Where do you start when it comes to choosing a yacht? Well certainly, differentiating brands on the basis of nationality can help. After all, while the designs of Nordic boats like Targa, Sargo, Marex, Windy and Grandezza tend to be anchored squarely in the demands of practical everyday recreation, the Azimuts, Sealine, San Lorenzos and Rivas of Italy’s highly glamorous scene tend to be driven more keenly by the demands of sport, style and la dolce vita. It’s the same with those from America, Britain and the Middle East. While there is of course some overlap by virtue of the appetites of the international yachting markets, the cruising grounds and the maritime cultures underpinning the designs from each of these countries can often make the craft they produce feel quite distinct. However, narrowing down your favoured brand can often take years of boating experience across a wide range of boat types so, to help those of you who are keen to examine some of the best options for Britain and continental Europe, we’ve narrowed down five very prominent boating brands that might help you choosing a yacht…
Sunseeker was originally formed in Poole in the late 60s at the hands of Robert Braithwaite, a man who would go on to win a deserved CBE for his services to the industry. Though the debut model was a relatively modest 17-footer, the company quickly grew in scale, ambition and global significance – and having been acquired by Chinese owners in 2013, it has retained its impeccable prestige with a modern fleet comprising 15 craft across six product lines, from the radical new outboard-powered Hawk 38 to the flagship tri-deck 161 superyacht. The craft in between include a 74-foot Sport Yacht; four high-performance Predator craft from 50 to 74 feet; and six flybridge cruisers in the Manhattan and Yacht lines from 52 to 95 feet. In all cases, Sunseeker is deservedly renowned for the creation of luxurious semi-custom performance yachts with imaginative styling, opulent internals and extraordinary prestige. Particular highlights from the past include the original Sovereign 17, the multi-award-winning San Remo 51-footer and the narrow-beamed Superhawk 43 that made one of several Sunseeker appearances in the 007 franchise. With its impeccable international profile, a well judged Sunseeker supplements the glamour of the ownership experience with some of the market’s strongest residual values.
Since its foundation in 1989, Prestige’s guiding formula has always been about pleasant but practical luxury boating. To that end, you can expect panoramic views from large open-plan saloons, multiple day spaces for cruising flexibility, and clean external lines thanks in no small part to the use of large, often mirrored, glazing sections that dominate and define the superstructure. In addition to providing highly refined cruising dynamics (a trait helped by the use of pod drives and the relative absence of engine options), Prestige also tends to put a lot of emphasis on the independence of the owner’s suite. From the 520 upwards, that resolves itself most powerfully in the use of a separate owner’s staircase, while on the 680s, that trait takes a bold design tangent with a back-to-front layout, featuring an owner’s suite in the bow for more generous headroom, more panoramic views and better physical separation from the symmetrical guest doubles aft. There are reportedly more than 4,000 Prestige motorboats on the water around the world – and while the current line-up comprises 13 models from 42 to 74 feet across the traditional Flybridge and Sport lines, Prestige is probably best known for its 50 to 60 footers.
Having emerged in 1979 after its parent company relocated to a new facility in Kidderminster, Sealine made rapid strides, quickly becoming one of Britain’s four major players alongside Fairline, Princess and Sunseeker. The brand would eventually find its way into the Brunswick Group in 2001, under whose tenure Sealine’s largest ever yacht emerged in the form of the eight berth T60 flybridge cruiser. After another change of hands, the company went into administration in 2013 but when it was bought by the Hanse Group, some really effective designs again began to emerge. The F380 immediately garnered critical acclaim as ‘Best Flybridge under 55 feet’ at the 2014 London Boat Show. That same hull was then used for the Sealine S380, which at the time was the middle of the fleet’s three-strong Sport range; and the company’s new cruiser line, which emerged with the debut of the Sealine C330, was also a striking success in terms of its spatial management. There are now nine yachts in the fleet, across those same three product lines – and with the common sense designs of British Naval Architect Bill Dixon, allied to the industrial might of its German owners, the practical merit and user-friendly ergonomics of these cruising-optimised family yachts are once again putting Sealine at the forefront of an industry.
Founded in 1963 in Oundle, Northamptonshire, Fairline is a powerful name in the world of premium high-performance cruisers. In fact, as one of Britain’s most revered marques, its spacious Squadron flybridge motoryachts and the renowned sporting sea boats of its high-octane Targa line have garnered outstanding reputations among serious yachtsmen. While some of Fairline’s more recent Targa models have tended to flex the balance, lavishing a little extra care on internal capacity at the inevitable expense of outright handling dynamics, older Targa craft trod a line that was generally much favoured by keen drivers and those inclined towards long, exposed sea passages. Despite going into administration in 2015, the company was acquired by Russian owners in 2016, who kickstarted a productive collaboration between Italian designer, Alberto Mancini, and celebrated Dutch naval architect, Vripack – and in the wake of that relaunch, the venerable Fairline brand is now returning to prominence. Its fleet now comprises ten Targa models in Open and GT format from 45 to 65 feet and a trio of fly-equipped Squadron models from 50 to 68 feet, plus a radical new tangent in the form of the lovely F-Line 33.
Operating out of its vast manufacturing plant in Giebelstadt near Würzburg, Bavaria has in the past been better known as a sailing specialist than a motorboat builder. In fact, it wasn’t until 2001 that it built its first motorboat and even today, despite its fame, its longevity and its prolific output of boats, the modern power range is actually quite streamlined. It features nine models of cruiser from the S29 and S30 Open to the flagship and the only dedicated flybridge model, the R55. That range also encompasses the Virtess 420 in either Fly or Coupe form but, notwithstanding the provision of Open, Hard Top and Coupe variants across the line-up, every other boat in the fleet takes the form of a relatively classical two-deck inboard-powered sports cruiser. Stylistically understated and rigorously practical, Bavarias are generally designed and built to optimise user-friendliness, to simplify the integration of upgrades and to come to market at very competitive prices.