Let’s just say I was feeling on top of the world. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon early this past September on the Solent—the historical straight off the south coast of England that lies between mainland United Kingdom and the Isle of Wight—and I felt right at home, styling at the helm of the new Oyster 595, freshly launched from the company’s shipyard in Wroxham.
The gleaming yacht—a word I do not freely bandy about, but this glamorous steed was far beyond your basic “sailboat”—cleaved through the light chop effortlessly, gliding upwind at 8 knots in precisely the same amount of breeze. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many a lucky trick at many a lovely wheel, moments I’d wished could be frozen in time, and this was yet another one. This Oyster is a vessel that should, can and will taste far-reaching waters all over the globe, and do so with power and panache.
And frankly, it damn well should.
We’ll get this over with straightaway. For all its magnificence—and that’s the surefire correct adjective for this Rob Humphreys-designed stunner—the 595 will set back its well-heeled owners more than $3 million, which means, I might know how to drive one, but I surely will never own one. But the Oyster 595, perhaps more to the point, has a lot to say not only about contemporary, state-of-the-art, high-end production boatbuilding—and boat buying—but also the broader seascape as the marine industry slowly emerges from what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic.
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Consider this: Our lovely test sail was conducted on Hull No. 1 of the 595, for which 16 units have already been sold…sight unseen! (Never mind sails unfurled.) Down the road from Southampton, in the seaside village of Hythe, an entirely new factory is being tricked out to build the next Oyster up in the line, the 495; no fewer than 10 orders have been placed for that boat, and the very first one is still under construction! Order books are now full a couple of years down the road, and this is by no means a success story that Oyster alone is enjoying. From Southampton, I made my way across the English Channel to France for this year’s edition of the Cannes Yachting Festival, and the story was repeated time and time again from nearly all the world’s top builders (Swan, Contest, Grand Soleil, HH Catamarans, etc.). Order books for seemingly all the major players are full now through 2023 (at the very least), many for models that do not yet exist beyond design renderings and brochures.
And this at least partially explains the dearth of new offerings from the perennial leading midsize, midlevel, full-on production yards as well, like Hanse and Beneteau. Who has time for innovative R&D when it’s taking all hands on deck to fulfill the long list of vessels already committed to?
What in the name of L. Francis Herreshoff is going on? The answer is both simple and complicated. Of the many surprises unleashed by the pandemic, surely one of the least predictable was many folks’ discovery (or rediscovery) of sailing. Yacht brokers reveled in one of their best years ever in 2020, to the point that the used-boat market has been ravished. But the pent-up demand has not abated, and now the new-boat market is on fire as well. It’s anybody’s guess how long this will last, but for the builders in the midst of this frenzy—such as Oyster—there’s no time to ponder it anyway. Their biggest problem —again, almost universal—is finding the armies of skilled labor necessary to produce what’s already been signed and sealed but not delivered.
Yet, I digress. Back to that remarkable Oyster.
Many of the boats rolling off the line these days are destined for one of the next two Oyster World Rallies; the 2022-2023 edition, capped at 30 boats, is sold out, and there’s no real question that the following one, in 2024-2025, will be as well. Value-added propositions are not unique to Oyster—Swan is also a seasoned master at organizing owner events—but they speak to the level of customer service and care that you also purchase with the boat. Why just build them when you can launch them on a fabulous jaunt around the planet with like-minded souls? Oyster reps speak of their customers as “family” and then back it up. The company is also in the midst of launching a proprietary system called Guardian Angel that monitors their yachts’ systems remotely, wherever they are, and also provides the ability to seek long-distance assistance or advice at the push of a touchscreen button. How much would you be willing to pay for such peace of mind?
The 595 is a striking yacht, with that signature cat’s-eye coachroof; a razor-sharp sheerline; an expansive cockpit and foredeck; maximized waterline with plumb bow; and all of it balanced by those twin helms at one end and an integral, smart sprit/ground-tackle arrangement at the other. It all looks powerful, and is. There are two keel options: a standard foil, which was on the boat I sailed, or a centerboard (of the 16 ordered so far, just three are going out the door with the latter). The transom is a work of art unto itself, with a sensational boarding platform that is basically a back porch, and even a retractable, telescoping passerelle when swanning about the Med. I do go back and forth on hull windows, often depending on whether I’m on or off a boat at the time. To my eye, the half-dozen vertical windows to each side do detract from the yacht’s grandeur, but I sure do appreciate all the natural light and tasty views when I’m nestled aboard. OK, we’ll keep them.
Space will limit me from going on and on, which I’d otherwise be very happy to do. But the big things are kind of obvious on the 595 (the massive sail plan, for instance, tamed by a hydraulic vang and furlers, electric winches and an in-mast furling mainsail with excellent vertical battens). Which makes the (relatively not-so) little things stand out more. Even under power, the boat is one of the quietest I’ve ever experienced; the engine-room insulation is astounding, and when gliding upwind under sail, nary a creak or groan is to be heard. Raise the floorboards and gaze upon as well-executed a plumbing and manifold arrangement as you’ll ever see, all serviced by just a pair of massive raw-water intake valves to port and starboard. This is maintenance access to die for.
There are, of course, multiple interior layouts and floor plans possible, with furniture and cabinetry exquisitely rendered in your choice of cherry, maple and oak (big oak guy here…for me, light is right). Check out the Oyster website and prepare to linger a while.
Back at the helm, enjoying myself immensely, I was tempted when passing all the other boats (and we were always passing them) to offer them that little Queen Elizabeth half-wave thingy that she does so well. I couldn’t help it. Steering the Oyster 595 made me feel royal.
Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.
Specifications Oyster 595
|LENGTH OVERALL||59’6″ (18.1 m)
||54’11” (16.7 m)
|BEAM||17’7″ (5.3 m)
|DRAFT (standard)||8’10” (2.7 m)
||6’9″/13’3″ (1.75/4.0 m)
|SAIL AREA (100%)
||1,938 sq. ft. (180 sq. m)
|BALLAST||19,881 lb. (9,081 kg)
|19,881 lb. (9,081 kg)
||67,918 lb. (30,807 kg)|
|WATER||264 gal. (1,000 L)
|FUEL||396 gal. (1,500 L)
|MAST HEIGHT||82’0″ (27.4 m)
||Yanmar 160 hp diesel
|WIND SPEED||5-8 knots|
||Closehauled 8.9 knots,
Reaching 7.5 knots