Cheoy Lee launches a new breed of yachts, and it begins with the CLA 76f.
The “old dog, new tricks” cliché doesn’t apply to Cheoy Lee. For nearly 150 years, they have been building supremely seaworthy vessels, but steady does not mean staid. This old builder has some new tricks. “Cheoy Lee has been around forever,” acknowledges Panu Virtanen, vice president of the North America office. “But there are new buyers now, a younger crowd that looks at boating differently.” So the venerable Hong Kong shipyard has launched a new division called CL Yachts to reach this next generation for whom “boating needs to be fun and effortless,” says Virtanen. The CLA 76f is one of the first embodiments of this philosophy.
A successor to the Cheoy Lee Alpha 76, it features the same Michael Peters hull, but above the waterline, everything has changed. This is no evolved model. It’s a whole new yacht. Step into the main salon and one of the tenets of the CL Yachts brand is readily apparent—the design is on trend. The light, bright, open-plan main deck has 360-degree views through extra-large windows.
Intan Nioridwan of Singapore-based Atolla Design says he strived for a clean, simple style. “We used a combination of wood and good quality leather to let people experience the feeling of high-end warmth and relaxation.” Glossy, medium-toned walnut complements the creamy upholstery, carpet and Majilite overheads that feature decorative bands of stainless steel. These strips are part of the plan. “The design has horizontal aspects to widen the area everywhere, like wood grain, granite and marble patterns, even headboards,” says Nioridwan.
The lounging and dining space is generous thanks to an arrangement that places the galley, lavished in “Silver River” granite, next to the helm all the way forward. It is raised so chefs are not only part of the main deck action but also preside over it. Undercounter Sub-Zero drawers hold refrigerated and frozen items rather than upright appliances to keep the all-around view.
The advantages of 150 years of shipbuilding experience show in the operation’s second precept: user-friendliness. It’s all done properly, with wide side decks and a foredeck laid out for easy line handling. A ZF remote control with a 25-foot lead plugs into the port side of the flybridge or starboard on the main aft deck for docking.
If you’re more of a stay-out-of-the-way, fair-weather boater, you can find your user-friendliness in the convenient wine cooler next to the interior dining, or the propane barbecue up top or read all the A/V electronics mounted on racks in a salon cabinet that slide out for easy access. Above all, boating must be comfortable for the young clients in CL Yachts’ sights. Motion control is a major factor.
A Seakeeper gyrostabilizer and Zipwake active interceptors hold the CLA 76f steady from the anchorage to high speeds. Interior comforts include an ensuite for each of the four staterooms whose shower stalls are impressively sized. The amidships master stateroom commands the full beam and by placing the bed athwartships to starboard, it has an incredible amount of floor space.
Exterior comforts are found at a very pleasant foredeck lounge with seating and sunpad as well as up on the flybridge with dining and wet bar under a hardtop with an opening sunroof. Both of these areas can also escape the sun by a sunshade that attaches to lightweight carbon fiber poles.
The engine room is a true revelation for a yacht of this size. The two Caterpillar C18s appear petite within the capacious room, leaving loads of space so everything is accessible and serviceable. As Virtanen puts it, you feel like you’re on a little ship in here. Cheoy Lee has always sourced all major equipment and components in the U.S., so servicing and locating spares on this side of the world is straightforward.
The old Alpha had a tender garage; the new CLA 76f has a crew cabin for one instead—a nicely finished mini apartment with a microwave, refrigerator and good-sized head. The tender mounts on the swim platform which integrates a two-stage lift by TNT. In addition to flush, it drops below the waterline to ease swimmers into the water or to load the tender, which can be driven right up on it. Underway, it is raised; the extra height offers safe clearance in a following sea.
Each model line from CL Yachts is a unique concept with different architects, designers and, in the case of the first two models, propulsion types. What ties together the brand is the structural integrity of the builds, says Virtanen. The resin-infused composite hull couples with a foam-cored monocoque structure. Careful engineering and extensive use of carbon fiber provides a light but strong structure so the boats operate more efficiently.
For the CLA 76f, this means a 29-knot top speed. That’s the advertised max at least. During a sea trial off Port Everglades in one- to two-foot seas, she reached 30.7 knots with 82 percent water and 27 percent fuel. Consumption at 9.6 knots was a total of just 13 gallons an hour between both engines.
This is only the beginning for CL Yachts. After debuting the CLA 76f and CLB 72 last fall, it began work on the fleet’s third model: the ultra-spacious CLB 88 which will premiere in Miami next February. Something completely different will come after that—a 95-foot next-generation explorer.
“This is what CL Yachts is all about,” says Virtanen, “all new designers, all new vision, from one of the oldest builders in the world.”
By Kate Lardy, Southern Boating May 2019
ABOUT THE CLB 72
At the debut of CL Yachts’ other new model, everyone touring the CLB 72 had the same question for Panu Virtanen: “Can I take this cheese knife on display here and cut the counter?” This seeming destructive streak among boat show attendees was really just curiosity.
The galley is covered in opaque black Fenix NTM, which uses nanotechnology to heal itself thermally of accidental light scratches. It’s one of several innovative materials used thanks to the fresh perspective of Carmen Lau, an up-and-coming Hong Kong designer.
She chose the dark galley finish as a focal point and contrast to the light-hued main deck that features the largest windows classification society RINA would allow. Another spot that highlights her creativity is the master, which she arranged to show off huge hull windows and created an etched glass feature wall between the stateroom and head that frosts at the press of a button.
Howard Apollonio took a similarly fresh look at the hull design and started from scratch to optimize it for Volvo IPS1350 engines. In keeping with CL Yachts’ ethos of fun, easy boating, the joystick-controlled drives negate the need for thrusters, so there is no need to worry about hydraulics. House power is simplified too; a Decision-Maker 3500 Auto Parallel system senses the load automatically to transfer or share it between two 24kW Kohler gensets.
This first hull is under contract and two more are sold, but Lau is working with CL Yachts on two further spec builds. It will be interesting to see what she comes up with next.