At last month’s Monaco Yacht Show (of course, we were there—check out our exhaustive roundup of the 20 best superyachts at the show), UK-based Sunseeker and Dutch builder Icon Yachts announced a collaboration on a new 161-foot superyacht constructed of aluminum. The Sunseeker camp looked to Icon Yachts to help it build larger yachts in metal with big-yacht amenities. Icon Yachts had set its sights on Sunseeker for its sleek styling, lifestyle know-how, and its fan base. The new yacht will be a fast-displacement hull design and will be named the Sunseeker by Icon. This new venture will be built in Icon’s yard in the Netherlands, with naval architecture, design, and engineering by Sunseeker.
The 161-foot tri-deck yacht shares classic Sunseeker lines, with an interior that can be styled to each owner’s preference via Sunseeker’s bespoke service. Guests will love the plunge pool on the main deck and the beach club with drop-down bulwarks and transom that makes for a huge space for waterside relaxation. The 161-foot Sunseeker by Icon will offer five staterooms for 10 guests, with the possibility of a 12-guest/six-stateroom configuration. Hull No. 1 is scheduled for a spring 2021 launch.
Immediately following the announcement at the Monaco Yacht Show, we sat down on the aft deck of a nearby Sunseeker yacht with Sunseeker’s sales and marketing director Sean Robertson and Icon Yachts’ CEO Jen Wartena to discuss the new collaboration.
So, is the new Project: Icon coming together with Sunseeker, and is it true that it’s going to be called Sunseeker by Icon?
Jen Wartena: Correct, yup.
Sean Robertson: Yup.
And it’s a 161?
Why did you choose to collaborate?
SR: Well, I think the whole reason is: currently we build up to 131. In composite. It’s in fiberglass. Over the last 10 years, we’ve delivered over 40 of that size. And the problem we have is that most of those clients move on. And we lose them, they move to other brands. It’s been a very frustrating time to build these clients through the product, through the brand. And then we lose them. Somebody else benefits. Since 2014, we’ve been looking at how we can counteract that. We tried it ourselves, building in composites, up to 155 feet. But, to be honest, the market demands a metal build at that size range. They want aluminum or steel. So we started looking for partners, which is not easy. Because normally you have brands that just don’t link. They have two different ideas. Maybe even build types that don’t suit.
After a lot of searching we started talking to Icon. Their philosophy was very, very similar. In terms of building a series of yachts, they do it very efficiently, and pass on those efficiencies to clients, where it counts. That’s in the engineering, the systems, the naval architecture. The clients get a well-proven design, and then can change the bits that count for them—interiors, layouts, etc. And I think with Icon we found that partner. And maybe, Jen, you can explain …
JW: Let’s say Sunseeker stops building at 155 feet because of restrictions in their facilities. That’s where we aim to start. We’re building an 84-meter [280-foot] at the moment.
So, for us this is a fantastic bridge, and to build smaller boats, just under 5 gross tonnage.
For us it’s great to connect to Sunseeker. Sunseeker has a fantastic clientele, and we are very keen to look for all kinds of affinities between the two companies.
Which features do you think will be included in the new yacht?
JW: One of the things that’s really an Icon that we brought into the market—like with the launch of Meridien—was the beach club. And the beach club was also very important for Sunseeker. So that’s really where and also why, design-wise, why we strongly connected.
SR: The trick is, I think Jen will agree on this, that the trick in the marketplace, there are a lot of yachts out there with beach clubs that have a very compromised interior space. Or there are a lot of yachts that have a great interior space and volume but a very compromised beach club. And what Jen’s saying, working with the Sunseeker team we have managed to achieve a great combination of a fantastic interior layout—good volume, great entertaining decks, and also a standalone beach club—that I think beats the marketplace. And still staying under 500 gross tonnes, which is key for the running and registration of the yacht.
JW: Another thing that links both brands is the very cool styling. Sunseekers are very sporty looking, very fast, so it’s not just about the efficiency. But it’s really about the looks of the boat. We’ve always tried to have very clean designs, very sleek. Sunseeker’s pedigree is for power boats, you know? They are growing up. There are a lot of similarities.
What about styling?
SR: Well, I think what this will give us is, although we’re starting at the top end of this, this will lead to a new look for the Sunseeker yachts. It’s an evolution of a look, so you know there’s a lot of Sunseeker in this. If you look at the 131, you can see the family resemblance, but it’s evolving to the next step.
