The Lee Way
What would lead a worldfamous and successful boatbuilder with 150 years of history to change its name? In the case of Cheoy Lee, it’s to make you take notice that its new line of CL Yachts aren’t your dad’s (or granddad’s) Cheoy Lees.
With the introduction of CL Yachts, Cheoy Lee is reaching for a clientele of younger owners who use their boats differently. One look at the chic and contemporary styling of the CLB72, with its large windows and bright interior, and you know that this is a yacht for today.
The Cheoy Lee name hasn’t gone away though, and Panu Virtanen, vice president of sales for CL Yachts, is quick to point that out. “This is a brand of Cheoy Lee that combines performance with family amenities,” he says. To achieve this new style, CL Yachts started with a blank sheet of paper, although, with decades of owner input, it knew where it wanted to go. Naval architect Howard Apollonio managed to dance lightly on a sword’s edge to give the beamy CLB72 a chic and clean profile while maintaining the Cheoy Lee DNA. His orders from But-Yang Lo (BY), vice president of Cheoy Lee Shipyards North America and fourth generation of the family that owns the yard, were clear.
“BY wanted a yacht that not only looked contemporary, but which would also remain timelessly in style, like a classic BMW,” Apollonio says. The yacht doesn’t rely on swoopy curves or angles to catch your eye, yet there’s no question that it will turn heads when arriving in any harbor.
Apollonio also designed the lines for the CLB72 with Volvo Penta pod drives in mind and worked closely with Volvo Penta engineers to craft a slippery hull that would smooth the water flow past the props for efficiency, maximize the effectiveness of the pod drive maneuverability and maintain the traditional Cheoy Lee all-weather seaworthiness.
“When we sea-trialed the first CLB72, Volvo Penta didn’t believe either our speed or our fuel economy numbers,” Virtanen says with a grin. Apollonio adds, “They ended up sending factory engineers from Sweden and the US to oversee our performance tests, and our numbers were right.” The CLB72 is indeed fast (32 knots with a dozen engineers aboard) and
economical (54gph at a 22-knot cruise).
By creating a hull form specifically for pod drives, the CL Yachts team was also able to eliminate the need for bow or stern thrusters with the fingertip maneuverability of the Volvo joystick handling. Besides improving the “dockability,” the absence of thrusters removes both a hydraulic system (less maintenance) and extra holes in the hull (seaworthiness). Other requirements given to the design team included a flush main deck extending to the side decks and the forward seating area, a dayhead on the main deck and four staterooms. “We didn’t want them to be like phone booths, either,” Virtanen says, and Apollonio adds wryly, “That was a challenge.” One key to having large cabins was the use of Volvo pod drives, which take up less space than conventional propulsion systems, leaving more for accommodation. This meant that bulkheads could be moved for better room utilization.
The interior design was done by Interiors by Carmen and, since Carmen Lau is part of the fifth generation of the Lo family (Cheoy Lee’s owners), she understood what was required. “I wanted the space to have a sense of openness to carry throughout.” On the main deck, it means 360-degree visibility from anywhere in the salon. On the lower deck she reimagined the full-beam master stateroom not only to take advantage of the added space but also to emphasize the large hull windows. “I designed the stateroom to span the full beam and create a feature wall out of the bulkhead between the stateroom and the head,” she says. At first glance, the feature wall appears to be slightly frosted glass, not ideal for privacy. Touch a switch, however, and the entire wall turns opaque. Very cool, as is the head itself, with a double sink, twin faucets and an oversized shower with teak grating seat. This still leaves room to port for a full walk-in closet with a builtin six-drawer bureau with interior lighting.
Perhaps because of its strong commercial shipping background, CL Yachts takes care of the crew with their own full-beam stateroom with a private head and stall shower, all finished to guest cabin standards. Even better, it has access from the side deck for safety underway and for owner-operators, making it a teenager’s dream retreat. The phrase “gathering spaces” crops up in conversation with the CL Yachts team, and they have, by my count, created five such places for guests and family to congregate. On the main deck, there is the usual couch in the stern with a wide teak table that shows off the CL Yachts
craftsmanship. Then in the salon, there is a wraparound couch facing a pop-up television and surrounded by oversized windows with just a single mullion on each side. Then there is a comfy couch forward of the galley for casual meals or to keep the skipper company while running. On the foredeck are twin lounges with armrests for sunning or watching the world go by. The flybridge takes advantage of the full beam with two more couches plus an open boat deck just begging for two or three stylish chaises longues. This doesn’t even count “leaning areas” for gathering, such as the cockpit wet bar or the galley’s large center island with its dark counters.
“The choice of matt black was to provide contrast against the lighter color palette,” Lau says. “Since the entire space was already open, light and airy, I needed to find a way to have a focal point.” And those counters are very special. Made from high-tech Fenix NTM, they can easily be repaired if you slip with a knife. The galley is fitted with US appliances, from the undercounter Sub-Zero fridges to the GE induction cooktop. Cheoy Lee (and now CL Yachts) ships equipment from the US to the
yard, so that American owners never have to worry about service or parts. There’s no waiting for overseas pieces to arrive and, as Virtanen says, “West Marine is practically our Cheoy Lee parts warehouse.”
Under way, the CLB72 is a sheer delight. Even in tight spaces, she spins like a ballerina and, with two cockpit docking stations plus the inner and flybridge helms, the skipper has a choice of good views. Though we had a lumpy Gulf Stream, the seaworthy hull and Seakeeper gyro kept the 72 as dry and steady as the rock of Gibraltar.
With optional IPS 1350s of 1,000hp (standard power is a pair of 800hp Volvo Penta IPS1050), we saw 32 knots with the hammers down. Because our boat had the optional Seakeeper gyrostabilizer, the standard twin Kohler gensets had been upgraded to 24kW units with Decision-Maker auto-paralleling controllers that respond to increases in load. With the Volvo Penta interceptor trim system integrated into the all-glass Volvo/Garmin cockpit and joystick controls in the Stidd helm seat armrest, the CLB72 is thoroughly high-tech.
The engine room will make service techs swoon with full headroom and every access point within easy reach. Fuel manifolding? Impeccable. Wiring? Carefully loomed and labeled.
Construction on the CLB72 has to be mentioned, because it sets a high standard for the industry, with no structural wood to rot and no metal tanks to corrode. The superstructure and hull are all fully resin infused using Divinycell foam coring and vinyl ester resins for light weight and blister resistance. And each CLB72 is built to stringent RINA classification, which guarantees a tough and seaworthy yacht.
My takeaway from the CLB72? This is a delightful debut for a new/old builder, with an airy and bright interior, thoughtful design touch, solid construction and strong performance numbers. And with three sold and two under construction, it looks like the market is starting to catch on.