Some of the yachts and people I enjoyed seeing on the opening day

I love the Southampton Boat Show. When it’s not raining, it’s the best possible place to see a large variety of boats in the water and it’s always full of interesting and adventurous people.

On the opening day last week, I started big. It was the press launch of the new Oyster 885, a gorgeous, grey-hulled creation by designer Rob Humphreys that had just been launched from Southampton Yacht Services (pictured above). It has been built for F1 mogul Eddie Jordan – or his family’s trust, to be exact. He has traded up from an Oyster 655.

Once the yacht has finished its commissioning period – a process that typically takes a couple of months – it’s off round the world on the Oyster round the world rally (there are some 30 different Oysters setting off from Antigua early next year).

Oyster’s chief executive David Tydeman explained to me that above the 80ft mark it becomes possible completely to separate guest and crew accommodation so that they “don’t have to cohabit”.

There are four professional crew on this boat: skipper, mate, engineer and stewardess. On the Oyster 885 most of the space forward of the saloon is galley, crew mess and crew cabins.

How the other half lives!

Doing more of the sort of sailing to which most of us can relate, yet possibly at even more of an extreme, is Jeanne Socrates. After several years corresponding with Jeanne by email I finally managed to meet up with the former maths lecturer and solo round the world sailor.


She hopes to leave British Columbia later this autumn to sail non-stop alone round the world. This will be her second attempt to complete the voyage without stopping; this year she finished a circumnavigation despite being knocked down near Cape Horn in January and being forced to stop in Ushuaia.

Jeanne is a delightful person whose private endeavours go under many people’s radars, but last year she was invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace along with Ellen MacArthur, Samantha Davies and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – and rightly so.

Jeanne, 69, has made two solo round the world voyages, the first in a Najad 361 and more recently in a slightly bigger Najad 380, Nereida. She only began sailing alone after her husband died of cancer in 2003 and she uses her voyages to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

One yacht that really caught my eye – a vast lot less comfortable than the mega-Oyster but a beauty of a different class altogether – was boatbuilder Will Stirling’s 43ft ‘gentleman’s cutter’ Integrity. Go and see her in the marina if you’re planning to visit the show.

Will designed the boat himself after comparing a variety of designs from the 1880s and lofted it himself in the traditional way – no computer-aided design here. He built the boat over three years from his shed in Tavistock, usually working with only two others.

The boat looks and feels very traditional, and almost National Trust-style below deck, with darkened oak panelling, green button-back leather seats and an antique charcoal burner.

Surprising, to me, was the discovery that Will doesn’t come from a sailing background at all, and only decided to get into boatbuilding 12 years ago when he did on a course at the Lowestoft Boatbuilding College. A talented guy, and on the verge of becoming a bit of a star, as he’s recently done a programme on the history of America’s Cup yachts for Channel 4.

Integrity is for sale, by the way, so if you have a spare £300,000 knocking about (and aren’t worrying about close cohabitation on board), take a look.

Finally, take a look at this.

Here you have young master Kieran Flatt, the new(ish) editor of Yachting Monthly. Would you ever take a look at the suit? Light blue linen is the new YM uniform. What has the world come to?

Does this spell formally the end of the blue blazer with wooden buttons, the navy cheesecutter cap, the slightly-too-short red trousers? Is this the brave new world of traditional cruising?