It seems to me that Chris-Craft’s fleet must be among the most comprehensively stroked in the world. Walk past their stand at any show and you see curious punters fingering the foredeck woods and tweaking the leather trim as though the mere act of physical contact conveys everything they need to know. Of course, given Chris-Craft’s very distinctive fondness for classical lines and temptingly tactile building materials, that isn’t actually too far off the mark – and yet, by the company’s own admission, the new Chris-Craft Commander 42 is something of a departure.

Chris-Craft Commander 42

The Chris Craft Commander 42 is the result of a collaboration with Austin Parker.

Treated to its World Premier at the 2016 Cannes Yachting Festival, the Commander 42 (which looks at first glance like a minimalist version of the Mochi Craft Dolphin) is in fact the result of a close collaboration with design and manufacturing partner, Austin Parker. Watch our First look Video of the Commander 42 here.

While this well established Italian yard is best known for its flybridge motoryachts, Chris-Craft has taken the sporting offshore 42-foot hull as the basis for its project and set about turning it into the first in a new range of “New England Lobster-style open boats.” The idea is to a provide the cruising ability, the sheltered cockpit and the open aft deck of that same eminently versatile boat form, but to do so with an approach that fuses modernity with classical refinement and style. It is already being suggested that the Chris-Craft Commander 42 will be joined by both a Commander 36 and 52 in 2017, but for now, this boat is not just a standalone reinvention of one of the most famous names in the marque’s 142-year history but the first authentic cruiser to emerge from the Chris-Craft stable in a very long time.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 sliding doors

The optional sliding doors split the main deck in two.

Twin-cockpit configuration

The Chris-Craft Commander 42 might be a departure in terms of concept and application, but its external aesthetic aligns very neatly with Chris-Craft's established predilection for the classical launch. In addition to plenty of teak and handcrafted woods, allied to some attractive signature detailing, it offers a hull shape and structure that (despite an attractively modern rake to the windows and a low-profile sleekness to the hardtop) feels very much like the gentlemanly runabout of a Diplomat or an ex-Admiral.

Step inside and that Lobster-style, twin-cockpit layout is very user-friendly, with one communal party space neatly arranged on the exposed aft deck and another nestling beneath the elegantly conceived hardtop. Further forward, there’s also a usefully sized, if fairly conventional, sunbed on the bow, orbited by deepset walkways and elevated wraparound rails; and there’s a fore-and-aft galley, on the starboard side of the cockpit space, butted up against the back of the helm seat and continued aft of the central partition.

This arrangement is made all the better, however, by the optional sliding doors, which enable you to divide that big open deck in two. You can either leave them open, in which case the two cockpit sections are neatly integrated; or you can close them up to create an internal climate-controlled cocoon. That enables you to stay cool and composed when the sun is fierce, or to continue your fun throughout the winter months by employing this very capable Category-A craft as a comfortable four-season cruising machine.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 saloon

The forward saloon is arranged around an unusual twin helm station to port.

Five-man facilities

The layout down below is quite unusual, most notably in the use of a three-man full-beam guest suite beneath the cockpit sole. While that immediately relegates the owner’s dedicated double to the more restricted, tapering space inside the bow, it certainly has its merits. Not only does it enable the very private division of the two sleeping areas, but it also guarantees additional capacity and versatility for overnighting guests, as well as freeing up the space for a separate heads and shower compartment on either side of the central atrium. True, the Skipper might look at the guest suite with a touch of envy, but it does make this boat every bit as effective for a pair of adult couples as it is for a touring family or a mixed group of five.

The quality on display is also very impressive. Just as the upper cockpits are lined with teak, so the decks down below are trimmed with wood and the various spaces fitted out with a striking level of care. The spa-style shower compartment, with natural light glinting in multiple colours from its pearlescent tiling, is a rare pleasure; and the straightforward calibre of the design and finish in the heads compartment is an attractive match for the sleeping spaces. Unlike most heads compartments on vessels of this size, it’s a place you might actually choose to linger and while that’s by no means a revolution, it is a very welcome sign of good quality boat building.

The most appealing part of this boat, however, consists not in the details but in its breadth of potential application. Chris-Craft describes the debut Commander as “adventure on a grand scale” and, much as I hate to concur with manufactured marketing sentiments, you can see exactly what they mean. Powered by twin Volvo diesels via shaft drives, with seating for 12, sleeping for five, a blend of inside and outside entertaining spaces, a high-class build, a quality fit-out and a seaworthy offshore hull, it’s a very serious tool for the recreational family adventurer.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 aft cockpit

The aft cockpit on the Chris-Craft Commander 42 includes an alfresco galley to starboard.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 summary

If Chris-Craft were to get together with builders from Italy, Britain and Scandinavia to create a classical gentleman’s four-season cruising machine that would appeal to the family boater in changeable climates like ours, I reckon it would look pretty much like this. We’ve yet to get it on the water, but for the adventurous cruiser or the four-season tourer, it already looks like far and away the best platform in the Chris-Craft fleet. Of course, the early indications at the Cannes Yachting Festival suggest that this will be a very expensive boat by the standards of the 42-foot market, but if you want the classical, crowd-pleasing appeal of a Chris-Craft alongside the uncompromising dynamic ability of a serious offshore distance-maker, this is the only place to get it.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 guest cabin

The Chris-Craft Commander 42 features a full-beam guest cabin.

Chris-Craft Commander 42 specifications

LOA: 12.8 m
Beam: 3.96 m
Weight: 12,200 kg
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Fresh Water capacity: 398 litres
People capacity: 12
Berths: 5
Power: 870 hp
Engine: Twin Volvo 600 D6 435
Design category: A
Contact: Bates Wharf

Chris-Craft Commander 42

The Chris-Craft Commander 42 is an authentic offshore cruising platform.

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.