Cheoy Lee 76' Alpha Flybridge - An Express With A View!
When one of the world's most established yards enters a completely new market segment,
one that is dominated by well-known names, it answers questions that are sometimes overlooked.
All too often, express style boats "move you". It is this emotion that drives sales, but what
happens after the sale is equally, if not more important. Enter: Cheoy Lee!
The economic stormy waters of recent years have seen many builders flounder, while others have failed. While your new boat may float, the builder may be taking on water. If the builder sinks, so does your service and support. Ultimately, the value of your boat will sink as well. Being a 140 year-old, privately owned company, run by the same family with a diversified manufacturing base that includes ferries, tugboats, sailboats, trawlers and motoryachts, the recent economic storm was just a blip on the radar for Cheoy Lee. While less diversified yacht builders were battening down hatches and seeking divine intervention, Cheoy Lee's commercial success continued to flourish and the company is stronger than ever.
So why the foray into the express and/or flybridge market? It would be easy to say "financial strength and stability". That alone should ensure the next express yacht sales contract in this market. But that in itself may not be enough to compel the emotionally charged express buyer. To enter a competitive market requires so much more... design, features, execution, ergonomics, fit, finish, price & panache! And oh boy, did they nail it!
If you follow YachtForums, you know we are very selective about the reviews we publish. A boat not only needs to standout in the market, but the people behind the organization need to be standup folks too. Boats are more than a marriage of materials, they are a relationship. And that relationship begins with the people that build the boat. Cheoy Lee Shipyards is owned by several brothers. Heading up the yacht division is one of the brothers, B.Y Lo, an Ivy-league educated businessman who lives in Lauderdale, keeping a finger on the pulse of the US market. Recognizing the strength of the express style market in both the US and the Med, coupled with an overall weakness and to some degree, a certain discontent and disconnect that buyers have experienced with other brands, he enlisted critically acclaimed Michael Peters (MPYD) to design an express series that would become the Cheoy Lee "Alpha".
Michael Peters is almost solely responsible for the resurrection of Chris Craft with their retro-runabout line, not to mention one-off wonders like Van Dam Woodcraft's "Alpha-Z". Peters is well-known in offshore go-fast circles, but his impact in yacht design is garnering checkered flags too. His work runs the spectrum from center consoles to sportfish; production boats to custom. The Alpha Series by Cheoy Lee now tops a long list of boats designed by Peters. The subject of this review, Peters put a top on the original Alpha Express and instantly created a hit.
If you're an old salt like me, when you think Cheoy Lee, visions of Tom Fexas come to mind: a 1980's euro-look. Fast forward to post-2010, sweeping curves have given way to cutting edge contours that take full advantage of 5-axis milling machines for cutting foam and infusion processes to ensure compound corners are resin-saturated and void-free. Cheoy Lee knows a thing or three about fiberglass as one of the founding pioneers of the material and its applications in the 1960's. Fast-forward 50 years, Cheoy Lee is now ISO 9001 certified and builds to class, including Lloyds, ABS, Bureau Veritas, DNV, and the Hong Kong Marine Department. In addition, the company complies with recommendations of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).
Taking a "wood and water don't mix" approach with the Alpha series, the entire construction process is resin-infused, cored fiberglass. There is no wood, therefore no wood-rot. Taking a page from boat racing 101, the fuel tanks are also fiberglass, molded into the hull, creating a double bottom that adds structural rigidity. Even the baffles in the tank add support. To minimize vibration, the interior is built on a framework isolated from the hull. This eliminates the transference of twisting forces into the interior compartments; a common problem with high speed cruisers. On the subject of twisting forces, we rarely feature swimsuit models in YF's reviews. We don't want to distract you from our racy editorial! That said, I needed a shot of the lounge pad that covered the swimming pool so Mel Wolf - CL's marketing maharishi - delivered. You may not recognize her from the aft shot, but this is Danielle Attwood, who worked with the late Madeline Andrews. See this thread... Madeline Andrews
Engineered by Gurit-USA, the hull bottom is cored with high density 80 kgm, 3-linear foam. This process is used for the topsides, superstructure, decks and bulkheads. Vinyl-ester resin is throughout with an epoxy barrier on the hull bottom. Completely coated with Alexseal's paint system, the Alpha has many wax-free, shining years ahead of her; a lesson that some cost-minded boat builders failed to recognize in years past. Now, their pre-loved boats litter the waterway with powdered skin, making them appear poorly built. Hence, their sales are sluggish and values plummeted, leaving owners with a chalky taste and potential buyers with dull impressions. Short sightedness often leads to early demise!
