The X Factor
CL Yachts shakes things up with its first X series yacht CLX96.
It’s an X boat, a crossover. It’s a Sea Activity Vessel (SAV). It’s a…there are a lot of unusual monikers attached to CL Yachts’ newest and most striking model, the CLX96 —for this is an unusual yacht.
The 97-footer has a workboat-inspired deckhouse, an extra-long beach platform for tenders and toys, and the oomph to surpass 25 knots. It is also chic and luxurious with
a multitude of transformable features and a few surprising spaces. “Like an SUV, it’s a vehicle that does it all; that’s what we’re trying to offer,” says Hans Lo, deputy director of CL Yachts.
The design of CL Yachts’ first X series model the CLX96 comes from the creative mind of Jozeph Forakis, a Milan-based product designer responsible for everything from cell phones and furniture to lighting and watches. It was his award-winning VIP interior décor for the Leonardo AW609 Tiltrotor aircraft that caught the eye of Martin Lo, director of CL Yachts.
“Martin and I have known each other for a long time. We reconnected in Hong Kong around 2016, and, unbeknownst to me at that time, they were reconsidering the yacht program, thinking how they could get a fresh perspective and bring new energy to it,” says Forakis. “Martin gave me permission in the first phase to go crazy with the concepts. And I ended up doing seven distinct concepts, (each one) progressively more challenging from a technical point of view.” The design ultimately chosen came from the more challenging side of the design concept range.
“Martin got this concept right away; he was the one who really made the decision to go with it,” Forakis continues. “Then we started to develop a second phase and when we presented it to everybody internally, it caused some waves. There were people who really liked it and people who were really against it. ‘It was too different; too new; the world wasn’t ready,’ they said.”
The most conspicuous design divergence on the CLX96 is the reverse angle deckhouse, which is symmetrically angled forward and aft. The styling is more than a design exercise though. The double reverse shape helps maximize the internal living space while reducing heat and glare inside. It also offers structural advantages that allow the window mullions to be reduced to mere inches, hence opening up the views from within, which span nearly 360 degrees.
To keep with the distinctive profile, the stairs to the fly deck from the main deck aft blend with the angle and go up in the opposite direction than the norm, from forward to aft. There’s a functionality aspect here too.
“When you’re underway, this reverse angle of the stairs makes it easier to go up and down with the trim of the boat, which is around three degrees,” explains Forakis.
The exterior also sports an unusually large Portuguese bridge and a next-level foredeck lounge. CL Yachts has given these spaces unique monikers as well. In front of the bridge is the Terrazza Portoghese with dimensions akin to a generous terrace. “This is an additional socializing or privacy space,” says Forakis. “It’s a sizable boat, but the idea is not just more space, but diverse types of spaces throughout, so people can congregate in small or large groups or find a little bit of alone time if they want.”
It overlooks the foredeck, dubbed the Piazza del Sole. “The idea is a cocktail lounge in the round; that’s why we call it piazza,” he says. The tables can descend and be covered by cushions to make an ample sunbathing area with adjustable backrests, and the lounge can be covered with a bimini. It’s one of several spots on board that has dual uses.
“Transformation and multifunctionality are a theme throughout the whole boat,” says Forakis. Take, for instance, the aft deck. “We decided to do something a little bit different compared to the normal table here,” he says, as he shows us how each of the three seats that make up the settee can slide open to create a lounge on which to stretch out.
The main alfresco dining table is found on the fly deck above, along with all the must-haves: a bar, grill, and chaise lounges. The outside deck flows effortlessly into the skylounge/pilothouse just forward.
With the house’s aft and side windows lowered, the deck is one giant fresh-air space, or with the windows up, the wheelhouse becomes weathertight.
Moving from the exterior to the interior on the fly deck and on the main deck below is aesthetically seamless with the deck’s teak planks lining up perfectly with the teak sole inside.
As it Lays Out
The main salon, dining area, and galley are joined in an open-plan layout, but one where each zone is defined by structural moldings. From the aft sliding door, you can see all the way through the front windshield with the Champagne Lounge underneath. This cozy spot has a wraparound settee at just the right height for views out and a cocktail table with built-in cooler for a Magnum-size bottle and side drawers fitted with flute-size holders.
The overall brightness of the deck is augmented with tri-fold glass doors that fully open next to the dining table to starboard. “It’s been engineered so the owner can have it on starboard or port or both as an option,” says Forakis.
Belowdecks on the CLX96, there are essentially two masters. The true one is forward, over the widest part of the teardrop-shaped hull and with a full-beam his-and-hers ensuite forward. Sculpted Corian wraps around the king-size berth and forms the top of a vanity before swooping down to become the base of a settee.
“I just love the material,” says Forakis. “It’s futuristic, it’s functional, it’s seamless.” Behind the berth is a feature wall of walnut strips over black glass, a reflective material that the designer prefers over “kitsch” mirror.
A skylight hovers above the berth and big windows frame the room, but there is another view out too. The 65-inch television on the forward bulkhead is connected to a high-resolution camera mounted at the bow that brings the panorama of the horizon inside.
The VIP aft is nearly as gracious, and to mirror the master, there is also a skylight. But this one is virtual, hooked up to a camera at the top of the mast to project the sky to those in bed. Between these spacious staterooms are two identical ensuite twin cabins, both of which, not surprisingly, convert into doubles.
Beyond all this interior sophistication is the other half of the SAV concept: the sea activity part. The more than 13-foot-long beach platform—large enough for a tender, PWC, Seabobs, and other toys—helps with that mission. It’s fitted with an 800-kg davit in a deck hatch as well as a motorized Z-lift platform that lifts up, over, and down into the water.
The CLX96 also has the chops to get from point A to point B expeditiously, powered by reliable twin 1,900-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERTs. “Of these crossover boats, we are probably the fastest; their top speed is what we cruise at,” says Panu Virtanen, vice president of CL Yachts in Fort Lauderdale. That would be 22 knots, with 25 being CLX’s advertised top speed, though the captain on board tells us he’s had her up to 27. The hull is a brand-new, RINA-certified, CFD-analyzed design by naval architect Earl Alfaro, optimized to cruise at 65 to 80 percent of the engine load and able to transition from semi-displacement to planing mode with minimal changes in dynamic trim.
We take her offshore Fort Lauderdale and with the east wind pushing us we easily reach
25 knots at the max 2,350 rpm. The yacht is equipped with both fins and gyrostabilizers, and our ride is smooth in the choppy seastate using only the fins. Helping achieve this swiftness is a composite structure that uses no small amount of carbon fiber to bring the stiffness necessary to support the upper deck while keeping weight to a minimum, as explained by the structural engineer, Albert Horsmon.
Revealed to the public for the first time at the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the CLX96 stood out among the packed docks of yachts. In an industry where copycat designs are rampant, it’s refreshing to see something innovative and she got a lot of well-deserved attention.
It seems those early naysayers were wrong—the world may indeed be ready. CLYachts.com
-by Kate Lardy