A hot express cruiser proves herself in frigid waters.

We were duped! It was late March in the Northeast at the end of one of the mildest winters on record. A week before the test, Jim Ross, director of the Sunseeker Club in New Rochelle, New York, had joked that he shouldn’t have gone to the trouble of decommissioning his inventory in the fall. Then our day rolled around, and it was one of the coldest, meanest of the season—28ºF with gusts to more than 30 mph. I was so incredulous that I headed to Sunseeker anyway, at least to look over the Predator 61 before rescheduling. But I found Ross in his office at the ready. He threw a leather jacket over a thick sweater, and we headed down to the boat, whose 1,050-hp MAN D2840LE403 diesels were already running. If Ross’s willingness to accommodate me—with no guarantee I’d have anything approving to say about the 61—is any indication of the way he treats his clients, I can’t plug him enough.

In such outrageous weather it was almost surreal to step aboard a yacht so clearly designed to transform sultry summer days into pure pleasure. To port just aft of the navigator’s seat, there is a four-foot-long wetbar furnished with both an Engel refrigerator and a Raritan icemaker. Under its full-length composite lid, a De Dietrich electric griddle flanks the sink; I momentarily considered firing it up to warm my hands. The bar’s generous size and top-notch standards make sense. With two L-shape settees—one with a height-adjustable teak table—kitty-corner port and starboard, an aft sunpad, and seating on the bridge deck, you could entertain a dozen guests here. It’s a credit to Sunseeker that while shivering in six layers of winter clothing I had no trouble picturing the kaleidoscope of bikinis and bermudas.

Sunseeker Predator 61 LayoutAfter letting go the lines, we made our way out of the marina toward a stretch of protected waters mercifully nearby abeam of City Island. The sun was shining, but apparently for no other reason than to mock us, and needless to say, we kept the electrically retractable sunroof closed. There was a chop of about two feet, kicked up by gusty winds out of the Northwest, that viciously invaded the bridge from astern when we traveled at slower speeds. But once Ross opened the Predator up, both the chop and the wind were pummeled into insignificance. Again, no effort was necessary to imagine the 61’s appeal; you don’t need a balmy day off south Florida to admire certain features of this big express.

I was especially impressed with the 61’s transition onto plane and subsequent running attitude. With trim tabs fully retracted, she climbed out of the hole in one efficient motion, during which her running angle never exceeded 3.5 degrees. Once she was at speed, still without tabs, her inclination was just one degree. When we did adjust for trim, it was only to correct listing due to wind.

The excellent running attitude keeps the prospect from the helm reasonable. A man of average height can glimpse the bow and have a good view of the starboard quarter. The largest portions of the severely raked side windows are logically even with the helm seat. Astern, the horizon is unimpeded, and when standing you can even see a starboard section of the swim platform.

The 61’s deep-V, hand-laid FRP hull also maneuvered with agility. With its deep, sharp forefoot and transom deadrise of 22 degrees, its banking attitude at speeds exceeding 30 mph was dramatic but stable and untroubled by the chop. The only water we shipped was a little wind-borne spray as the MAN diesels took us to a top speed of 42.1 mph (at 2375 rpm) within about 20 seconds. At 2000 rpm we made 36.2 mph for a range of 361 miles. I shot speeds with a radar gun trained down the 12-inch side decks outboard of the cockpit enclosure. Later I calculated the wind chill factor on my ungloved hands to be -8°F.

Keen, aggressive styling.

Never had I been so eager to check out a warm engine room. Back in the marina, the 61’s 10-hp Volvo Penta bow thruster was put to good use fighting fickle wind gusts as we reentered our slip, and once we were tied up I dropped down through the hatch in the teak cockpit sole, ready to embrace an engine as one would a stout, warm grandma. I was pleased to find that even with the larger of the engine options (800-hp MANs are standard), the space to carry out maintenance was satisfactory. The compartment’s shape is partially dictated by the features of the 61’s aft section. The transom and sunpad lift on electro-hydraulic rams to reveal a garage whose sole slopes about 30 degrees to facilitate the launch of a PWC or small tender (the teak swim platform lowers automatically to further ease launching and loading).