It’s a modern version?
SR: Yeah. There’s the lengthening of the waterline to give better efficiency that Jen said, keeping that quite aggressive look was key in this. But you’ll see this now coming through the Sunseeker family of product.
Is that true all the way down the line?
SR: It will come down in the next coming years, you’ll see a striking resemblance.
Is this partnership across all sizes, or is this the 161 and moving up?
SR: 161 and moving up. But we’re two brands that absolutely understand each other. I could give you a very good quick one. The first time I went to Harlingen [Netherlands] to meet with Jen, with our team, they had already pre-prepared a design, a look. And I remember looking at that and, tell you what. . . If you overlay that, it’s not far away from what you see there today.
They were reading your mind a little bit?
SR: There’s already a great symmetry there.
JW: We understand.
SR: . . . that started the relationship.
So this is the 161; where do you go from there? How many do you think you’re going to do?
SR: I think this is the first step to a fast displacement, so take into the account the latest regulations that come in, which we have to do—you know, the smaller engines, stricter emission regulations. Next step, we need to talk. We’re already talking. It will ultimately be larger. And it will be driven by kind experience. So, let’s get the clients excited here. And let’s start the next chapter.
When the first few buyers of this one have outgrown their yacht, or they’ve had it for a year and they say, “Oh this is so cool but we want bigger,” what then?
JW: We can build up to 150 meters. We can build a Sunseeker 161 meters.
SR: You’ve got room to grow. And what we’ve always done, what Jen’s always done, you can’t look at one step. You’ve gotta think a few ahead. Because that’s how the clients think. They don’t just think about the next boat, they think, “What am I gonna do after that?”
JW: We are looking at developing under 500 GT, around 800, and around 1,200. Around 1,200 we have built three: Baton Rouge, Icon, and Party Girl. So that is the platform that’s ready to go.
Thinking of the Robb Report reader, is there anything someone who is not already a superyacht yachtie would want to know about this combination?
SR: This is the ultimate lifestyle. What clients want is exactly what you’ve said, a lifestyle. So as a whole, you gotta love the yacht. You’ve gotta look at it and say, “I want that.” Once you get past that step, the systems, how the boat runs—that side of it, the technical side of it just has to work. All the client is interested in is that when he steps on board, presses a button, or asks the captain to go to Nassau, that it works.
SR: That side we can deliver.
SR: The more complicated step is the lifestyle. And that’s where the beach club, the stabilization, the layout of the yacht
JW: Well, that’s also a very typical Sunseeker. This area in the front here [forepeak lounging area].
SR: This is about getting on a yacht. And if you imagine, this is your floating villa, transporting you anywhere you want in the world. It could be in the Med, it can be in the Bahamas, it can be in the Florida Keys, up in the Northeast in the summer. It’s fantastic. It has to have all of those comforts that people are used to.
What about interior design? Is there someone that Sunseeker and Icon would work with that would give clients the choice of layout, textures, and so on? Are they able to choose their own designer?
JW: I think it’s very much in line with what Sunseeker does on the 131. If there’s a pre-developed interior design, then there is some flexibility to play with.
SR: We work with Design Unlimited. For our superyacht designer, we have a style of furniture that’s pretty evolved into three distinct looks—which probably covers 90 percent of requests. Once you have the look, then the client has full flexibility for choosing individual materials, hard surfaces, and the layout to some degree.
JW: And we’re building in some options—pre-fabricated, pre-thought variations, very much listening to Sean’s ideas, and some stuff that came from our own experiences in these sizes. So we have a four-guest layout and a five-guest layout on the lower deck. . .
SR: The trick is to give a client that feeling that he is totally bespoke an interior, without totally bespoke an interior. Because when you do that, for the clients, the costs go through the roof. And they can end up with something at the end that they don’t like. I think that’s a real danger of a totally bespoke yacht is trying to do it from a piece of paper is very difficult. I think what we can bring together is, you’re giving good guidance to a client, to deliver them something which really does work for them. Especially in functionality and in the look.
How long until we see the first product?
JW: Summer of 2021.
SR: It’s a two-year build at this size range.
JW: We’ve done a lot of work already. A design is already being developed. Now we are ready to start building. We have reserved a slot.