Sea Ray 375
The new Sea Ray 375 Sundancer proves to be good-looking, practical and technologically astute at the same time – not the easiest combination
I had an interesting first look at the 2009 Sea Ray 375 Sundancer, the flagship of their sport cruiser line. Docked just beyond was the model it replaced, the 2006 version. It was an interesting counterpoint, as Sea Ray has been working and reworking its designs based on tens of thousands of boating hours, plus recommendations from dealers worldwide.
But what really has local dealer Simpson Marine excited about this new Sea Ray is the handling. Our test boat came with MerCruiser 375 gas-powered sterndrives (inboard V-drives in either gas or diesel are also options). Sterndrives offer numerous performance advantages, but can be rather tricky when it comes to tight manouevring. This new Sundancer comes equipped with Brunswick’s Axius control (as standard), which uses a hydraulic ram linked to a computer that aligns the twin sterndrives independently to allow for joystick manouevring.
Say you wish to go sideways. With the Axius joystick system activated, you push the joystick, located on the right armrest of the helmstation, to the side. This tells the computer to align the stern drives in such a way as to create the desired sideways movement. Twist the joystick and the boat will spin around on an axis that almost centres on the helmstation – not bad for a pair of sterndrives with no bow thrusters.
The computer control element is what makes the difference, and the reason why Simpson Marine’s Mark Woodmansey is so chuffed about the new 375. It is a degree of technology that’s quite new to Asia, particularly for yachts of this size. The handiness of the system becomes apparent as we manoeuvre out of the dock. With the boat docked alongside with bow facing inland, we simply slip out sideways, twist the boat, and head out.
The joystick controls are quite sensitive and do take a little getting used to. Helpfully, there is are two ‘gears’ to the Axius control system – docking and normal. In docking mode, the engines are capped at 2000 RPM, which prevents someone accidentally surging the craft too suddenly when trying to perform a delicate move. In regular mode, the engines rev higher and forward speed is about nine or ten knots. That these features are standard is excellent news for buyers. As Sea Ray and MerCruiser brands are part of the Brunswick Group, both enjoy a high degree of complementary engineering.
In short order, we’re out of Aberdeen harbour towards the area south of Lamma. Once the regular throttles are engaged, the 375 surges quite nicely and gets onto the plane in decent speed. We top out at around 35 knots, though with optimised propellors, I am informed that the 375 should make 38 knots flat out.
We were lucky on our test day – the weather was beautiful, with calm seas. This allowed us to throroughly check out the 375’s handling. An interesting feature about these independently aligning sterndrives: in a turn, one drive provides lateral thrust, while the other provides forward thrust. This allows for surprisingly tight turning as we do rings around other boats in the area. Another feature of this yacht is the Skyhook system, which uses a GPS system tied to the engines thrusters to maintain a fixed position on a GPS plotter.
As we pause around Tung-O on the south shores of Lamma Island, it’s time to take a look around at the what the 375 offers its passengers. This is one area in which Sea Ray really shines, and all the hours of boating on America’s coasts really come back to benefit a buyer. It seems that everything has been thought of.
The helm station seats can swivel around to face aft, as can the forward port-side seat. As both seat face the L-shaped settee in back, the cockpit becomes one conjoined entertainment/party area. There’s an anchor point for a table near the settee. Just aft of the helm seat is wet bar, with the option of a electric grill. Under the side forward seat is space for a cooler, while under the settee are stowage areas.
At the stern, a fold-out mini-settee transforms the swim platform into a small enterainment area for bathers, or for those wanting to cast a line. Moving forward, guests and captain can help themselves to the generous space on the bow via a set of stairs that lead up to a centrally-aligned windscreen hatch, saving the need for negotiating a tricky side path.
Heading down below, there is a very large area that Sea Ray have opted to make into one large space, rather than trying to install very small cabins. Descending the stairs forward of the helm station, you arrive in one large cabin, with a straightline settee on starboard side and a long galley counter with electric grill and sink on port. Down the middle is a companionway space wide enough to allow two people to easily pass each other.
Up at the bow is the master bed, which can be separated from the main room with a curtain. With a remote control, the bed can be shifted back, with the head rest moving up to form a large lounger. This adds to the sense of space below deck. Overall, the below decks area feels very usable, whether for an overnighting family, or for a group of friends out for a day of partying. The day head is located on the port side just next to the stairs and fits nicely next to the galley counter. On the starboard side facing forward is a 26-inch LCD TV (standard) to provide some entertainment after a tiring day on the water.
Our test version had wooden flooring, which is optional but a very nice, and adds to the overall feel of comfort and style. Sea Ray has also taken the opportunity to enlarge the windows into the saloon, letting in more light and also adding a greater sense of openess. The net effect of the Sea Ray 375 is that, at anchor, there is one large space in which the below deck area and the cockpit feel like one place where everyone can get in on the action.
Our review boat – the first in Asia – hadn’t finished its commissioning at the time of our test, and so not all of the electronics package had been installed. However, the control panel at the helm station seemed well organised. Indeed, so much of the 375 Sundancer comes as part of the standard package that discering buyers would be advised to compare prices carefully with other, similar sized yachts. For this Sea Ray packs plenty of “welly” where it counts.
In Asia: www.simpsonmarine.com
Technical Specifications – Sea Ray Sundancer 375
LOA with standard swim platform – 11.43m
LOA with extended swim platform – 11.95m
LOA with hydraulic swim platform – 12.34m
Beam – 3.66m
Draught with sterndrive down – 0.94m
Draught with sterndrive up – 0.67m
Draught with inboard engines – 1.05m
Dry weight – 8,194 kgs
Fuel capacity – 946l
Water capacity – 189l
Holding tank – 106l
Deadrise – 21º