When I was opening the door to the balcony of my appartement in Cannes some weeks ago and stepped out to the large patio – I think – I was one of the few lucky guys being able to enjoy this one million dollar view over the yacht harbour of Cannes, called Le Vieux Port. During Cannes Yachting Festival this is the epicentre of yachting in Europe the least. Moreso, I wasn´t just lucky to being able to look directly down on the nicest yachts on earth, my balcony was just above one of the most respected brands in yachting: Oyster Yachts of Ipswich, United Kingdom.
So whilst having my morning coffee I was standing there, watched the sun rising over La Croisette street at the waterfront and admired the lines of the two Oyster yachts moored directly under my windows: The Oyster 575 and her bigger sister, the Oyster 745. I know, this magazine is called NO FRILLS SAILING and I would say an Oyster is the farthest away from being a “no frills” boat, but I couldn´t help myself, I had to board one and explore her! In the end, it took me three attempts in three days in a row to persuade the Oyster staff to let me take the pictures and go inside this dream yacht. Here´s what I discovered …
The cockpit of an Oyster 575 sailing yacht
She is a huge boat, even the smaller 18 meter yacht moored next to her awesomely bigger sister ship. Entering her stern area via gangboard (operated by an hydraulic system) is a great feeling as one will stand directly on the master cabin´s roof. There are two large hatches which can be opened and used for ventilation and as escape hatches too, two dorade ventilators and the traveller system for the main sail. Let´s enter the cockpit …
… which is – surprisingly – a kind of a tight issue. The center cockpit configuration (as with all Oyster yachts) offers not the space I was expecting when looking at the boat from afar. In reality there´s enough space for one person of course, but I found it quite tricky to fit myself to the cockpit area. One reason may be the double steering wheel setup on the 575 which I find a bit overdisporportionate: The double steering eats away the space of the center cockpit as each steering wheel also comes with a huge console. I guess a single steering wheel with a central steering unit would have done it here (I will later board the Hallberg Rassy 64, a sufficiently larger boat of course and even this yachts bears a single steering cockpit and does this in a perfect manner).
Speaking of push button sailing, the Oyster is no exception. Large winches all over the place: The main sheeting is led abaft to a bigger mainsheet winch and the traveller sheets go on a smaller winch directly on the master cabin roof, the main Genoa winches (big guys for sure!) are a bit out of reach from behind the wheels, secondary winches could be reached from the wheel by hand. But on this Oyster yacht there´s no need to pull the cranks whatsoever as any of the winches are electric ones operated with ease from the big control panels in front of each steering wheel.
The Oyster 575 also bears a classic main sheet traveller system mounted behind the cockpit. These are the only winches which could be operated without any problems by the sailor from his steering position in the cockpit in case of electric shutdown or jamming of the winching system. All in all, I must admit, I found the Oyster´s cockpit layout not very convincing from my point of view in terms of single handed sailing without electric aides. The Genoa winches could only be operated from within the guest´s area in the somewhat narrow cockpit, it´s a long squeezing way from behind the wheels to the Genoa winches. Two wheels is – even on this 57 foot yacht – a bit exaggerated in my eyes. In terms of layout, the Oyster guys in Ipswich can do a better job on this one, I guess, there are much better thought through layouts in yachts available (for example on this fine yacht).
The signature design of an Oyster yacht
So what is it that makes virtually everyone in the marina turn their heads and whisper in awe “There´s an Oyster coming in …!” when one of these yachts enters the port? What is so unique about these yachts turning almost every sailor´s eyes wet when speaking of an Oyster yacht? As a marketing pro in my “real life” I know that a product needs a unique signature – mostly a matter of design – that will set this product apart from all the others. On the Oyster yacht this design feature surely is her large, nicely carved and well-designed big deck saloon windows and the large three vertical porthole windows in the hull. It is the most recognizable Oyster design feature whatsoever – and “my” 575 also bears these.
I must admit, this is something that really turns me on. The cat-like large deck saloon windows are of such a beauty that it almost reminds me of a classic, yet modern, sports car. The windows embody speed and luxury at the same time yet these windows have been grown to be the synonym for perfect deck saloon design in yachting. Moreso, I love the three vertical porthole windows in the hull which will finally set apart and Oyster yacht from each and every single yacht brand in the world. By the way, it´s a shame that Oyster will offer these windows only beginning with the 575 – the smallest Oyster, the 46 foot Oyster 454 with an “entry-level” price tag of just around one million Euros does not bear this nice feature.
On the 575 and all the other Oyster yachts, the three vertical windows aren´t just design features for sure. Standing in the large saloon of this boat, I instantly and first of all take a look at the effect these three porthole windows create in the interior – and I love it! In fact we are moored closely to the bigger Oster and therefore cannot fully enjoy the effect of those three porthole windows, but I can imagine that having those big portholes near the surface of the water will create splendid views both when underway and seeing (partially submerged) the Ocean flowing by as well as mooring somewhere in a nice bay with a view onto the distant waterfront. Just awesome!
