Cheoy Lee shifts gears and picks up the pace with its new Alpha 87.
“Does anyone have Dramamine?”
Those four words don’t exactly put minds at ease when uttered by the yacht dealer before a sea trial, but the ensuing awkward pause soon gave way to a verbal course adjustment.
“It’s not for me. It’s for Joe. He’s on the [brokerage boat that shall remain unnamed]. It doesn’t ride like this one.”
Two hours later, I’d be hard-pressed to name many yachts that do. From the dock, the new Cheoy Lee Alpha 87 is sleek and sexy—adjectives not commonly attributed to a brand that’s more renowned in yachting circles for its steady motoryachts.
Cheoy Lee may be a relatively young gun in the express sport cruiser ring, but it’s a champ when it comes to building quality yachts across a broad spectrum. And ever since the venerable manufacturer tapped the expertise of powerboat racing veteran Gene Weeks, it’s been game on.
Weeks, who helped shape brands like Donzi and Statement, moved to Doumen, China, for two years to develop Cheoy Lee’s Alpha series. The result was a new genre of luxury performance yachts designed for power chasers who still crave Euro-style salons, modern galleys and swanky staterooms. The first offering was an award-winning 76-foot model that looked and behaved nothing like her older relatives and sent shockwaves capped by question marks and exclamation points across a media landscape hungry for something new. The second offering is this striking 87-footer, and I can personally attest that, from the helm, she’s all muscle.
On the vast majority of flybridge sport yachts, my preferred helm is the one up top in the fresh air, so on those yachts I would have naturally been disheartened when the rain showers arrived. Not on this boat, whose lower driving station is a thing of beauty—a dramatic pièce de résistance reminiscent of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon in “Star Wars.” I eagerly snagged one of the three plush seats at the helm.
Driving the 87 is invigorating. She’s powerful but well-mannered, although the electric steering may take some getting used to for those accustomed to hydraulic. It’s responsive, and learning not to over-adjust is key, but she seemed to settle on course nicely with little correction despite a meddling swell behind us—a testament to the Michael Peters Yacht Design-blessed marriage of power and architecture below the waterline.
Ripping at 32 knots through some offshore chop, I quickly recognized two distinct performance characteristics of this boat: She’s very quiet, and there’s little to no vibration. Skipping across wave crests, I caught myself bracing for shudders that never came, a comfort factor Weeks attributes to the Alpha series’ hull and deck lamination techniques.
“The consideration with a fast boat,” says Weeks, “is how energy dissipates through the hull at high speed. Many builders drop 52-inch rolls of glass fabric in sections from the gunwale to the keel with a typical 8-inch overlap. With the conventional method, it dissipates gradually through each row of fibers and distributes energy into the boat.
“We ran our fabrics in a continuous roll from stem to stern. It’s more time consuming, but now when we take an impact, the energy travels uninterrupted down the hull and flows out the stern. We also lay rubber spacers every 24 inches along the top of the stringers and bed the sole in 10 millimeters of 3M Marine 5200 sealant. It isolates the soles from any resonant vibration off the water and reduces machinery vibration.”
Above the floorboards, the living is easy. Her Luiz de Basto-designed interior is modern and elegant. Large windows plus a retractable roof in the salon flood the living areas with natural light. Four staterooms with en suite heads and showers are down mirrored sets of striking curved stairways from the salon that frame the helm area beautifully. The aft, full-beam master has a king-size bed, walk-in closet and head with shower and his-and-her sinks. The queen VIP stateroom, portside queen guest cabin and starboard twin cabin are spacious for a yacht this size.
Honeycomb-cored cabinetry and wall panels reduce her weight by about 20,000 pounds, allowing the machinery to be spread throughout the boat to achieve a perfect center of gravity and planing at speeds as low as 16 knots, not to mention the lighter weight of doors putting less strain on hinges and latches. The flybridge offers uninterrupted views with a sizable lounge and forward settee. Twin stairs lead to the swim platform and garage that houses a 12-foot tender, with an optional remote-controlled, hydraulic launching system. Above the garage is an optional hot tub, which doubles as a sunpad when not in use.
Scroll back through Cheoy Lee Shipyards’ 144-year history and you’ll find a distinguished lineage of designers—Sparkman & Stephens, Holland, Hargrave, Fexas, Rhodes and the list goes on—whose initials are cemented in the brand’s reputation for contemporary design and sturdy construction across a wide range of yachts. What you won’t find until recently is a spicy express sport cruiser bearing the Cheoy Lee name. For that, I suggest you get to a boat show—where you’ll likely encounter a bevy of folks craning their necks to see the Alpha 87 before following the herd to the better-known sport cruiser displays. They’re making a big mistake.
LOA: 87ft. 1in. (26.5m)
Beam: 21ft. 7in. (6.6m)
Draft: 5ft. 5in. (1.7m)
Displacement (full load):
2 x 1,900-hp Caterpillar C32
32 knots/24 knots
Fuel: 1,800 gal. (6,900L)
Water: 330 gal. (1,250L)
For more information: 954 527 0999, cheoyleena.com
See it at The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Face Dock 4,4A-C