The new Oyster 595 is not only a magnificent vessel in its own right, but it’s also a window to the rarified world of custom, post-pandemic, handcrafted boatbuilding.
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.
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.