Taking in the profile of the CL Yachts CLX96 flagship at Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, my eyes were overloaded with a sense of new—and yet something familiar.
The familiar starts at the near-plumb and proud bow that has a sea-splitting entry, transitioning lower—gently and linearly—before resolving at the cockpit. This design also allows the yacht to carry a good bit of its 24-foot beam forward, creating more interior space without sacrificing seakindliness. Enhancing the yacht’s clean lines, which were penned by Milan-based designer Jozeph Forakis, is a two-tone white-and-gray hull color that visually slims the profile. Cut-down bulwarks amidships enable sole-to-ceiling ocean views from the salon’s formal dining space. And that’s saying something in a salon that has about 6-foot-11-inch headroom. In fact, the CLX96’s entire superstructure is nearly 360 degrees of glass.
The superstructure and sky lounge are designed in a double-reverse raked fashion. Think of a trapezoid that is upside down. The design is as practical as it is eye-catching. When combined with the yacht’s rugged-looking exterior, there is a subtle homage to the Hong Kong builder’s long history of also constructing bluewater-capable commercial craft. But rest assured, this is a luxury yacht. The practical impact of the double-reverse raked superstructure and sky lounge is a proportional appearance while stretching the yacht’s lines. It also keeps the hot sun out of the interior spaces, thereby reducing stress on the air-conditioning system. This setup also allowed CL Yachts to push the interior volume to the windows forward, optimizing every inch of real estate.
The effect is immediately felt when transiting from the cockpit via the stainless-steel sliding doors into the salon. The doors open, revealing a clear view straight to the foredeck lounge about 80 feet away. The open layout is impressive, helped in part by some innovative structural engineering by Al Horsmon and his company, Horsmon and Associates Marine Consulting. To achieve Forakis’ open-concept design, there are a series of four upside-down-U-shaped carbon-fiber forms that blend into the interior design. These forms help absorb and distribute the stresses of operating on the water and keep the main deck open. There are forms found on the other decks too.
Additional support comes in the form of triangle-shaped outside supports at the after sections of the superstructure. These help with stresses placed fore and aft. As Forakis points out, a triangle is the strongest shape to use in this application. Interestingly, when accessing the flybridge, the teak steps, like the windows, are also reversed, facing aft, as opposed to a traditional forward-facing placement. The design follows the shape of the house, creating continuity from a visual perspective, but it also eases the walk up when the boat is running and the bow is raised.
Supporting the interior reinforcement, the CLX96’s hull is built tough with an infused, cored-fiberglass hull, decks, superstructure, bulkheads and cabin soles. CL Yachts uses biaxial and multiaxial E-glass, and carbon fiber in strategic areas, as well as vinylester resin. The 96-footer displaces about 191,000 pounds.
With the yacht’s stout build, I was curious to see if its twin 1,900 hp Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels would deliver on the performance side. Exiting Port Everglades Inlet, the seas were 2- to 3-footers—not much of a challenge for this vessel, especially when armed with Sleipner Vector Fin stabilizers and a Quick gyrostabilizer, but the conditions did enable our crew of 13 to see the speedy side of the CLX96. At an easy 2,000 rpm cruise at just 68 percent engine load, the CLX96 averaged 19.6 knots while the motors burned about 138 gph. Considering a 10 percent reserve on the yacht’s 4,100-gallon fuel capacity, range at cruise is about 524 nautical miles. At 2,350 rpm and wide-open throttle, the yacht tops out right around 25 knots at a cost of 201 gph, which reduces range to 458 nm. Dial the speed back to 1,500 rpm and 14.4 knots, and fuel burn drops precipitously to 60 gph while range climbs to 886 nm. The CLX96’s teardrop-shaped running surface comes from naval architect Earl Arfaro, who used computational fluid dynamics to help create it. He describes the hull form as having “optimal hydrodynamic properties combined with optimal offshore performance.”
At all speeds, the CLX96 was whisper-quiet at the helm. Everyone could converse in normal tones at about the average 65 dB level. The construction doesn’t just lend itself to a solid ride; it provides a quiet one too.
For all its distinctive exterior style and linebacker-like performance, the CLX96 has an interior that is total luxury. From the salon’s bleached teak-and-holly sole to the Portofino interior option, with satin-finish walnut on everything from the bulkheads to the cabinetry, the feel is modern, upscale and inviting. Owners can also choose the Amalfi interior, which is hickory wood.
