For Hans Lo, CL Yachts’ Deputy Director, innovation makes sailing through life worthwhile
The Lai Chi Kok docks in West Kowloon, sheltered by the protrusion of land that is Stonecutters Island, is not a popular destination for most locals. At the very end of a three-minute walk through a labyrinth of rebars, tower cranes, a manually built wooden bridge and all things industrial, sits a luxury yacht, visible enough through the help of orange and white flags. This is where Hans Lo has chosen to meet.
“Yachting is a luxury business, but behind its glamour lies a lot of hard and physical work. Come right in,” says the yacht builder as he welcomes our team aboard.
As a fifth-generation member of the Lo family, who began their craft in Shanghai in the late 19th century, then moved Cheoy Lee Shipyards to Hong Kong in 1936, Hans shares in the legacy of helming the oldest shipbuilders in Hong Kong. The Los were also among the forerunners of fibreglass yacht construction, collaborating with Lloyd’s Register to create regulations for GRP (glass-reinforced plastic) boat construction back in the 1960s, and building the then-largest fibreglass yacht, the 130-foot Shango II, in 1975.
Cheoy Lee relocated its shipbuilding facility from Penny’s Bay to Zhuhai, China in 1996, and today is one of the producers of commercial vessels, considered the best in the world.
A Queen’s University Civil Engineering alumnus, Hong Kong-born, Canadian-educated Lo confesses to starting at the bottom in the family shipyard – laying up fibreglass and helping with vacuum infusion on a few projects before moving on to other aspects of yacht building. He quickly grasped the process of a build, and over time took on a broader role; he became Deputy Director of CL Yachts – the pleasure-craft arm of the parent company – in 2019.
Lo spent a large portion of his youth at the Cheoy Lee facility, returning during summer vacations after his family settled in Vancouver when he was seven years old. “Growing up, my family and I would go to bai san by boat, and as a kid, I thought that was just normal for everybody,” he says. “It was only later on that I realised the reason we were doing this is because our family builds ships. It’s very much a part of our life.”
True to his great-great-grandfather’s visionary roots, Lo is not standing still; he is thinking grand-scale for CL Yachts. “In 10 years, I hope we’ve established ourselves in Hong Kong and Australia – our biggest targets right now in terms of yacht sales,” he says.
His 10-year plan has already commenced. At their production facility, they are currently developing an innovative commercial project involving carbon fibre and hybrid technology for a more sustainable approach to the yacht industry – a move towards a greener carbon footprint.
Stance and Ballast
Now 40, the millennial engineer has grey hairs perfectly sprinkled through both sides of his crew cut; and he embraces them, saying: “Age is just a number and we should be proud of it. As we age, we collect learnings and these make us a better version of ourselves. I’d like to believe that I am in my prime working potential.”
As we head out to sea for the photo shoot, he proudly shows us around their flagship yacht CLB65, hailing its development as CL Yachts’ most significant career accomplishment to date. A striking departure from traditional motor yachts, the 19.7-metre craft has received prizes internationally for its creativity, adaptability and versatility. “What makes this project more special is that the interior design was conceptualised by my wife,” he notes.
The balancing of work and family time has always been smooth sailing for Lo, who uses the fact that he is part of a family business to his advantage. For him, family and work can be the same thing. However, he is changing things up a little to be a better dad and husband than the generation before him. Showing us a recent photo of himself, his wife and their two-year-old, he shares that his father was like an astronaut during his formative years.
“Being a father was tough in my dad’s generation. He needed to travel back and forth to Canada, and it made seeing us difficult. I want to be around for my son as much as I can. Being present is important in a young’s child life,” he reiterates.
Just as we are talking about alternative plans in life, Lo interrupts himself mid-sentence to rush to his yacht engineer, who has accidentally slipped down the stairs. As we make haste back to land, he says that every member of his team plays a crucial role in making the yacht-building business work. And so, to plan B we go – a two-hour photoshoot at the headquarters of CL Yachts where he discusses the nature of pleasure-boating in between outfit changes; with a laugh, he describes one ensemble as a boyband look.
Luxury yachting is, by definition, extreme and extravagant; some would say over the top. However, as he points out, there is a whole industry that supports the yachting sector and employs hundreds of thousands of hardworking people worldwide. “For us, there’s luxury in practicality. When you’re aboard our boats, you’ll find easy access to everything you want to do. Our boats are true sea-going vessels,” he explains.
Surprisingly perhaps, and ironically, the peak of Covid brought a surge in sales. With people unable to travel and go places, many chose to invest in a yacht instead and discovered the joys of boating.
“[The pandemic] was a huge obstacle that we all had to overcome. But that’s just life. There are always going to be hurdles in our way, and we are always going have to pick ourselves up, go with the flow and with the waves,” he says, with a gleeful wink as he utters the last word.
After the indoor shoot, Lo and the entire crew jump back onto the yacht to continue with the original plan. After a few shots on deck, he entertains a phone call – a glance at what his everyday life looks like, call after call, meeting after meeting. But he emphasises the importance of taking a break, once in a while.
“We picked a good day to do the shoot and interview, didn’t we?” he proclaims, as the light of the 5 pm sun glints off his sunglasses. “We’re always due to pause and take a step back so that we can gain a new perspective on things going on in our lives. Working hard, earning money and investing in your future – these are for survival. Enjoying the finer things in life is for living.”
While Lo has work-family balance down pat, he is still juggling the pleasure of living in the moment and the necessity of planning for the future. Yet, deep in his soul, he believes life should be enjoyed as much as humanly possible. Armed with the knowledge that comes with experience, a strong family support group and another magazine cover for his beloved flagship, he is content to ride the tide to see which way the waves take him.
Interview & Art Direction: Joseff Musa Photographer: Jack Law Fashion Stylist: Jhoshwa Ledesma Videographer: Jack Fontanilla Hair & Makeup: Cyrus Tang Venue: Cheoy Lee Shipyards Boat: CLB65 Cover: Jacket and Pasnts by IRO, courtesy of The Outnet and shoes by Zegna Brands: Ralph Lauren, IRO, courtesy of The Outnet and Nanushka, courtesy of The Outnet