Legendary yacht designer Philippe Briand explains how you can combine sleek, minimalist contemporary lines with a massive interior volume.
A boat starts with a design brief, so what was the brief for the new CNB 66? ‘Put simply,’ explains her naval architect Philippe Briand, ‘I was asked to design the best semicustom 60ft production boat in the world’. But that wasn’t all. CNB’s stunningly sleek 66ft performance cruiser was to be the biggest yacht that could be easily be handled by a couple or family without the need for extra crew. It also had to be a capable, comfortable blue water cruiser that offers a good lifestyle for her owners and safe but exciting to sail. As for its appearance, the silhouette of the design was to be kept as clean as possible. Finally, Philippe has his own personal personal brief: ‘I’m a sailor, a boat has to look elegant’.
Construction Navale Bordeaux (CNB) was founded more than 30 years ago in 1987, based in a historic shipyard on the “right bank” of the Garonne River, south of the rolling vine-clad hills of the region’s wineries. The shipyard has produced many notable yachts. Its first, the 92ft Frers aluminium cutter Mari-Cha II, was an instant classic while the largest was the 117ft Hamilton II commissioned for Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. For 20 years, if you wanted CNB quality, a one-off fully custom aluminium yacht was the only option. Then, about a decade or so ago, CNB noticed that its clients’ needs were changing so it evolved with them.
Not all clients wanted to wait three years for a new boat to be customdesigned and built for them. While custom one-off yachts are still available, a semi-custom GRP yacht offers a shorter delivery time at less cost. Price and speed of delivery aren’t the only benefits. The design, build and ancillaries are already well-proven so there is also greater reliability – especially in the first year after delivery, which is a rite of passage that all owners of new fullcustom yachts have to experience.
Rather than fabricated aluminium, CNB’s usual material of construction, the CNB66 and CNB76 both have strong, lightweight, vacuum-infused GRP hulls built in-house by CNB. No part of the build is outsourced. CNB has its own design department and the hulls, decks, carpentry and stainless steel work are all produced in-house. This enables CNB to control and maintain the quality one expects from a shipyard that was born creating superyachts.
The hull are moulded in the usual way but left free from bulkheads. The interior is made outside of the hull in five accommodation “modules”. Building outside enables access from all directions when constructing the module, making the process more efficient and enabling a higher standard of build quality and finish. All the CNB carpenters need is close to hand and they are not competing with their colleagues for construction space in the confines of a hull. Conduits, cables and pipework are added to the bare hull, as is the ducting for the air conditioning system. Once the modules are completed they are craned into exact position, where they are bonded and laminated in place. With all five modules in place the deck is bonded and laminated to the hull to make a strong and stiff boat.
CNB’s 66 and 76 are both built using this method and while the yard only offers these two models, there is wide variety in the ways both yachts can be laid out for their owners and adapted to fit the purpose they have in mind for the boat. The CNB 76 was launched in 2013 and aimed at owners who want a stylish long-distance cruiser with the option to race. It was conceived to be managed and sailed by a professional crew. In contrast, the CNB 66 is focused on the ownerskipper. Typical CNB 66 owners will sail as a couple or with their family and enjoy the privacy and freedom of sailing without a paid crew. So while both yachts share the same design ethos they are designed to be used in different ways.
When designing the CNB 66, Briand spoke to owners of similar sized yachts to find out how they used their boats – asking them where they are on board and what they are doing every hour of the day. Whether it was going for a refreshing morning swim before taking a shower and sitting with the family having breakfast, what feeling they wanted from the sailing, even down to their favourite spot on the boat for an evening aperitif after taking the tender ashore. Philippe then set about tailoring every part of the boat accordingly,to give its owners the best experience. ‘The challenge was to deliver a good boat at sea and one that also offers space and luxury’, he says. ‘While it should be able to cruise offshore or compete in race series there is no reason why it shouldn’t also be a place to relax.’
