Oyster Yachts CCO, Paul Adamson, stands waist-deep in the bilge – not somewhere you expect to find a member of the Oyster Executive Board. But there’s no problem lurking beneath the satin lacquered floorboards in the microcosm of power cables, junction boxes, water pipes and hydraulic pumps.
"That's it," Adamson says with the sweep of an arm, as if he has struck gold or rare gemstones. Because here, in the bowels of the new Oyster model that has rekindled the fortunes of the shipyard, lies the answer to the brand’s Phoenix-like re-emergence: designed and built on the experience and innovation that has seen the brand through the trials and tribulations of the last year and a half.
Every square millimetre of the hand-laminated, carbon fibre reinforced hull is hand-sanded and sealed with a special topcoat. Every section of marine plywood is painted, no matter where it is. Every cable and line bears a label with a serial number should the owners find themselves in need of a replacement part or technical guidance when they are far from civilization.
Even the smallest details are taken care of onboard the new Oyster 565. Even down to the almost anachronistic dipsticks for the water and diesel tanks – an analogue, fail-safe alternative to digital level indicators on the navigation control panel. This is perhaps the perfect demonstration of why the shipyard continues to be renowned for building the best long-distance cruising yachts: "100 percent original Oyster DNA,” says Adamson proudly.
It’s easy to see the genetic makeup of the brand through him. Adamson came on board as Chief Commercial Officer following the bankruptcy. But he has had a long relationship with the British luxury shipyard – and a deep love for the boats. He previously worked as a captain on Oyster 885 "Lush", owned by racing team owner Eddie Jordan. He not only oversaw her design and build, he also sailed her around the world in 2012.
Barefoot and dressed in shorts and polo shirt, he is as much a skipper as he is the head of a company with 500 employees. Adamson’s optimism is contagious, and he is blessed with sheer inexhaustible energy and has no hesitation dropping down into the bilge to demonstrate the technical finesse of the 565.
If much else has remained the same, he represents the new attitude that Oyster needed in contrast to its previous incarnation, where cool detachment and a strict hierarchy prevailed. And with the takeover of the company by online-multi-millionaire Richard Hadida, (who also hired Adamson) much has changed - now enthusiasm and passion drive things. Today, the renowned shipyard is booming not long since being needlessly driven into bankruptcy by private. Hadida didn't just retain the workforce, he also integrated the formerly external GRP production, an essential factor in giving Oyster a wider range of manufacturing potential than ever.
Along with confidence, demand has returned with the reboot, fuelled by the 565 and another new model that will be unveiled in the summer. The order books have also filled quickly for the 595, with a two year lead time for delivery. “It's incredible," says Adamson. "We urgently need reinforcements!" He is currently looking to recruit 150 additional boat builders. It seems demand skyrocketed because many owners waited to make their purchase decision until the brand returned.
In fact, the bulk of the orders came in for the Oyster 565 before the new model had even touched the water: 01 made its debut in September. Four weeks later we were invited to the test drives for judging European Yacht of the Year at Port Ginesta on the Catalonian coast. Appearance, which - so much is already said.
We need little convincing on this front, as demonstrated by the robust design of the technical installations, as demonstrated by Paul Adamson. At the same time, the 565 represents the sixth generation of Oyster that offers the advantage of consistent design in many areas for further development. On the one hand, she looks more polished and beautiful than her predecessors, but also more coherent, straightforward and a little more rugged below decks.
The structure is more compact with an unobstructed the foredeck. But above all, the new model delivers an unexpected spatial experience. At 56 feet, it offers almost as much space as the Oyster 625. Only the berths in the foredeck and in the guest cabin at the front of the main bulkhead are not quite up to class standard at 1.92 and 1.95 meters long respectively. This is offset by the Oyster’s top-class styling and craftsmanship.
Sailing in winds of 5 Beaufort feels like a mild summer breeze thanks to the effective acoustic decoupling below deck. Even when reefing (hydraulic) or pulling in the sails (electric), she remains pleasantly quiet. At most, a distant hum can be heard from the well-insulated engine. The only thing left to fix were the floor boards; during the test, they were noisy but they should be squeak-free by its debut in mid-January at boot Düsseldorf, Germany.
The Oyster 565 is pleasingly dynamic for a luxury cruiser. From 10 knots of wind she comes to life and in 15 knots she the fun really begins. Even gusts of 25 knots in a two metres swell don’t put her off her stride.
Designer Rob Humphreys has found a successful compromise between seaworthiness and performance, with a well-coordinated distribution in the sail plan and in the additional sheets. Thanks to the double rudder, the boat can be safely steered in any situation – useful on a long trip because you don't need to reef in short showers. The steering wheels give excellent feedback for the wind conditions and you can actively move the Oyster to easily logging double digit speed.
Her temperament and many other talents make the Oyster 565 a true long-distance yacht. The price may seem very high, but the equipment is highly-specified – from bow and stern thrusters to generators and tank dipsticks. The world can hardly be any more relaxed.