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The cockpit and galley combine to form a single, seamless entertaining space that helps make the Manhattan feel even larger than it really is


The aft galley layout with its clever drop-down window and fold-aside door opens up to both the cockpit and the saloon

he phone rings on a Friday evening. On the other end is Sunseeker’s marketing manager. “The Manhattan 52 is leaving Poole at 9am on Monday bound for Southampton so it can be lifted on to

the boat show stand,” he says. “Do you want to join it?” Without hesitation, I say yes, not considering logistics or whether there will be a photographer available. We have been pestering Sunseeker to let us on board for weeks and if this is the only opportunity, we’ll have to grab it with both hands. We’re not usually in the business of rushing

a test out as the boat cruises from factory to show stand, but in the case of the Manhattan 52, we were willing to make an exception. This is the smallest Sunseeker fl ybridge for over a decade and if the sales patter is to be believed, they’re already fl ying off the shelves as fast as they can build them. It also arrives at a time when competition from rival yards could not be stronger. Sealine is back in the market with the clever, spacious F530, Princess has two 50-footers that mount a challenge and come January, there will be an all-new Fairline Squadron 53 to chuck into the mix. On top of that lot, Absolute and Cranchi have new 50ft fl ybridges on offer and Ferretti, Azimut and Prestige aren’t exactly lacking quality product either. If you are after a new 50ft fl ybridge then rarely has there been such glut of choice. Nine in the morning and I’m standing at

Sunseeker’s West Quay Road yard watching the 52 back out of the shed in slings. It has no exterior upholstery and the radar tower is lashed to the fl ybridge table but there it is, in the fl esh, the most important new Sunseeker for quite some time. It looks huge out of the water, tall and intimidating with an almost unfathomable amount of glass in the superstructure. There are shades of Absolute in the design of the saloon windows with only two small licks of glassfi bre interrupting the giant panels of glazing. Below, a twisted ribbon of glass peels across the hull linking the master cabin amidships and VIP forward. It looks great and makes the boat instantly recognisable as the Manhattan 52 in profi le. The boat is dropped into the water and staff

busily set about peeling off protective fi lm, adding upholstery and securing the radar mast; talk about box fresh. As the fi nished product comes together, details become clearer, like the teak table in situ on the foredeck, the fl ip-up panel on the transom that suspends a proper showerhead over the bathing platform, and two fl ip-down panels adjacent that reveal a BBQ grill and double bench. It’s described as

a beach club, which may be overdoing it a bit, but it’s a lot more than most rivals offer, and the proper shower does make a nice change from holding a kinked hose over your head. In the cockpit there are two fi xed stools that can either face the table or swivel to meet the bar, formed from the aft end of the galley counter, and a window that glides down into a recess under the bar. Substantial is a good word to describe the 52 – it’s a chunky thing, solid and imposing on the water.

POWER PLAY We’re ready. The ensign is fl uttering, engines fi ring and it’s time to navigate Poole’s pair of lifting bridges and head for the show. The 52 is available with IPS950 but this one has a pair of 725hp Volvo Penta D11s on shafts with V-drive gearboxes. A 50ft fl ybridge with this set-up is an increasingly rare commodity these days, and it feels nostalgic to be at the helm of a Sunseeker like this with the exhausts chattering away on the waterline and meaty kicks in and out of gear punctuating slow-speed manoeuvres. It feels good, though; it feels right. We break free of Poole Harbour and set a

heading for the North Head buoy on calm seas beneath leaden skies. I bury the throttles and it’s not long before we are up to a 32-knot top speed. Progress is smooth and easy, the steering light and agile and it’s notably quiet. The chunky, tactile steering wheel feels good in your hands and urges you to engage with the boat. It reacts well, leaning eagerly into the turn but never once relinquishing its tenacious grip on the water. It feels secure and dependable, like a well-sorted shaftdrive boat should. Given that IPS950 uses the same 725hp

engines, I would expect a slight increase in top-end speed from the slippery pods. The reduced drag should also improve its fuel effi ciency. There is a joystick control option for both versions, although the vectoring pods of the IPS boat are likely to give better control than the linked thrusters and gearboxes of the shaftdrive variant. Sunseeker has also elected to use its own

joystick system to control the trim blades. It’s a neat idea but without an indicator to show what each blade is doing, I didn’t fi nd it as intuitive to use as traditional buttons. From the lower helm, you sit high in one of

two snug seats, which makes for a superb view forward but the view aft is partially obscured by a pretty major blind spot and the relative height of the helm compared to the cockpit. The dash is simple and tidy, though there is

only space for 8in screens, which look and feel small on a boat of this size. The driving position at the upper helm is great. There are two low-slung bucket seats that

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