I slide two small throttles forward and we shift into gear. I look down at the red kill cord secured tightly around my right leg and then back up at the deeply stacked 2- to 4-foot chop ahead of the orange sunpad.
G-forces immediately push me deeper into the plush helm seat as the boat lunges forward. Acceleration is instantaneous and our speed skyrockets; part of me wants to slow down, a bigger part wants to push on. 20 knots … 30 … 45 … 50 … 52. We’ve reached cruising altitude, folks. But don’t unbuckle that seatbelt just yet. We blast atop the slop of the Solent—a legendary slice of British water that has hosted world-class sailing for centuries—aboard Sunseeker’s highly anticipated Hawk 38.
Fully loaded, we run into a 20-knot headwind and snotty seas and see a top end of 53 knots. In calm conditions, I’m told the 38 should hit speeds in the 60-knot range. During the white-knuckle, in-flight entertainment I’m unable to record rpm and fuel burn measurements. I suppose it doesn’t matter. GPH at 3000 rpm is nice information to have. But what you really need to know about the Hawk’s performance is: It’s a race boat disguised as a yacht. Literally.
The hatching of the Hawk 38 marks Sunseeker’s return to the performance boat market after a nearly 14-year hiatus, though one could argue the builder’s Predator line received a double dose of that racing DNA. Models like the Hawk, Superhawk and Turbohawk ruled the seas for much of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Most recently the XS line of surface-drive powered craft fell victim to shifting customer preferences and the Great Recession.
“In 1984, we had three XS 34s competing in the powerboat world championship. Amidst a heat wave it was the only entry from the cruiser class to win a leg of the world championship outright, beating the Cat 1 boats,” says President of Sunseeker USA Sean Robertson. “We have a heritage that ran through the ‘90s with the Hawks, even into larger products like the Predators with triple 2,400-hp MTUs and Arneson drives.”
Watching the industry-wide shift and popularity boom of the outboard market, the British builder is betting big that these modern powerplants will bolster the popularity of their new performance boat.
“Finally, we’ve seen that niche open back up,” explains Robertson. “The next generation of clients maybe don’t want to own a larger yacht yet. They want dayboats. Unless we cultivate that market, that generation won’t build into our larger boats.”
Robertson continued: “Outboard power was the best fit for these new boats.” According to him, the increased reliability, quietness, relatively low service costs and added interior space were all factors in the plus column. That and of course the speed they engender.
A fellow marine journalist from across the pond swears the 38, while very lightly loaded, hit 70 knots. And the hull’s series of four steps gives lift and grip, something I was thankful for when cutting the craft into hard-over turns.
The Hawk 38 swooped into the U.S. at the Ft. Lauderdale show and arguably the most crowded segment here in the states. Outboard-powered speed machines are fast becoming the preferred craft of young families getting into the sport and seasoned cruisers looking to downsize. —Daniel Harding Jr.
Displ.: 11,020 lbs.
Fuel: 185 gal.
Water: 26 gal.
Standard Power: 2/400-hp Mercury Racing 400Rs
Cruise Speed: 40 knots
Top Speed: 60 knots