Kind Of Cool
Custom Line turns out a sleek 100-footer that hits all the right notes.
With its Roman theater, 15th-century castle, and 800-year-old cathedral high on the hill, Trieste, Italy, would probably find its way onto most modern travelers’ itineraries even if the Hapsburgs hadn’t adopted it as their premier seaport and lined the front with their splendidly excessive wedding-cake baroque. Today an intriguing mix of grandiose Austro-Hungarian architecture and winding medieval streets stretching around the shore of a magnificent sheltered bay, the city made an unusually appropriate backdrop for the launch of Custom Line’s latest motoryacht.
For whether by accident or design, the contrast was total. On the one hand, the ornate imperial splendor of the double eagle. On the other, a quiet statement of cool as sublimely confident in its own way as the opening bars of Miles Davis’ “Freddie Freeloader.”
Yet quiet confidence is never going to be quite enough for a Custom Line. Packing more than 5,000 hp thanks to a pair of MTU V16s that reside in some luxury in a beautiful engine room, this new 100-footer also has a lot to live up to in the performance department. Not as a record-breaker, but as a member of the Custom Line clan that, in its ability to combine speed with accommodation and style, has generally been reckoned to be among the best of the breed since the first 94 was launched back in 1996.
This latest addition to the family is up there with the best of them. Accelerating to 20 knots in just 25 seconds, she turned tightly, with a moderate but pleasing angle of inward heel, and handled with engaging fluency. The CL 100 is a big, beamy boat, but she’s actually quite exhilarating to drive. We had a flat sea and a light summer breeze to deal with; in more challenging conditions, this is the kind of precision and control that can make the difference between endurance and enjoyment.
Arriving back in port after a trial that was considerably more fun than you might reasonably expect from a yacht that displaces 130 tons fully laden, I noticed something a little strange. No one on the quay was paying any attention to the famous Trieste waterfront, its fantastic architecture, or to the tree-clad hills behind the town, the sparkling seascape in the afternoon sunshine, or even to the pretty girls sunbathing on the old stonework. Everyone was looking at the CL 100. She’s that kind of boat.
With her subtle curves and aggressive angularity, with those eye-catching slats over the side-deck companionways, bold window shapes, and an almost imperceptible two-tone color scheme, it might be tempting to dismiss the CL 100’s startling looks as a mere styling exercise. Hey, she’s even got a gull-wing door. In fact, it turns out that looks are the least of it: There is real substance behind the style, and much that is new and innovative about this yacht.
For a 100-footer she packs in several surprising big-yacht features. Most obviously there is the fold-down balcony on the starboard side (a standard fixture) and its attendant sliding doors (an extra, oddly) that between them transform the main deck from a cool and comfortable place to relax into a stunning apartment with matchless sea views.
Further forward, the side decks lead up to a Portuguese bridge around the wheelhouse, with a secure central walkway across the coachroof and down to an excellent, secluded foredeck seating area. The flying bridge—its visual weight effectively disguised by that two-tone color scheme—is a substantial, full-length, full-beam structure that offers shelter to the cockpit at the same time as providing an expansive relaxation area, with a bar, table, sunbathing space, and opening hardtop. There is also room up here for the main tender—the hydraulic davit is supplied as standard—along with extra space for a smaller one in the stern garage.
All these areas work together well. The side decks are wide, the seating is spacious—there is a distinct sense that the external spaces belong in reality to something with a little more length and beam than the CL 100. There is even a voluminous, superyacht-sized deck stowage locker concealed beneath the forward seating.
This impression is maintained inside where giant saloon windows make the best of a deceptively simple main-deck layout. Even if—and it’s an enormous if—an owner decides against the side doors to the balcony, he’ll still get huge, floor-to-ceiling windows instead.
A sliding door separates the saloon and dining area from the forward accommodations. Here is the reason for those up-and-over side decks—the owner’s suite is a substantial, full-beam apartment with huge triangular windows, a dressing table and a desk, and a big bathroom and walk-in wardrobe forward. There is plenty of floor space, an enormous bed and minimum headroom forward of 6'4".
The starboard lobby that leads up to the wheelhouse also leads down to the guest cabins on the lower deck: two VIP doubles and two twins, exceptionally well appointed, with excellent head compartments, full-size beds throughout, and each with an enormous hull window. The VIP bathrooms, laid out across the beam, insulate the accommodation from the machinery space.
Not everything is perfect, of course. The galley is large and well proportioned, but the best area of worktop is rather impeded by the intrusion of the wheelhouse footwell, which will make actually using it awkward for any chef of average height. And the low-profile saloon seating is obviously designed to maximize the sense of space, but it’s maybe just a little too low for anyone with a reasonable length of leg.
On the other hand, the interior designers had the good sense on this first CL 100 to install a pair of iconic Barcelona chairs in the owner’s suite. And those soft, leather, cut-mesh Franco Poli dining chairs are simply stunning. Moored stern-to at the stone quay at Trieste’s magnificently overblown Piazza Unita d’Italia, the CL 100 looked the very embodiment of Modernist cool.
I wonder if Miles Davis liked boats? If he had, this might have been the one.
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This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.