Alpha 76 Express
Jan 31, 2012
CHEOY LEE’S MOVE INTO THE EXPRESS CRUISER MARKET CATERS TO THE OWNER LOOKING FOR THE UNENCUMBERED YACHTING EXPERIENCE.
When a well-established yacht builder ventures into new model territory (and into an already crowded market at that), inquiring minds want to know why. Case in point: Cheoy Lee’s new Alpha 76 Express, which debuted in late October at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Why would a successful motor yacht and expedition yacht builder bring an express—the first of a series actually—to market?
Looking over his shoulder and out the window of Cheoy Lee’s Fort Lauderdale sales office at the Alpha 76 and a marginally larger Cheoy Lee Bravo Series motor yacht that was within a few hundred thousand dollars of the same price, it was undeniable that one of the yachts seemed much less intimidating to an owner-operator. Eyeing the sleek lines of the 76, I could imagine myself casting off the lines and heading down river alone or nearly so. Something about the 84-footer made me realize that it was a boat that needed crew. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you; who among us hasn’t had an experience where we wanted to hand the wheel and the responsibility to someone else and just enjoy the scenery? Still, I was getting B.Y.’s point: horses for courses. Without an express cruiser, Cheoy Lee was out of that race.
Stepping into an established market, Cheoy Lee sought to gain advantage by selecting key players for naval architecture, design and engineering. For aggressive styling and a fast hull, the builder chose Michael Peters Yacht Design, a firm whose portfolio includes flat-out racing boats as well as yachts. For a modern look and exceptional space planning, it turned to Luiz De Basto, a Brazilian designer now living in Miami who has designed express cruisers and motor yachts. As far as the construction engineering, while Cheoy Lee has 140 years of experience in boat building, including a generation in fiberglass, the weights and balances of a fast express cruiser with a mandated top speed in excess of 35 knots was a new experience. Rather than re-invent the wheel, it partnered with Gurit/High Modulus, a specialist in high-tech composite construction engineering for boats with stringent weight budgets including competitive sailing yachts. “To have a chance, we must be very good,” says Lo.
Because Cheoy Lee was not considering one boat but an entire sport series, the object was to create a yacht that would stand out in the global marketplace, not only in looks but also in function and technology.
“Express boats have a history of not being very service-friendly,” explains Lo. “We were very conscious of this in design and found innovative and suitable solutions.” Indeed, the engine room is quite serviceable— part of that is because of clever placement of valves, filters and machinery and part because the yacht’s beam at 19 feet, eight inches is about 18 inches wider than similar-length boats in this class. The extra beam also aids stability and creates a spacious master suite, but at the same time it puts a higher premium on slippery hull design, interceptor-type trim tabs and weight control to meet the speed quota.
Like all fiberglass Cheoy Lee boats, the hull is cored, resin infused and vacuum bagged. The builder puts a premium on faring the hull and finishing the boats with Awlgrip paint rather than gel coat.
“The only way to provide the precision needed to create these complex shapes and the smooth exterior finish is through the use of our two in-house, five-axis CNC routers,” says Marty Isenberg of Cheoy Lee North America. The stylish hull – molded in one piece – reflects some of that curvaceous-ness in the faux upper chine styling along at high speeds.
The centerline helm and its flanking guest seats is a unique feature and on our sea trial, it created a natural gathering point as we checked performance data and enjoyed the views and exchanged industry chit-chat. Open to the galley and dinette below, the atrium-style layout totally eliminates isolation for anyone assembling a meal or enjoying a snack.
“I was really able to explore the atrium concept to the fullest, an idea I have been pursuing since 1998,” says De Basto. “By placing the helm on centerline and the stairway to starboard, we gained both the opportunity to use the underside of the helm station as the entrance to the master suite and increase the sense of space below and a connection between levels.”
De Basto integrated the exterior lines and the sliding sunroof with the salon overhead and the mullions to converge in a centerline vanishing point. These forward mullions also eliminate the need for large corner pillars to support the superstructure, creating a true 360-degree view from anywhere on the main deck.
The expansive views extend to the lower deck. “The exterior design offered very large windows in the owner’s stateroom, and I wanted to take advantage of leaving them completely open on both sides,” says De Basto. “On both decks, I wanted to celebrate the shape of the windows; no curtain would really work. On another boat I had done, the solution was to use privacy glass to completely avoid the use of curtains. On this project, Cheoy Lee was already exploring the use of new glass that is both dimmable and clear or opaque. With the Alpha 76 we can offer full control of sunlight and privacy without curtains.”
Indeed, the windows in the superstructure and stateroom feature the newest generation of the so-called “smart glass.” Technology developed by the U.S. firm Research Frontiers and licensed to Canadian manufacturer Diamond Sea Glaze allows the glass to transition to a darker color to keep out heat, light and UV rays. Unlike passive photo-reactive glass,SPD Smart Glass uses an electrical current to precisely control the amount of daylight entering the interior and can also switch to opaque for privacy.
The streamlined theme continues through the decor with high-gloss cabinetry without visible hardware and chic cabin doors, nightstands and cabinets clad in stitched leather like high-end luggage.
Lo says that the Alpha 76 will be followed next year with a flybridge version and in two years by an 86-foot version and then an 86 flybridge. “We believe this is a market we should be in and we are heavily invested in it. The designs are complete and construction is beginning.”