CL Yachts, the yacht division of Hong Kong’s legendary shipbuilder Cheoy Lee, will showcase all new yacht launches in Hong Kong first, as part of a broad plan to develop its appeal in Asia.
In an interview with Asia-Pacific Boating, CL Yachts’ Deputy Director Hans Lo, the fifth generation to work at the family-owned company, reaffirms that Hong Kong is Cheoy Lee’s home and that the city will be one of three major markets that CL Yachts will focus on in future, as well as the US and Australia.
“We realise the importance of debuting everything in Asia, and then we’ll take it to the US to debut it there. We want the exposure on both sides of the world,” says Lo. “We’re looking to create a market in Asia; as a Hong Kong-based company, if there’s anywhere in Asia we should be selling a yacht, it should be here, in our hometown.”
A recent publicity push by CL Yachts is resulting in more leads and contacts in Asia, according to Lo. The yard’s latest yacht, the 27-metre CLB 88, will be showcased in Hong Kong later this summer, before being sent to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, scheduled for October 28 to November 1.
Cheoy Lee’s yachting business began in the 1960s, building all-teak sailboats, principally for the US market. Lo says that, in those days, buyers were a much wider range of people, giving Cheoy Lee widespread appeal and name recognition. In 1977, Cheoy Lee built the 40-metre motorsailer Shango II, then the world’s largest fibreglass yacht. At one time, Lo says Cheoy Lee held the exhibition space at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that is now held by Ferretti Group.
CL Yachts is, in part, an effort to reclaim the recognition of those earlier years, with a new range of yachts that have “crossover” appeal.
“We really looked at ourselves and said ‘we need a new image’, so we looked into rebranding and redesigning our product line. That was three years ago, when we started seriously looking into it. Only now are we seeing the fruit of our labours,” adds Lo.
CL Yachts turned to Jozeph Forakis, a designer who had previously worked in consumer tech product design. Lo said Cheoy Lee wanted outside thinking to develop its new series. “We were looking to shake things up, so we needed someone who was an outsider, someone who could look at the industry from the outside with fresh eyes.”
Lo reckons that CL Yachts built in China to RINA certification will be a winner among yacht buyers wanting a quality product. “We’re doing things like finite element analysis, which you’d usually only apply to racing yachts or regatta boats.”
CL Yachts still shares its production facilities with Cheoy Lee, which continues to build an enormous number of commercial vessels, a factor that has kept the company financially sound, even through financial crises. That means the company can expand as needed, and Lo says Cheoy Lee was looking at acquiring more land for its shipyard in Doumen, China.
Lo says that fibreglass production is kept separate from steel and aluminium construction, though Cheoy Lee does offer yachts in steel and aluminium, a rare combination in a yacht builder. Larger custom builds, such as the 45-metre expedition yachts Marco Polo and Mazu, are still under the Cheoy Lee name.
“We are practical people; we do things as the need arises. If it does turn out that we gain such traction in Asia that we need to build 10 to 20 yachts per year, we’ll increase our facilities to match,” Lo says. “In terms of expansion, we’re ready to do it any time we need to.”
Lo says CL Yachts is about to launch or reveal several new models, most notable among them is the CLX96, designed by Forakis. For this new 96, Lo says the company began looking at future trends in 2017, trying to anticipate what would be a yacht in high demand in 2020 and 2021. They decided on a yacht that blends the appeal of a motoryacht with the range characteristics of an expedition boat.
CL Yachts has been teasing readers about the new CLX96 since March. Details have been very limited so far, but Hong Kong yacht buyers may be the first to see the yacht after it hits the water.