The invitation is enhanced by indirect lighting that outlines those carbon-fiber forms on the main deck. There is an L-shaped settee to port that provides the best view of the flip-down 65-inch TV. Forward of the salon is the formal dining space for eight to 10 guests, with the galley counter forward handling overflow with a few stools at the countertop. There is also an island for extra food-prep space, and the galley is outfitted with a microwave, oven, electric cooktop and dishwasher from Bosch. The 42-inch standing fridge and freezer and 24-inch freezer drawer are from Sub-Zero. A trash compactor and garbage disposal round out the galley amenities. There are marble countertops and a backsplash, as well as a Fenix NTM-covered galley island and cabinets. Fenix NTM is a nanotech material that can be repaired with a damp towel and a hot iron if it gets scratched or damaged.
One of my favorite spots is forward of the galley: the Champagne lounge. Aft-facing seating is centered around a narrow table with a U-line Champagne chiller in the middle. Underneath are pull-out drawers for the flutes. The cozy space is further defined by a teak headliner. Forakis managed to keep the floor plan open but give each area its own identity through subtleties like the headliner or lighting. There’s the conversation space, formal eating area, family breakfast nook and after-dinner cocktail space.
From the Champagne lounge, a staircase leads to a four-stateroom accommodations layout, including the full-beam master forward with a king berth and skylight with electric blinds for privacy. Light also comes into the space via hullside windows, which offer ocean views at the settee and vanity to starboard, and from what Forakis calls the “whiskey chair” to port. There is also a walk-in closet, a 65-inch recessed TV and cabinet stowage in every available dead space. There are his-and-hers heads with smart glass that turns opaque by flipping a switch. In the middle is a stall shower, also with smart glass and a teak bench. The shower has sintered stone bulkheads and sole. The head also has Corian countertops. There is a full-beam VIP stateroom amidships, which could double as a second master. It’s set up with a queen berth, flanked by hullside windows, a vanity, a settee, a virtual skylight providing a sky scene over the berth, a recessed 55-inch TV and an en suite head. Between the master and VIP are two mirrored guest staterooms, both en suite and with twin berths that can slide together for couples. There is a GE washer and dryer in the passageway between the master and guest staterooms. There are two crew cabins for up to four people and a crew mess adjacent to the engine room. There is another washer and dryer there as well.
The dream for the CLX96 started during a conversation between Forakis and the shipyard about six years ago, and the ultimate goal was to create a yacht that hasn’t been seen before—one that is, at its core, luxurious but also has the ease of livability, is multipurpose, and is backed by a build made to cross open water. After my day at sea aboard the CL Yachts CLX96, I would say it’s a dream realized.
The Fun Zone
The CLX96’s 1,763-pound-capacity Z-lift platform is standard. With the push of a button, it lifts and extends out, creating a stairway to the sea. Use it as a water-toy launching platform, or use it to increase the beach club’s overall square footage for sea-level lounging on the hook. Teak deck inserts are stowed in the engine room and fill in the gaps when the platform is in the open position.
Piazza del Sole
The foredeck lounge on the CLX96 is arranged for alfresco fun. There are flanking lounges with triangle-shaped drop-down tables. The seating can be raised to create backrests for lunch. Add filler cushions to increase sunbathing space, or add carbon-fiber poles and sunshades. Abaft is a curved bench seat and table in front of the house for several more guests. An owner could easily have a dozen people up there for sundowners on the hook. And when the sun sets, pop up the courtesy lights to keep the evening going.
During our 40-or-so-minute trip down Fort Lauderdale’s New River to open water, the CLX96 showed itself to be quite maneuverable. In addition to the five-blade propellers and SeaStar electrohydraulic power steering, the yacht is equipped with a standard Side-Power hydraulic bow thruster and optional hydraulic stern thruster.
The Sky Life
All the CLX96’s alfresco zones can be opened, expanded and the like, and the sky lounge follows suit. On the practical side, there is the Garmin-equipped helm area on centerline, with three 22-inch multifunction displays, Mathers single-lever controls, twin Stidd helm seats and more. Abaft the helm is a settee to port, 50-inch pop-up TV, fridge and backlit bottle stowage. The sky lounge’s side windows lower for cross breezes, and the aft window connects guests inside to the aft deck for an indoor-outdoor vibe. The aft deck has three bar stools, a settee to port, L-shaped dining with a teak table to starboard, a wet bar, a grill and chaise lounges.
Behind the Design
The practical impact of the double-reverse raked superstructure is a proportional appearance while stretching the yacht’s lines. It also keeps the hot sun out of the interior spaces, thereby reducing stress on the air-conditioning system.
When it comes to dropping the hook, the CLX96 is set up for staying tight. The foredeck has two Maxwell VWC 4000 hydraulic windlasses paired to two 176-pound, high-holding-power anchors secured with 250 feet of half-inch high-test galvanized chain.
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