With all of these factors in mind, the saloon is a very large and versatile space offering seating on both sides of the wide, bright central area. The seating units on the starboard side can be converted from U-shaped settees to a large day bed or a more intimate snug area in the evening. The saloon table, to port, can convert from a low coffee table to a larger electrically-raised dining table. Extra seating inboard is made with the infill benches from the starboard snug. A raised saloon floor gives panoramic views out when you stand up or move around, which ensures that those on board get a real sense of place whether they happen to be cruising the Baltic or the Bahamas.
Headroom in the L-shaped galley comes from the long cockpit seating overhead. This, along with the generous portlights and hatches overhead, makes the galley bright and well-ventilated. The stylish and practical galley furniture has an abundance of stowage.
Each of the three guest cabins on board benefit from generous berth sizes and offer views out of large through-hull windows. All cabins are served by their own en-suite bathroom and the two double cabins also have a separate shower compartment in the bathroom. There is more than enough interior volume in the hull to ensure that none of these cabins are compromised in space, style or comfort.
Up forward is the owner’s suite. The double berth is offset to port for privacy – in bed you remain unseen from the rest of the living space even when the door is open. Outboard of the berth is a desk while forward is a large en suite bathroom with a separate shower compartment.
Stowage on board, in all cabins and throughout the boat, is all that’s expected of a long-distance cruiser.
But it’s not just down below that the 66 excels. On deck too the boat has been tailored to the needs of the owner-skipper. Its lines are clean and sleek; the coachroof is raised just enough to give a view from the saloon while keeping her silhouette sharp and purposeful. The window line tapers as it sweeps aft, cleverly distracting the eye from what little height the coachroof needs. A 3.25m-long tender garage, which can comfortably accommodate a Williams jet RIB or similar, is hidden behind the fold-down transom.
A fixed bowsprit juts forward from the plumb bow, giving an attachment for code zero or asymmetric sails and housing the anchor and bow roller. The cutter rig with hydraulic furling headsails makes sail-handling more manageable for a small crew and the addition of hydraulic in-boom furling completes a sail plan that is both practical and controllable at the push of a button. As should be expected on a long-distance cruiser all of the sail-trimming and handling systems have manual back-up.
The mainsail furling is operated at the mast. In the interests of safety, all other control lines are led aft to the helm. The sail-trimming area is just forward of the twin carbon-fibre spoked, laminated teak wheels and aft of the large, sociable cockpit seating area. The mainsheet is controlled by a dedicated winch set amidships on a raised plinth and can be trimmed either by foot controls at the winch or with buttons on the command station forward of each wheel. Likewise, the sheet winches for both headsails and any offwind sails are controlled either at the winch or from the helm.
It’s perhaps the promise of easy handling (and lots more living space) that has enticed five of the first seven owners to upgrade from yachts in the Beneteau Sense range to the CNB 66. Another obvious attraction is the better quality of build and of course there’s the option for the owners to customise and make the boat their own in a way that isn’t possible with a standard production yacht.
Many will be drawn by the 66’s sleek silhouette and the spacious, bright living area. If you’re used to sailing as a family – whether as parents with your children, or as grandparents – stepping up to a larger boat needn’t be a challenge but the space, comfort and luxury that comes with the extra length of a yacht like the CNB 66 is definitely a big step up.
While advanced sail handling systems (like those in use on the 66) make it possible for a couple to handle almost any size of yacht, the physical practicalities of sailing – the handling of sails, fenders, warps and of course cleaning – have led CNB to the 66ft size limit. Systems like bow and stern thrusters make managing a yacht of this size easier in marinas and harbours. Sailing the CNB 66 shouldn’t be hard work either; a twohanded crew can easily ready the boat for mooring or prepare a 185m2 furling code zero to hoist from the cavernous forward deck locker.
With all this this luxury and the design focus on improving the owner’s life on board, it might be easy to forget that the CNB 66 is designed to be as rewarding under sail as it is in harbour. ‘I could not design a boat that isn’t exciting to sail’ explains Briand – and he hasn’t. The hull is easily driven and while it’s wide enough to allow massive accommodation down below, that hasn’t compromised the hull shape.
But one question remains. Does Philippe think he has fulfilled the brief to design the best 60ft semiproduction boat in the world? He pauses for a second. ‘I think I have.’