Where on other yachts there is a large wooden wall covered all over with blank timber, faux leather or at least stowage, on the Oyster we have a huge area of windows creating a unique feeling in this awesomely big saloon. By standing in this boat´s inside and seeing this effect first hand I instantly want to cast off and get underway just to experience these effects on my own. It must be something very special looking at the world outside through these windows. Unparalleled on any other yacht available.
Luxurious sailing on an Oyster yacht
Well, of course the Oyster 575 and all of her sisters are luxurious sailing yachts. Designed by Robert Humphreys their hulls promise to be sturdy, stable and well-built oceangoing circumnavigation-capable boats but with weighing in more than a ton with every meter of ship length these yachts aren´t made to go fast. They simply aren´t meant to go fast: I guess, if you can afford one of these you will have all the time in the world to reach B from A. Moreover, I could imagine that speed isn´t one of the most prominent features on your to-do-list as every day aboard this dream boat is pure treat and one wouldn´t want to let this end so soon.
I love the interior fitting, the design, the colours and the choice of materials on this Oyster very, very much! It´s a traditional center cockpit yacht internal layout with a large saloon in the middle of the yacht, a large owner´s cabin in the stern and two front cabins with heads and staterooms attached. The saloon is dominated by a large U-settee grouped around a super big dining table. The cushions are so thick, superbly stuffed with best foam material, covered in white leather – it is pure heaven letting one sink down into this sofa, so cozy, so unbelievable nice that you don´t want to get up anymore. I don´t want to imagine what a spill of red wine or a single breakfast with Nutella by my children would make with this interior fitting over the course of one week sailing … but I guess small children are not expected to be guests on board here.
Vis-à-vis the settee is a 4-person sofa on the starboard side. Again, large, well-made cushion, very cozy and inviting to sit down here with a Mojito, crossing one´s legs and having a nice conversation sitting in front of those gorgeous three vertical windows offering an unparalleled view outside. I loved the varnished bulkhead – I loved all of the woodworks inside the Oyster for sure – for being very clean, solid and almost classic in design. The figure pattern in the wood is arranged horizontally (instead of vertically on other yachts). This creates the impression of the saloon of being wider and more voluminous than it actually is but this is an effect barely needed: The saloon can easily turned into a dancing hall for sure.
The four step entryway down from the cockpit is not the steepest one but also not the easiest to climb down. I can imagine elderly sailors getting into trouble entering either cockpit or saloon from here, but this is a concession to the deep big saloon, the huge headroom down below deck in every corner and the vast volume of the boat´s interior. The handles of the entryway are made of thick, solid stainless steel adding a modern touch. As do numerous other details in this yacht, which I loved. The Oyster appeals to very wealthy people for sure and I guess these are older sailors – nevertheless, this boat bears such a vital and modern interior design with so many nice details that it almost eppears “young” to me. Bravo, Oyster!
I loved the nav station as you all may know, I am addicted to chart tables and navigation stations. The configuration seen on the Oyster 575 is exemplary and I am sure the nav seat in front of the nicely done chart table would be my favorite place below deck here on the whole yacht! The chart table itself is a bit small for the bigger charts but I guess it´s sufficient for doing a thorough passage planning. All controls and equipment like VHF and stuff can be reached easily by sitting on the modern yet very comfortable nav seat and I just adore the main switch panel on this yacht … it´s simply a dream! But it also reminds me of the huge amount of electric current needed to power up this boat and keeping it running. No “no frills” for sure.
The master cabin on the Oyster 575
Her internal layout is a classic one and no different from other center cockpit yachts: By going aft over port side one first enters the pantry of this yacht. Here the effect of having a comparatively narrow cockpit with also comparatively thick coamings can be observed: The headroom and space available in the pantry is just overwhelming! The pantry is light suffused as the large cat-like windows reach abaft and flood the kitchen with large amounts of natural light. There are numerous fridges and freezers, a four flame stove and a huge working bench for preparing meals.
On the opposite side of the entryway down to the master cabin a lot more stowage, another working bench and lots of cabinets and cupboards. Nevertheless, the available room for standing and working is narrow enough to get oneself wedged and secured when having to cook in heavy seas or when sailing with a more extreme heel. But let´s go through the pantry to see what the master cabin in this yacht can offer.
And that´s – as expected – so much! The large island bed is oversize and again the matrasses seem to be of a special thickness here. I must admit that I am not a friend of island beds as I consider them useless to unsafe in heavy swell – if not fitted with studding sails or other means of preventing people from rolling out and falling to the ground, island beds in the stern as well as in the bow cabins are nice to look at and nice to sleep in when moored but a pain in the ass to use when underway. I gues (I haven´t searched nor asked for) that the Oyster will offer some kind of securing system to make this bed usable in heeled conditions.
