The art and craft of boatbuilding

We take a look behind the scenes at our boat yards, discovering more about the people who bring our yachts to life and the time-honoured skills they bring to their jobs. We recently caught up with Matt Cook, Assistant Joinery Manager at Wroxham, to hear about the important role he and his team play in every yacht.

The art and craft of boatbuilding

What does your role involve?

I organise and co-ordinate the joinery work on the 565, 595 and 675 models. Day to day, I work closely with boat builders, joiners, finishers and varnishers through to the Mill and CNC department to ensure the exacting standards and attention to detail. I’m involved in every part of the boat build and I have very high standards – some might say I’m a bit pedantic, but I like to think of it as thorough!

What’s your background?

I’m a joiner by trade. I started out restoring sash windows and working on listed building restoration, then I made the move into the marine sector in 2008 when I joined Oyster Yachts and I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked with my hands my whole life, but in recent years I’ve been able to adapt and use my knowledge and expertise to oversee and co-ordinate all the joinery work at Oyster Wroxham.

What attracted you to the business?

The reputation. Oyster Yachts are recognised as the best sailing yacht makers in the industry, so when the opportunity came up I didn’t hesitate! The role met with the reputation and the skill levels of the team and their pride in the workmanship was at a standard beyond my expectation. Oyster Yachts are built to last a lifetime, some are even passed down through generations of families. For me, the ultimate satisfaction of the role is the end result – seeing a stunning yacht, built to the very highest standards, leave the workshop. It’s very rewarding and instils a great sense of pride.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Teamwork and collaboration. Bringing all the departments and owners together as part of a brilliant team to produce a very special product. I love solving all sorts of challenges to deliver unique finishes and options to meet owners’ requests.

What changes have you seen since you joined Oyster?

There have been lots of positive changes under Richard Hadida, to the yachts and the brand. In production there is an ongoing programme of value engineering and continual improvement in quality. I've seen the introduction of new build techniques on the Oyster 595. It lets us operate an even higher level of quality control and we’re always pushing to make things even better. The introduction of wiring looms has made a huge difference too. Now they are wired up on the joinery in the workshop, which is much easier and more efficient – so, when they go into the boat, it’s plug-and-play.

Richard Hadida’s vision for the company has seen a huge investment in software and streamlining the production process. We work hand-in-hand with the designers – we see them as craftsmen too, their computers are the equivalent of our hammers and chisels. In the end, it’s all based on the core values of the company, which comes down to quality and moving with the times.


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Oyster Yachts craftmanship

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What’s so special about working at Oyster?

The yachts of course! But it’s the people and fantastic teamwork that shines through in the excellent workmanship and the sense of pride we have when these yachts come together. It’s a key difference between us and our competitors. The brand under Richard Hadida has moved forward in ways I never thought of, it’s very unique and really special. Many of our craftspeople here are life-long boatbuilders, who are really passionate and proud to build Oysters. The old traditional trades and experience are passed down through generations, from one master to the next apprentice – as well as expertise, sometimes even their tools get passed down.

How does traditional boat-building marry with modern production techniques?

Any business needs to move with the times, whether you’re hand building boats or producing computers. Bringing in modern techniques to complement traditional skills adds value and enhances the overall quality of our yachts. What owners love about Oyster is the materials, quality and craftmanship. These yachts last a lifetime – I’ve heard that every Oyster ever built is still being sailed, which is pretty impressive. We embrace new ways of working, using machines and techniques to improve quality of the build and give the craftspeople more time to perfect those finishes only human hands can create.

Does using the highest quality materials make your job easier or more rewarding?

It’s all about the best quality. Hardwoods like oak, teak and cherry are not so forgiving, so you have to be more accurate. Everyone has responsibility to make things as good as they can be and that’s where the team’s confidence, skills and experience really count. The Oyster standard is very, very high, but you’re always looking to push past it, to make things even better.

How do you feel when you see a finished Oyster leaving the yard?

We understand we are building a sailor’s dream yacht, in some cases a yacht they might have aspired to own all their lives. So it’s a very special feeling when we see the yachts leave the yard and get feedback from the commissioning team when they hand her over to an extremely happy and excited owner. We often get personal letters of thanks from owners too – they’ve invested a lot in us and trust in our workmanship. When you’re building someone’s dream, you take a lot of pride in the finish and it’s nice when that is acknowledged.

Why are owner visits so important?

It’s great to meet the people you’re building for. Hearing their plans for the boat, we get a sense of the sort of adventures she will go on and be used for. It helps give the team a sense of her identity and it makes each yacht more unique. Seeing the owners’ excitement and passion gives us a greater sense of pride in the job. Owners love seeing the high standards of craftsmanship going into their yacht, it creates a real connection. I always make a point of introducing the owners to the people working on their boat by name. Hopefully one day they will look at a piece of joinery when they’re somewhere far away and remember who built it. All of our yachts leave the yard with a build plaque which displays the signatures of the lead trades that built them. It gives us immense pride and can bring a tear or two to the owners’ eyes when they see it for the first time.

What’s so special about an Oyster?

It’s great being part of the family, it’s very supportive – I joined 13 years ago and I still love it. We are all focused on delivering the promise our yachts hold. The attention to detail that goes into each of them is really important, always looking at making things better. An Oyster comes with quality attached – our high standards in the build, the skills, workmanship and finishing. People aren’t just buying a yacht, they’re becoming part of something much bigger, it’s more than a yacht, it’s a passion. The yachts, they’re just special in themselves – an Oyster will take its owner on once-in-a-lifetime adventures. And they’re built to last for a lifetime if they are cherished and cared for properly.

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