It used to be that as an owner you fell into either the sailing yacht or motor yacht category – and there was no in-between. Much like motor yachts, sailing yacht design has come a long way in the past two decades. Slender hulls are now concealing amenities comparable to those of a motor yacht, causing some power purists to reconsider their next purchase.
The past two years have seen an uptick in sales of sailing yachts, owing, in part, to the pandemic, which triggered a worldwide revaluation of long-term life goals and created a pent-up desire to travel. “It was properly the first time I’ve had couples who were motor yacht owners, coming on board saying they were thinking of changing to sail, and were there to see what it’s all about,” says Paul Adamson, chief commercial officer at Oyster. Pair that with rising environmental concerns and a sailing yacht becomes an obvious choice.
British boatbuilder Oyster Yachts is at the forefront of this revival, and the Oyster 885, the largest production model in its fleet of bluewater cruisers, offers enough space to turn even the most unyielding motor yacht owner.
The Oyster shares many features with that of a 30 metre: generous entertaining spaces, luxury finishes and privacy for friends and family to enjoy. Couple that with dedicated crew quarters and exhilarating sailing experiences, and it’s an ideal entry point for first-time owners. “What I have noticed is that once a motor yacht owner jumps on a sailing boat, they are surprised to find the space and all the comforts on board that they are used to,” says Adamson.
Along with extensive customisation options, the model offers a six-cabin-layout, four en suite, with a full-beam master cabin aft that bathes in natural light thanks to Oyster’s signature triple seascape windows (also found in two guest cabins). It is the smaller touches, though, such as mood lighting, infotainment systems, wireless chargers and touch-control panels that offer an unexpected sense of home.
Of course, there are perceived space limitations with a sailing yacht but the in-house design team at Oyster had a few tricks up their sleeves. In the main saloon, height-adjustable tables help transform the space from a cocktail lounge to a formal dining area to a daybed – and back again with little hassle. On deck, the backrests of the helm seats can be flipped to offer seating when entertaining on the aft deck, and that’s not to mention Oyster’s signature cockpit design which seats up to 12 for al fresco dining under the stars. Even the tender well on the foredeck can be converted into a sunken lounge lined with cushions and shaded nicely by an awning.
Dutch entrepreneur Cees Heuker is one of a small but growing number of owners making the move from power to sail and has grand plans to sail around the world. “After five or six years, I really thought that a motor yacht was more about getting to a destination than enjoying the journey. Yes, it is an advantage that you can go from Saint-Tropez to Monaco [quickly], but after so many years it felt a little bit more like a taxi,” he says. “And after a long time of working, I wanted to do something else with my life.”
Sailing yachts can also offer greater freedom as the size of their fuel tanks no longer confines owners. Oyster owners have travelled as far as Svalbard, French Polynesia and Peru – the yachts are often the first choice for those looking to travel the world, as proved by the 30-strong Oyster World Rally Fleet currently working their way around the globe. “People want to see more and do more,” says Adamson. “We’ve seen it with the Oyster World Rally and the places sailing boats go to. Owners think it’s really cool to be able to set off across an ocean and explore, and it is achievable.”
A further benefit of the Oyster 885 is that it comes in at just below the 24-metre load line, which means less red tape for owners considering chartering their yacht with Oyster Charter. Those looking to own and helm their own boat can do so without the need for a commercial ticket, while those looking to sail with a captain and crew can learn as they go. This was “part of the attraction” for Heuker – being able to learn a new skill later in life.
However, the reality is that automated systems make modern yachts comparatively easy to sail, and the navigation, boat handling and mooring skills used in motor yachting are readily transferable. On the Oyster 885, everything can be controlled at the touch of a button for effortless and uncomplicated sailing, with or without crew. A clutter-free deck is home to push-button-operated captive reel winches for the main halyard, jib sheet and main sheet keeping the number of exposed lines to a minimum. Most run beneath the deck for safety, so there is no need to worry about children tripping over a slack line while moving about the vessel.
The tides are turning for the sailing industry as more owners succumb to the romance of sailing. “Going sailing is true escapism and while people would traditionally wait to retire or sell their business, now they are thinking of their Oyster as the platform for adventure and a place for family and friends, where special memories are made,” says Adamson. With the Oyster 885, lifelong dreams of travelling the world are well within reach, and as the boatbuilder’s in-house experts continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with sailing yacht design, there has never been a better time to set sail.
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