Spotlight – CLX96: Plenty of X-Factor
Five years in the planning, CL Yachts launches its new flagship motoryacht – the striking, high-performance CLX96.
At first glance, the new CLX96 superyacht, which premiered at the Cheoy Lee Shipyard in Lai Chi Kok, Hong Kong in May, makes quite an impression with its original aesthetics and generous deck spaces. The white and grey, clean-lined new hull with its dark-tinted glass windows shows a bold structure – both externally and in the interior – from a brand that draws on its shipyards and engineers’ decades of experience. Indeed, this is the shipyard that pioneered the use of fibreglass for boatbuilding in the 1960s, when the founders of CL Yachts assisted the Lloyd’s Register in developing guidelines for its use in construction.
Boarding from the submersible hydraulic swim platform, teak flooring flows through the cockpit and into the indoors of the saloon – and teak echoes reappear in the ceiling detailing of other areas on board.
Thanks to the open layout, the front of the main deck is visible from the cockpit, and large windows make for clear visibility all around. There is more space on the main deck, which omits a second helm station.
The clean sweep of visibility indoors blurs lines between the different areas within the unobstructed indoor main deck. Sections are marked with ‘ring frames’ (thin border cladding around vertical uprights and ceiling) that delineate interior areas, adjacent to imperceptible air-conditioning ducts. Those aboard can enjoy pockets of privacy – yet still feel like part of the party.
Walking forward from a lounging zone at the aft of the saloon, a dining area continues onto a handy bar top, which borders a large open galley. This galley-up configuration has long been popular in yacht design in the US and to a certain extent in Australia – and is nowadays being seen more in Asia.
All the way forward, on a slightly raised level – for better visibility across the bow – is the Champagne Lounge. With its curved banquette seating and a wine cooler, this compact area feels spacious thanks to a reverse-angle window that follows the line of the wheelhouse directly above and also offers shade here.
The Champagne Lounge looks out across the Piazza del Sole (sunshine piazza) – a circular configuration of loungers and tables created by Milan-based Jozeph Forakis, the international product designer who was responsible for the concept, exterior and interior design of CLX96. The tables can be lowered to morph the area into one large sun pad.
“We pride ourselves on our experience in building not only the interiors but exteriors as well – with our years of building in composite, steel and aluminium, it’s in our blood.” – Martin Lo, director, CL Yachts
The master stateroom on its own private level between main and lower decks, has a foyer entrance that allows privacy from the main bedroom. The suite is particularly spacious, benefitting from being situated at the widest point (7.3m) of the unusual teardrop-shaped hull.
The integrated bathroom and closet enjoy widely separated twin sink basins and twin WCs, with shower doors that switch from transparent to opaque glass at the touch of a button. Sculpted white Corian stone throughout adds soft curves and rounded corners within the cabins. A flat-screen TV in the master is connected to a camera at the bow, so that it may complete a continuous horizon with windows at each side.
On the lower deck are two en-suite staterooms to port and starboard; both are identical with twin beds that can join together as doubles. Forward, a VIP suite has a ceiling-mounted “virtual skylight” that links to a live video camera feed of the sky directly above the yacht’s mast.
The staircase to the upper deck arrives at an impressively large helm station that can be semi-open, as port, starboard and aft windows can be electronically lowered. With these retracted into a countertop, the latter can become a serving or social area for the wheelhouse deck’s aft lounging deck.
A pop-up TV in the pilot house swivels around for outdoor viewing, while a grill station helps make this a convivial entertaining zone.
The deck forward of the wheelhouse is dubbed the Terrazza Portoghese (Portuguese Terrace); inspired by traditionally smaller protective ship bridge designs. Loungers or other freestanding furniture can be placed here, enjoying a good amount of additional deck area, thanks to the reverse-angle windscreen.
n 2018, CL Yachts engaged Forakis to redesign its CLB88, encouraging his free-flow of possible ideas but ultimately reigning him in, to stick to the line’s signature styles. Fast-forward to 2022, and the all-new CLX line represents a luxury ‘crossover’ or ‘SUV’ line that the brand had been mulling over for some years.
