CL YACHTS’ NEXT MOVES
Director of CL Yachts and a fourth-generation member of the Lo family that founded and own Cheoy Lee, Martin Lo is spearheading new projects like CLB80 and upgrades of existing models for a brand steadily growing in appeal around the world.
CL Yachts has just revealed the design for CLB80, which continues the brand’s collaboration with Jozeph Forakis. He designed ‘from scratch’ for your flagship CLX96, but the CLB series already had three models (65, 72, 88), so what was your brief to him?
We needed something in-between CLB72 and CLB88, to create a smoother transition for owners who want to upgrade. The brief was that we need to please traditional B series boat owners, but push the envelope a bit more within certain constraints. So, based on the design language of CLB72 and CLB88, I asked him to create something better and a little bit more advanced, but not too advanced.
We then looked at boating habits today, with people wanting to
go out with their family and enjoy the outdoors more. Covid changed boating habits because people could cruise out to sea on their own island paradise and enjoy nature, fresh air and a safe space away from other people. A boat should have all the comforts of home but be easily maintained, so it can stay fresh throughout the years.
We were also looking to maximise semi-open space, making areas openable but able to be covered or closed when protection from the elements is needed. Initially, we thought of a traditional motor yacht with a hard top, like CLB72. Then we considered a semi-permanent hard top with a fixed front screen and the ability to enclose the helm.
We then thought about enclosing the flybridge and including openable windows and skylights, so you create a shelter, a sky deck, which can be your family room or another living room. This increases the living space and allows you to have one control station with better vision plus more space and visibility forward on the main deck.
We also looked at CLB80 being run by an owner operator, like a family cruiser with no crew or maybe minimal crew. This requires better interaction, like having an aft galley as we have on CLB65 along with the day head aft. This way, you can go swimming and enjoy water sports and when you come back up, you don’t need to track through the saloon to use the head. And with the galley aft, you can serve drinks and finger food or full meals either indoors forward or outdoors aft.
With the galley aft, we pushed the living areas forward and reworked the windows so when you sit on the sofas, you can see out more easily, while you also have more space without the lower helm.
As it’s an 80-footer, four staterooms are a must, so on the lower deck we have a private VIP forward, a full-beam master and two guest cabins, as well as decent crew quarters aft.
CLB80 also offers decent speed with modest power, just 1,600hp for the pair, yet reaches 25 knots and cruises around 20 or 21. There’s simple fin stabilisation, not gyro, so you save space, weight and maintenance, although we still have provisions for installing gyro if owners want it.
What led to the option of the sliding dining table?
It’s quite interesting. It’s convertible. If you want formal dining, you expand it and place chairs around it. Later, if you want more room for socialising and dancing, you can fold the table and push it aft against the galley, where it can become a serving bar or buffet table and you end up using the ‘dining’ space for entertainment. Owners can use their imagination on how they want to use the space. If it’s too hot or raining and you want to do your yoga, there you have it.
Where did the idea come from?
Jozeph asked if it was possible. We encouraged him to think outside the box. One of the reasons we use Jozeph is because he’s an industrial designer. Before working with us, he had no experience of designing boats, so he’s able to think outside the box, different to yacht designers, so let’s have some fun!
Are the CLB80 designs you’ve revealed just options?
We’ve created multiple designs for both the main deck and flybridge. On the main deck, we have another layout with a galley forward, for more traditional boaters. This has a salon aft, then dining and a forward galley that can be open or closed, depending on what kind of crew the owners plan to have.
We also offer a semi-open flybridge, with control stations on the main and upper decks. For the semi-open flybridge, we use composite furniture, and for the enclosed version, we use wood-veneer furniture. You still have the wet bar and the high-low windows.
You showed hull two of CLB65 at the recent Hong Kong International Boat Show before it heads to Australia in early 2024, while hull one was sold in the US. What has been the feedback from the owners?
They’re very happy and like it a lot. It has been well used. Overall, we’ve only had minor suggestions, like having a door instead of a hatch, more storage, a bit more interior space and so on. Sydney Marine, one of our two Australian dealers, gave feedback on boating habits there and said CLB65 is perfect for their market, which is why they’ve ordered hull two. Hull three is in the US and hull four will have a different salon layout.
