Where: Dorset, UK south coast
Conditions: A broad range over two days aboard, from 7-21 knots and calm waters to 2m seas in the Channel.
Model: Hull No.1 including optional hydraulic swim platform and passerelle, aircon, satcomms, davits, and watermaker.
Your world becomes a very small place when the ease and convenience of travel is lost, a notion that has really hit home in the last couple of years. The pandemic has also forced us to look at our lives introspectively and what we want to get out of them. That’s perhaps no bad thing for most sailors, particularly if it brings the realisation that we have the skills and desire to see more of this world in the best way possible – under sail. It seems for many it has forced the question, ‘why delay casting off’?
It’s evident that an increasing number of owners are not only impatient to set off, but they want to do so in the most comfort possible. That 16 deposits were placed on this £2.5m yacht before the first build was even finished is quite staggering. The new 595 is the fastest selling Oyster model to date and the British brand has clearly unveiled the right product at the right time.
Yet Oyster is not alone and, having heard similar sales results from other competitor yards recently, I’m convinced we’re seeing a new trend. Carpe diem is the theme of a new breed of wealthy sailors who want to set off bluewater cruising but in utmost comfort – whether that means a spacious multihull or a top end monohull.
The explosion in remote working together with the increased reliability of communications afloat has also helped here, in that this is not a total cut and run decision for some, who can now continue to work from on board.
Still, 16 pre-launch orders is phenomenal at this market level. To put that in perspective if you signed up for a 595 today you’d already be waiting until late 2024 for delivery! So is this model a victim of its own success, and what’s behind its popularity? An exclusive 24-hour trial on the first model to launch, Skye III, was an ideal chance to find out.
Paul Adamson, Oyster’s CCO, certainly agrees there is a ‘seize the day’ mentality behind this demand for the largest size yachts that can be owner-operated. He was on board with us for the trial and knows today’s range arguably better than any, having previously skippered the 885 Lush around the world.
He says that up to 10 orders off plan is common, but attributes this record demand for the 595 to the Richard Hadida factor [Oyster’s CEO]. “He’s put the family ethos back into Oyster,” by which he is referring to the revamped Oyster World Rally, owner gatherings and the attraction of a younger dynamic. There are 30 taking part in its rally later this year and the 2024 edition sold out in just two days.
There have also been 21 sales of the two-year old 565 now, which Rob Humphreys co-designed with the 595 and which shares an almost identical style and layout above and below decks. While this new pair is separated by only 3ft in length, the 595 costs a whopping £0.5million more. The main (and arguably deciding) difference then comes down to space – the 595 has 14% extra internal volume. Both yachts are based on Oyster’s tried and tested centre cockpit layout, with an aft owner’s cabin and walk-in engine room with adjoining workroom. An alternative layout is offered, with the owner’s cabin forward, albeit an unlikely prospect for Oyster owners who like to live aboard for long periods at sea.
At 62ft 6in/19.05m LOA, the 595 replaces the 625 and has a model name chosen in part to debunk the myth that a yacht over 60ft is too big to handle, Adamson explains. It is designed around a couple being able to manage it easily, including hydraulics and push button controls for most sailing and manoeuvring.
The £2.3m starting price includes a very high level of spec as standard, such as retractable bow and stern thrusters, genset, hydraulics etc, down to the leading-edge lighting system. It’s impressive and on boarding the 595 you’re struck by the superyacht standard of design and finish quality. You also feel that extra size immediately.
The ability to safely and easily berth such a large vessel is of paramount importance to those who cruise short-handed. You need to know you can put this 30-tonne yacht on a tight berth in a blow. Before departing Portland marina we did some practice berthing in a fresh breeze to see the fingertip control of using dual thrusters. It’s impressive and intuitive, puts you at ease and quickly makes you realise why these aids are a standard fit.
Our test boat Skye III also had another highly practical appendage fitted below the waterline. A fixed shaft hydrogenerator is installed between the keel and rudder. This Watt&Sea device proved its worth during our trials, consistently generating 20A once at or over 9 knots. That’s enough free juice to power the fridge and autopilot, and for minimal drag. The only downside is the vibration noise it creates in the interior, something Oyster is looking into.
Elsewhere the insulation is once again first class – were it not for the water rushing past the vertical portlights while I was still below decks, it would have been hard to tell we were underway doing 8 knots at just 1,800rpm.
Again it was just the fuss-free push of a couple of buttons on the pedestal to hydraulically unfurl the genoa and in-mast mainsail. Sailing along the Dorset coastline in the calmer stuff, typically making 7-8.5 knots close-hauled against a summer north-easterly was, unsurprisingly, very pleasant. I noticed a marked difference when you only have single figure winds though, as the apparent wind reduces significantly, as does speed. Tom Humphreys tells me the 595 has slightly higher sail area and ballast ratios in comparison to the 565 so may take a bit more breeze to get powered up, but should then be slightly stiffer.
On the helm it certainly feels like a larger yacht than the 565. We were grateful for the asymmetric spinnaker, which, although not the optimal size, helped provide plenty of enjoyment and in the lighter breeze and flatter water encouraged an average of 8-9 knots.
Performance for an ocean cruiser comes down to much more than figures of course: you want the legs to tick off miles, the handling to be easy and the motion comfortable. And it was during a marathon leg out to sea, chasing an elusive window of sun for the photographer, that I really felt we experienced some of these aspects and the offshore pedigree of this design.