“It’s like giving birth to a baby – but it took a lot longer than nine months,” says Martin Lo, director of CL Yachts. “The concept for the new flagship across all three CL Yacht lines began four or five years ago. We wanted to create something unique. At boat shows, we noticed that many motoryachts were building similar styles. We realised then that we needed to refresh our image and revamp it. So we conducted market research to identify trends and what owners were looking for. I wanted something that would last the test of time – and would still look current after several years.”
Lo didn’t want to commission a naval architect as he thought they might be beholden to a conventional design mindset. So Lo – trained as an industrial designer himself – decided to look for a designer outside the boating realm. He wanted a designer who would analyse lifestyle trends of the moment, and consider projected ones, to predict how they might be applied to a luxury yacht.
“That’s how I found Jozeph,” recalls Lo. “He had a background in products and transportation design. I asked him to conduct an in-depth study of what would be popular in three years – I asked him to attend boat shows in Europe and the US, and gave him a ‘blank piece of paper’.
“He came up with many different designs – some of them were so farfetched that you couldn’t even call them a boat … you could perhaps call them a spaceship.”
Lo decided which elements in these drafts were workable. He also wanted to retain some references to the history of the parent company that makes it what it is now: “the innovative side of the company, which shows itself in CL Yachts,” as Lo puts it.
“We pride ourselves on our experience in building not only the interiors but exteriors as well – with our years of building in composite, steel and aluminium, it’s in our blood,” says Lo. “We ensure materials are from the best suppliers, that it’s seaworthy and serviceable, and that the captain will have a happy boat and owner.
“We’re always weight-conscious, especially for composite or high-speed boats. We’ve been experimenting with carbon fibre for over 20 years and other new materials with their producers to try to innovate. We only use different materials where they make sense with our engineering.”
CLX96’s open interior – from the aft deck to Champagne Lounge with no pillars – embodies ‘finite element analysis’ that ensures materials are up to the task of structural support, withstand vibrations and offer maximum comfort.
Forakis says the prime objective of this yacht was “to connect the experiential aspect to the brand and the business model, based on my research, my design experience, and having done a fair amount of sailing.”
He continues: “It was a long process of reducing all the many ideas I had, and the comments from Martin and CL Yachts – the zero point of that reduction is the synthesis point of what we can build. Luckily for me, that was Martin with his great breadth of knowledge in shipbuilding and our shared passion and knowledge of product design.”
“Beyond the functional benefits, the unique side-profile of CLX96 reflects the competencies of the shipyard as a builder of both workboats and performance yachts.” – Jozeph Forakis, designer
CLX96 was born from the original research and deliberation of what had started out as CLB88. While Covid-19 delayed the new X-series model, the firm conceived a new hull design that marked a departure from the previous A and B series. An imposing plumb bow allows for more internal and deck volume, while its knuckle feature allows the hull to plane.
“Beyond the functional benefits, the side-profile of CLX96 reflects the competencies of the shipyard as a builder of both workboats and performance yachts,” says Forakis. “The concept is a true crossover, combining the best of both: the performance of a luxury flybridge and the robust capabilities of an explorer boat.” Forakis calls this ‘workboat chic.’
The sky and bow cams were Forakis’ idea – perhaps coming from his screen designs for mobile phones and digital interfaces, and says: “Interactive technology for me is like an interior material, to mix with wood, Corian, carbon fibre and other materials.”
Lo mentions that one thing he is most excited about is CLX96’s performance: “Given the volume and all that’s inside, it still delivers up to 25 knots [at full load] – good with 1,900hp engines, and it feels stable at the wheel – even without the gyro or stabilisers on.”
Another whimsical touch is round metal-rimmed holes, on each side of the bow, which refer to an auspicious feature of Chinese fishing junks.
Next, Lo and Forakis will work on a “baby X” for this series: CLX50. Meanwhile, CLX96 will have its official world premiere at the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show from October 26 to 30.
Engines 2x Caterpillar C32 1,900bhp
Max speed 25kts (at full load)
Cruising speed 22kts
Fuel tank 15,520l