Colours, materials and woodworks are again very nicely chosen and done here, everything looks solid and made of special quality. I particularly got fond of one detail here in the back of the yacht: The nice little working place with a table, a cozy seat and some stowage for documents. So in case the big party is going on in the saloon or the visiting mother-in-law is going on your nerves the skipper can lose himself in some work here in the quietness of the master cabin in the back of the yacht. Nice!
Same goes for the front cabin in the Oyster 575 which is also of vast measurements and offers any amenities the high profile sailor is expecting from a yacht worth a minimum of 1.5 million Euros. Although the volume of the front cabin of course cannot compete with the master cabin, there´s more than enough space available here. Even the large island bed at least offers some safety to the side with the hull´s walls in the first half of the bed. I personally would have placed the portholes more to the front here, but that´s only a minor issue. Again, lots of stowage available, lots of light and a nice choice of material, colours and wooden fittings.
Modern yet classic: Material mix on the Oyster
What really struck me all of the time roaming the Oyster 575 was the fact that the designers accomplished something very special with this boat. On the one hand this yacht incarnates the very best of classic blue water passage making in style on a very classic yacht. Her hull design is proven, sleek but classy, her internal layout is proven and classy and therefore this whole composition is very much appealing to somewhat conservative sailors. On the other hand, the choice of material, colours, textures and so, so, so many details on this yacht are tremendously modern!
Just look at the woodworks. We all know that nowadays there are no rounded edges anymore due to the modular production and the fact that manufacturing sharp edges is easier, cheaper and faster. And with the Oyster I am sure that´s no different, but look at the details here – it´s a sharp edged corner in this picture, but they´ve managed to carve out the corner, fit it with nicely sanded beams and achieved a very sleek, clean and modern look. This does not appear to be a sharp corner anymore. I love the quality of the woodworks in the Oyster and really admire the small ideas here and there making the interior of this boat unique, stylish, modern and classy appealing.
The flooring is also very modern: Not the classic Koto style nor a carpet overkill, just lean and sleek floor panels. It creates a warm interior and kind of visually floats into a unified interior design with the other wooden fittings like bulkheads and cupboards. The choice of the flooring timber creates a warm and cozy feeling yet enhances the whole saloon and cabin appearance. The only thing that may be proven is the slip resistance of this floor but that is indeed an issue with all floors on yachts.
As I am right now since months engaged in roofing panel refitting of my own yacht I am especially interested in how this is done on other yachts. The Oyster features a very nicely done roofing configuration with leather-covered panels attached to the coach roof in panels which reach from one ship´s side to the other without a single longitudinal seam. This as well contributes to the larger appearance of the saloon. The panels are fitted with a layer of foam and covered with fine white leather. Again, nothing for the rough round the world trip and dirty fingers, but I guess this is also something this yacht won´t experience in her lifetime though. I love the interior of the Oyster: It´s classy, significant but very modern when you look at the details.
Is the Oyster Yacht the perfect dream blue water yacht?
So, have I been able to get to the bottom of the Oyster cult? Well, I don´t think so because – as everytime when I take a look at a yacht moored to the jetty – one has to sail such a yacht in order to get a feeling for it. But I would say I did get a taste and a feel for this yacht. Sailing on an Oyster on a long haul trip – I mean a 2 or 3 year circumnavigation – is most certainly a true delight. This yacht offers everything you dream of on a boat. Even 2 weeks of the worst rainy, grey, cold weather must be a pure treat if spent in the Oyster.
I guess, part of the Oyster cult is also the perfect marketing and brand image. The Oyster-only rallies all around the world, the very, very high prices of the product and the extraordinary design, choice of materials and the motto “only the best” makes this yacht brand almost a uniquely free standing product in the market. There are only a few other brands in the “production” or semi-one-off branch which are true competitors to that boat. I love her unique style and design, I literally found no spot, even the smallest one, where a worker in the yard did leave a slightly unclean Sika-seam or a screw head slightly off alignment. The Oyster is a perfectly made boat.
The sailor she will suit must be a special one for sure. Not just because of her dizzying price tag – even for the smallest entry-level boat – but also because of her heavy, heavy hull full of amenities and electric stuff. This is also my one and only point of critique: This is by no means a “no frills sailing boat”. You´ll need large amounts of electric current, the constant humming of a generator or going under engine power in order to keep her alive. Don´t ever think of this one situation when electric power supply fails … She probably needs a solid breeze to get going as the Oyster weighs in roughly a ton or more per meter – if going at the end, I am sure she performs well even in heavy water. So, is this the ultimate dream blue water yacht? I leave her fine deck, lock back and smile: She most definitely is. But not for me.
You might also try these articles:
What makes a perfect blue water sailing yacht? Interview with Head of Trans-Ocean.org.
What makes a good skipper?
Modern weather routing in planning a sailing trip.