Manhattan line, from this 52 up to the new 66.
Practical touches like these swim-platform features are not gimmicks, but on their own, they’re nowhere near glamorous enough to steal attention from rivals. They’re just great examples of creative thinking undertaken with a deep appreciation of the boat’s mission.
So what was the mission, I wonder? When you step up into the cockpit, the answer seems pretty clear. A sliding door connects rather than separates the interior and exterior spaces, and as you look forward you see a big, raised seating area amidships, with sofas on each side and a folding table, while the businesslike two-seat helm station folds forward to free up more sitting room. The galley is aft, virtually adjoining the cockpit, and spreads across the boat’s full beam. With the aft galley window down, the countertop there becomes a sociable little bar on the port side of the cockpit, complete with two fixed stools. Headroom is a generous 6 feet 8 inches, both here and in the saloon. The windows are huge: Sunlight drenches the entire main deck, and the white color scheme, albeit with contrasting walnut panelling, helps to emphasize a luxurious sense of space. But this is not an area designed purely to impress: It is a practical layout of human-sized spaces in which you are never far from a handhold, a seat, or a great view of the water. If Sunseeker’s goal was to create a family cruising boat in which people come first, the designers have pretty much nailed it. Headroom down below is almost as good as on the main deck, and the three-cabin, two-head layout is common to most yachts of this class. The midships master suite is pretty impressive, with huge hull windows and mirrors positioned to maximize their effect. A neat little dinette to port is an inviting spot for an intimate breakfast with a view, while the starboard side of the suite is given over to stowage. Up in the bows, the VIP stateroom has a clear overhead hatch to make up for its smaller hull windows, and a good-sized head compartment, which, with its double doors, also serves as the dayhead. In both cabins the double berths might not be quite as big as the ones you have in your bedrooms at home, but they’re still full-size, and even those in the third
cabin, with its window and mirrored wardrobe door, are 6 feet 4 inches long—although at 25 inches and 27 inches, they’re maybe not all that wide. Even so, the Manhattan 52’s upstairs promise of bright, practical, and comfortable living spaces is fulfilled on the accommodation deck.
In the hungover aftermath of the Cannes boat show, with the exhibition site looking like an angry ants’ nest full of carpenters hard at work ripping stands apart while jagged edges and forklift trucks threatened to consign the unwary to the ER, out on the water all was serene. There was barely a breath of wind or a ripple on the blue surface of the bay as the Manhattan surged confidently onto plane and accelerated smoothly through the teens and then into the 20s, topping out at 31 knots. For all its practicality and comfort, the 52 also has plenty of power, and a beautifully balanced medium-vee hull with a 16-degree deadrise at the transom. Handling was taut and responsive, throttle response quick and eager—it was an exemplary driving experience. Trim tabs were not called for in the balmy conditions we enjoyed, except perhaps to steady the ship when running at its lowest planing speed, which was around 15 knots. At all speeds from 20 knots up, the yacht felt stable and confident, and capable of cruising all day. It is a sign of an excellent marriage of power, center of gravity, and hull shape that pushing the throttles to the stops induced very little change in cruising efficiency— there was almost no penalty, in range terms, between 20 knots and 30.
In its marketing materials Sunseeker tags the Manhattan range with “space, grace, pace.” If that sounds familiar it’s because it was an advertising slogan used by Jaguar in the early 1960s. Of course, the association is probably deliberate, as there’s a bit of boomer-based nostalgia going on in the UK at the moment (I can’t think why). Back then, though, Jaguar’s chain-smoking ad men had three cars in mind when they came up with the copy: the space of the Mark 10, the grace of the Mark 2, and the pace of the sainted E Type. Sunseeker clearly feels that all three descriptors apply to the Manhattans, and in the case of the 52, they’re absolutely right.
The thrill of finding this kind of space on a boat—let alone a family cruiser that is easily owner-operated—is why Sunseeker succeeds.