Synonymous with the glamour of the sun-drenched playgrounds of St Tropez and Monte Carlo is the luxury motor yacht - it has long been one of the "must-have" toys for the wealthy patrons of the French Riviera and the market for million dollar plus yachts is growing rapidly in Australia.
One of the leading marques in the European market, UK-manufactured Sunseeker Yachts, recently picked up the International Category in the 2003 Australian Boat of the Year Awards at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show with its Predator 68 model.
The Predator range goes from the Predator 56 (the model number indicates the length of the boat in traditional imperial measure - feet) through to the Predator 108 and as the length goes up, price seems to grow exponentially. No Predator 108s have come to Australia yet, though there's a Predator 95 available if you have a lazy AUS$15 million.
Of course, with the growth of the SOHO (Sailing Office Home Office) market in recent times, and cost-effective communications equipment now available which is ideal for making a boat a portable home and home office, the opportunity to justify a price tag in this league is getting easier. In four years of availability in Australia, Sunseeker has sold 36 yachts into Australian waters.
Sitting in the middle of the range, the base model Predator sells for AUS$3.6 million, though it can be optioned all the way to $4 million with a range of luxury optional extras.
Australian Sunseeker East Coast distributor believes the Predator 68 offers the best value in the range. "It's small enough to captain yourself, yet it's large enough to do some serious entertaining," said Rodwell.
"Of course, you can choose to have it crewed if you wish," Rodwell told Gizmo, "there's plenty of room for crew besides the three large cabins."
Inside the Predator, the impression of opulence is well beyond anything you'd experience in a luxury penthouse. It probably has something to do with the physical limitations of the yacht's size, but the close proximity of so much beautifully hand-crafted coachwork, the exquisite design of almost every fixture and fitting, and the functionality which is packed behind every door combines in an almost overwhelming fashion.
There is no single feature, which creates this impression - the endless polished cherry wood cabinetry and massive leather couches are no more impressive than stopping and focussing on a cupboard hinge and noticing the simple elegance, craftsmanship and quality of its design. Air conditioning is standard, as is state-of-the-art home theatre, DVD, 42" plasma screen in the salon and flat screen televisions, which pop out from behind cupboard doors in every cabin of the yacht.
The surprisingly spacious master cabin has a walk-in ensuite and there's a state-of-the-art galley, which any chef would be pleased to use. Every fixture and fitting is of the finest quality - the Predator comes with cutlery and crockery - the finest silverware and Royal Doulton crockery!
Most entertaining on the Predator will be done on the top deck, where the hard top with massive retractable sunroof and massive lounge-bar area are ideal for soaking up sun and having fun.
Immediately to the rear of and below the main entertaining area is the rear garage which encloses the jet skis or tender craft. The hydraulic roof lifts up and there's even a hydraulic lifting platform for putting the jet skis into and out of the water.
Performance-wise, the Predator lacks very little. It will cruise comfortably at 25 knots (45 kimh) and can reach a maximum speed of 39 knots (70kmh).
Naturally enough, there's no shortage of horsepower when you have performance like that available on the water for a boat of this size. The predator 68 has two V10 MAN turbo diesel engines, each producing in excess of 1000 horsepower. Not surprisingly, with engines of that size, the 68 has a sizeable fuel-tank. Indeed, it costs more than $4000 just to fill the 3900 litre tank. Better have the Gold Amex ready and be prepared to ignore doing the maths on the cost of ownership - if you have to do the sums, you can't afford it.
For example, push that throttle against the stopper and those turbo diesel engines begin consuming 200 litres per hour!!!!
For more details on the Sunseeker Predator 68 visit www.sunseeker.com or call Sunseeker Australia on 07 55283888