Convenience features are big selling points with boats, but some features are simply frivolous; a perk that entices a sale. Often, it's just something else that will break. The extendable aft awning isn't one of them. This should be required equipment on every express or flybridge boat. With the Alpha 76' Fly, this is just the beginning of a long list of useful features that include a hydraulic tender garage with a William's launch and recovery system, a power activated swim ladder, a swimming pool with sunlounge cover, Maxwell auto-cleats to prevent stubbed toes, electrochromic tempered Smart-Glass windows for privacy and climate control, pantographic bulwarks for easy boarding, maintenance-free PVC decking and much more.
Turning to the interior and entering through the aft deck's stainless steel framed, tempered-glass sliding doors, Luiz De Basto's interior design brilliance shines with a crisp, clean execution of today's most sought after materials. Exotic woods like Wenge, along with glass and chrome all blend into a contemporary, yet minimalistic marriage of mixed elements. However the most stunning interior appointment is the exterior view. Unlike many flybridge boats, the Alpha 76' offers nearly 360 points of panoramic interest.
Bucking the galley forward, increased salon traffic trend, the GAs called for the gathering place of every home party to be part of the hot spot of every boat party: the aft deck. Set to port, the galley serves double-duty - a wetbar for warm-ups and a kitchen that keeps the chef in the family connected. At his/her disposal is a Miele electric cook-top, plus Miele stainless steel microwave/convection oven with ventilation hood, Miele stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator/freezer with ice dispenser, Miele stainless steel dishwasher and more: Garbage compactor, Corian sink and countertop with faucet, rubbish bin, counter-top soap dispenser, storage drawers/cabinets. And above: LED overhead lights with dimmer control, LED under-cabinet lights. Plus, a wood-planked floor, fire blanket, smoke detector, and four AC duplex outlets. Whew!
Up forward and raised, the Alpha 76's dining table doubles as a conference journal with topmost views all around. Notice the difference between the tint on the side windows and the front windows? Cheoy Lee opted for state-of-the-electronic-art curtains: Electrochromic Smart Glass by Diamond Sea Glaze. These revolutionary panes completely control the rays coming it, as well as the eyes peering in. The level of tint can be dialed up or down with the press of a button. It's extremely effective!
Command Central could easily be mistaken for a computer workstation, for not the wheel at dead center. Following the salon's minimalist theme, Cheoy Lee has done a remarkable job of concealing ancillary helm equipment with an FAA approved glass-cockpit approach. Two Furuno Navnet 19” navigation screens deliver complete ship status. About the only relic of the past is a wheel, throttles, joystick, compass and rudder indicator. Otherwise everything else is hidden away in compartments, such as the sub-panel keyboard to left and communications equipment in a glove box to the right. Ergonomics are subjective based on body type and preference, but for me, this was THE most comfortable helm and seat I've ever occupied.
Because the galley/wetbar is located aft in the salon, the upstairs dayhead got canned, relegated to outhouse duties one flight below. It's readily accessible, but should be entertaining for the captain as women pass by conjuring up their many excuses for multiple visits.
The master stateroom follows DeBasto's formula with elegance and simplicity. Located midship, the most desired position for restful sleep, it is full beam and spacious. Actually, it's quite large for a 76' master boasting a full-size walk in closet that also has a watertight escape door to the crew quarters. A wonderfully tasteful arrangement, the design is focused on stylish colors, fabrics and attractive embellishments; plus, a 40” pop-up television aft of the sofa.
The master bath also follows a formulaic design which fits in precisely with the corporate theme; that is, highly polished dark teak/mahogany wood, offset by the austere, stark white wall treatment. It is finished off with a marble vanity top with mirror, marble sink, LED ceiling lights plus valance lights and floor lights. Smashing good taste!
The VIP stateroom features a custom Queen island berth with storage drawers beneath. Flanking night stands, reading lights, upholstered headboard and a 26” wall mounted TV-plus audio system finish off this cozy escape.
The VIP guest head is a close facsimile of the master’s, following in most colors and fabrics, yet perhaps slightly less spacious. This marble lined guest shower features footsteps and a pedestal for the ladies.
The Guest V-Berth takes on a different persona, but remains harmonistic with DeBasto's vision. It offers pedestal stowage, two opening ports, reading lights and a 26” wall mounted TV-audio system, although a good rainy night will play a song of its own on the forepeak.
Cheoy Lee's Alpha 76' Flybridge emphasizes the extraordinary care her builders and designers took to match elegance with engineering and practicality with style. There are thousands of minute details in every build. Getting them right borders the impossible, but when a builder comes remotely close, we stand up and take notice.
By YachtForums Publisher; Carl Camper
For a closer look at the Alpha 76's DETAILS, click here.