CL Yachts’ Bold Gamble
Virtual reality has come a long way. Just a couple years ago, real estate agents were slogging through slow, dizzying home tours. Now, I sit back in my basement with slipper-covered feet and ogle the most beautifully different CL Yachts (formerly known as Cheoy Lee) as Project Manager Hans Lo displays the CLX96 from his home in Hong Kong. Dramatic time difference notwithstanding, it was one of those moments that had me shaking my head and marveling at how fast technology is improving.
Blindingly fast is also the best way to describe the metamorphosis of CL Yachts since onboarding outside designer Jozeph Forakis. Haven’t heard of him? Give it time. New to the yachting space, his first collaboration with CL Yachts, which could safely be described as a design evolution, brought a more-modern feel and aesthetic to the brand. When it comes to the CLX96, it feels like Forakis rolled up his sleeves and broke the mold into pieces.
Dramatic, expedition-style lines and reverse-raked windshields catch the eye. As Lo guides me around the yacht with the smooth slide of his mouse, I try to take it all in. A unique Z-lift folding swim platform can support a 1,700-pound tender one minute, then submerge to form a formidable beach club the next. From there, I’m guided past a transforming cockpit; modular furniture gives this space an array of socializing options.
One space melts into the next as I virtually find myself in a casual salon with enormous disappearing floor-to-deck windows. I’m struck by two things: How bright this interior can be and how casual the décor is. It’s a far cry from the hands-in-your-pockets Cheoy Lee 104 that I tested a few years ago.
“Here you could seat eight in the formal dining area, which isn’t really all that formal,” admits Lo. “We want to take a minimalist approach; we want something that ages gracefully. Something that transcends trends. We still want it to have a warm feeling: Minimalist without feeling cold.”
Next, I’m whisked through a small private foyer into the VIP suite. It’s a generous space with all the comforts you would expect. The standout feature, however, is the skylight, or what appears to be a skylight. “But this space has the main deck above…” I wonder aloud.
Lo smiles knowingly and explains that Forakis designed a faux skylight. There is actually a sensor in the mast that sends the outside brightness level to the electronic “skylight.” So, if it’s a cloudy day, the mood in the stateroom will reflect that. If the sun is sinking on the horizon, well, you get the drift. “Jozeph came up with that,” Lo says proudly. “He really brings an outside perspective.”
There’s also a camera on the bow that can send a live video of the forward view to the oversized TV in the suite.
After our quick “walk through,” we’re again studying the profile of the 96. I ask about the striking shapes used in the exterior.
“The trapezoidal shape is right for us. That shape is a nod to our rugged commercial ships and exploration-type vessels. It’s true to our heritage. We have this idea that we’re building for a modern explorer,” says Lo. “People nowadays have a tendency to desire experiences over objects. A yacht offers the experience and ownership at the same time. We call these people modern explorers.”
According to Lo, the 96 is just the first drop in the bucket for this new X-line of yachts. He expects both bigger and smaller models to flesh out the pipeline in due time. He hopes this first model will make its way into reality reality this May with its official U.S. debut at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show in 2021. As fun as virtual reality is, it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to ditching the slippers and getting aboard ASAP.
CLX96 Layout Diagrams:
Displ.: 191,000 lbs.
Fuel: 4,100 gal.
Water: 500 gal.
Power: 2/1,900-hp CAT C32
Cruise Speed: 22 knots
Top Speed: 27 knots