The garage sole forms a sloping overhead aft in the engine room, but as you move astern the engine-room footing lowers as well. Squatting on a diamond-plate perch below the cockpit hatch, you can perform daily maintenance as well as service the 13-kW Kohler genset and Separ fuel-water separators forward of the port engine. Sea strainers are located aft and below this platform in the alley between the engines. You can step over them—somewhat awkwardly—in a crouching position to reach more diamond-plate footing running astern of the engines and around to their outboard sides. For oil changes and more substantial jobs, the garage sole lifts out of the way on hinges. Not only will this significantly improve headroom and lighting, but it will also allow all tools, parts, and mechanics to enter, aptly enough, through the garage.

For my part, I was happy to leave the garage sole closed—to keep the heat in. In fact, I was willing to stay in the warmth until PMY’s June issue hit the stands, but realized I couldn’t file a story without inspecting the 61’s below-decks accommodations.

Given the Predator’s keen, aggressive exterior styling, I wasn’t surprised to find a dramatically chic interior. As in the cockpit, possibilities for large-scale entertaining are immediately apparent. Two-thirds of the nearly S-shape port-side settee embraces a dining table, but with the table lowered and its leaves folded, the area lends itself equally to cocktails for eight or more. The galley to starboard is similarly “convertible.” With good stowage, high-end amenities, and dedicated space for standard Dartington crystal and Royal Dalton china, its practicality is certain. The Whirlpool microwave hides in an overhead cabinet, and the Kenyon two-burner stove and sink with dish-drying area vanish under folding cherrywood panels. In short, when not in use, the galley all but disappears behind a rich high-gloss finish.

In the forepeak master stateroom with en suite head and shower and in a pair of twin-berth quarters amidships (one which opens directly onto the full day head), I found the fit and finish equally accomplished. Even the finish on the cedar lining the voluminous hanging lockers in each cabin was unusually refined. And in keeping with the high quality of standard components at the helm (see spec box) and in the galley, every stateroom was equipped with a 15-inch Sharp flat-screen TV and Alpine DVD player.

For climactic extremes opposite to what Ross and I suffered on that nasty day in March, a total of 38,000 BTUs of Vector air conditioning cools the interior. I assume that you’re reading this on a June day hot enough for that to sound appealing, maybe even hot enough for this shivering account to be refreshing. Imagine the cruelty we suffered on that bitter afternoon, aboard a yacht whose every feature encouraged notions of summer escapes. Imagine how we longed for the thrills without the chills.

Base price: $1,375,000 with 2/800-hp MAN D2848LE403 diesel inboards
Optional power: 2/1,050-hp MAN D2840LE403 diesel inboards 
Standard equipment: Furuno M851 radar; Raymarine ST60 depthsounder; Simrad AP20 autopilot and RS 8400 VHF; Kenyan 2-burner stove; Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer; Whirlpool microwave; 21" Panasonic flat-screen TV and AM/FM stereo/CD player w/ Surround Sound; 3/15" Sharp flat-screen TVs; 38,000-BTU Vector Compact A/C; 13-kW Kohler genset; 2/VacuFlush MSDs

Sunseeker Predator 61 Performance SpecsSPECIFICATIONS
LOA: 64'0"
Beam: 15'1"
Draft: 4'5"
Weight: 57,200 lbs. (half load)
Fuel capacity: 779 gal.
Water capacity: 165 gal.
Test engines: 2/1,050-hp MAN D2840LE403 diesel inboards 
Transmissions: ZF BWf55V
Ratio: 1.97:1
Props: Teignbridge 31x43 5-blade Nibral 
Steering: Hynautic hydraulic power-assisted 
Controls: Mathers MicroCommander single-lever electronic
Optional equipment on test boat: Glendinning Cablemaster; dimmer switches on interior lighting; aft freshwater washdown; additional 110-volt A.C. socket in saloon, galley, and each stateroom

CLICK HERE TO VIEW SUNSEEKER YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Power & Motoryacht Magazine, June 2002 and is written by Tim Clark. For more great powerboat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/uncategorized/subscribe-power-motoryacht

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