However, we’re busy trying to find space and time for production. The shipyard is busy building catamaran ferries for Hong Kong including five 40m cats in carbon, two 40m hybrid – one in carbon and one in aluminum – and two 35m in carbon. Hull one of the 40m carbon cat had sea trials in December. We also have contracts for tugs and a wind-farm support vessel for Japan, while we’re also working on a lot of other projects.
How does Cheoy Lee’s experience in building commercial boats help the build quality of CL Yachts models?
I want people to enjoy boats. CL Yachts’ ‘Uncharted Luxury’ slogan is more than skin deep; it’s inside. I want an owner who pays a large amount of money for a boat to just get onboard, turn the key and go, knowing all the systems are solid and can be easily maintained.
Our family is actively involved in the whole building process, and we put our minds and energy into all our products. Because we do commercial boats and pleasure yachts, building to class is normal for us. Even for motor yachts, CE hull construction is a minimum requirement. The whole shipyard is ISO certified, and we have an established quality-assurance programme.
We only use materials from leading vendors, like foam core from Diab, Divinycell and CorecellTM by Gurit. Only three carbon-fibre manufacturers can meet classification requirements and they’re from Germany, US and Japan. We use the Japanese company and I’ve known the weaver of those carbon-fibres for 30 years.
CLB72 is CL Yachts’ best-selling model and was one of the first launched after you founded CL Yachts. How many units has it sold and what’s next?
I think we’re on hull nine. CLB72 is ready for a redesign. The lower- deck layout is solid, so we’re looking to maybe push the salon forward, offer an aft-galley layout, work on how to give the flybridge more European styling and other changes.
CLX96 was developed during Covid before her debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October 2022, when Jozeph Forakis saw the completed boat for the first time. What were his reactions?
I’ve known Jozeph for many years, so I know him very well. He was very excited about the boat being built. During the production process, he visited China to monitor different stages of construction, but when he finally got to see CLX96 at FLIBS, he said: ‘Whoa’. He was so happy; he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Usually, the vision of the designers isn’t fully realised like it was with CLX96. I have a design background, so I understand designers’ frustration, although I also understand the viewpoint of the production side.
Sometimes, for practical reasons, certain things can’t be done and I might ask Jozeph if he can change something. Other times, I can see his innovative idea and it’s my job to convince the production team to give it a shot. I’m like the go-between to make everything happen and, in a way, to showcase a new look. CLX96 is as close to the design as it could be.
What’s next for CLX96?
We’ve already developed another layout, with five cabins including an on-deck master. We took feedback from hull one and are making it better. People like the workmanship and the basic layout, but people were asking for one more stateroom, room for more crew, perhaps a Jacuzzi. Maybe we focused too much on the exterior activity zones, so we’re looking at increasing the internal space a little bit.
On the new version, we have an on-deck jacuzzi and we’ve moved the pilothouse forward by about 2m, so the skylounge is larger. And with the convertible table, you can have a formal dinner on the flybridge rather than the main deck. We’ve reworked a lot of things and have been trying different layouts on paper.
Every boat we build is better than the last one. We will always improve on a model. We value the feedback from end users, dealers and the public, plus we study other yachts on the market to see how we can make ours better.
What are your thoughts on markets where you’ve appointed new dealers such as Southeast Asia, Australia and Middle East?
As mentioned, I did a trip to Australia to visit our new dealer Sydney Marine. People typically think of the Opera House and the harbour there, but then we went to the North Shore where people are very keen on boating. The dealer kindly took us everywhere and explained the local boating lifestyle in detail, saying CLB65 was perfect for their market. We also have Silverstar Marine in Perth for Western Australia. I also visited Premium Nautical in Singapore and I’ve invited them
and our other dealers to come and see our shipyard in Guangdong to get a better sense of the brand and our products. Next, I plan to visit Dubai to see Royal Yachting, our Middle East dealer. We’re building up our network step by step.
Do you see the Middle East as a growing market?
I think so. If you look at Gulf Craft, they’re doing phenomenally well there. Azimut is doing well there. I think our products can compete with them. We’ve studied the market and we think this is a good time to revisit this region.