A delivery passage from Palma, Mallorca, to southern Spain gave Toby Hodges the chance to assess the new Oyster 575 in her own element as a luxury bluewater cruiser and charter yacht
A 220nm passage on the new Oyster 575 certainly provided quality time aboard to assess whether this might be a worthy heir to Oyster’s most successful model ever, the 56, of which 75 have been sold.
The test boat, On Liberty, was on her way to the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in Las Palmas and I hitched a ride for the passage from Mallorca to Cartagena in southern Spain.
Though winds were generally light and we spent a fair amount of time motorsailing, I had the chance to test the master cabin out on passage, stand a night watch and tuck into alfresco meals in the cockpit.
This is the definitive crossover size boat, deemed still manageable for a couple, yet large enough to warrant a paid crew.
With a professional skipper and chef aboard On Liberty producing exquisite meals, I wasn’t going to be frying my own bacon, so I took it on the chin and enjoyed a bit of charter luxury.
The Oyster 575 is better suited to charter than the 56 largely thanks to an uncluttered guest cockpit, with walkthrough access to the twin wheels aft.
Otherwise she has a similar layout, but boasts a larger aft cabin and galley where the beam is carried further aft, plus a modernised C-shaped main saloon.
Composite build materials and a metre extra waterline ensure she’s a faster boat.
Advances in design equal more volume too (though thankfully still retaining a deep V sea-going bilge) and existing 56 owners are apparently considering the Oyster 575 as an upgrade.
Like the Oyster 655 and Oyster 54, the Oyster 575 benefits from a composite lay-up using carbon and Kevlar.
Though our test boat had the deep keel, she is offered with a shallower fixed version (2.06m) or with centreboard and dual rudders (reducing draught from 3.82m to 1.65m).
As of this year, all Oysters other than superyachts, will be built in the UK.
The Oyster 575 on passage
So quiet is the VW engine in the Oyster 575’s penthouse of an engine room that I had to check the instruments to see what was propelling us across a windless Palma Bay.
We were heading south-west towards Ibiza and tucking into the first of many fine dishes in the guest cockpit.
The benches are long enough to lie on or seat eight, but I soon found the backrests too low and felt they cried out for extra cushioning.
The table with double coolbox is a winner and there’s useful bottle stowage in a sole box which can double for control line tails.
Carrying out watches from here, protected by the sprayhood, certainly proved comfortable.
The majority of the trip was spent motorsailing with just a light headwind to tickle the main.
But a string of episodes helped make it more ‘luxury charter’ than mundane delivery.
Dolphins at sunset, beautiful clear sky at night and sunrise, but above all the first class comfort.
My night watch as we rounded the lighthouses of Formentera was a practical demonstration of how things are done on a yacht of this type.
I watched a blood orange moon rise through image-stabilised binoculars, played with a ‘Stargazer’ app on skipper Tim Beebe’s iPad to identify the constellations.
And as night chilled further, settled under the sheltering canopy to interrogate one of three multifunction plotters to pick out distant AIS targets. Night watches aren’t what they were!
When the forecast breeze finally showed up, we had reached the stunning backdrop of Cartagena’s imposing cliffs.
In a Force 3 the Oyster 575 displayed the slippery pace shown by the 54 – adding another feather to the cap of Rob Humphreys, her designer.
We could muster seven knots close-hauled at around 50° with the 135 per cent genoa, small gusts instantly affecting her speed.
Unfurling the staysail engaged an extra gear, and each additional knot of wind speed added another few decimals to the log.
I didn’t find her helm communicative, with her long steering linkage and dual autopilot rams, but the rewards are relaxing, easy sailing that makes helming a point-and-go task.
Although the autopilot is likely to have that pleasure on long passages, it would have been rewarding to have had more feedback through the helm.
Thanks to the twin wheels, the helmsman has unhindered views forward from both sides and I love what happens when you go through waves – nothing – she’s as well mannered as a royal butler.
Slight weatherhelm crept in reassuringly with winds in the teens, but cracking off to her trademark point of sail, a reach, proved how easily she sits at nine knots.
Oyster have a winning recipe for internal layouts, thanks to the centre cockpit which creates sumptuous aft cabins, large passageway or U-shaped galleys and spacious saloons set low down to maintain privacy, but enjoying plenty of daylight from the coachroof windows.
The Oyster 575 was no surprise in this respect, utilising the well-tried format to appeal to couples, families or charter guests.
Deciding whether to have the crew cabin abaft the navstation, or make this area a workroom and put the crew in the Pullman forward, is a nice option to have.
“Those who go for the workshop tend to have a lift-up bunk in here too,” explained project manager Debbie Johnson, who joined us for the passage.
There is also the option of having a Pullman with a walkthrough heads (as per the 56), but this set-up with bunk or workshop cabin is the best use of the space.
Timber and upholstery choices can be customised.
White oak is standard, but On Liberty had American cherry joiner work, which produces a warm and inviting effect, and having seen examples of the other options (including teak, maple and walnut), this would get my nod.
Stowage space (lacking on the 54) has been addressed and maximised wherever possible, and especially in smaller cabins like the Pullman, heads and galley.
Oh, and did I mention how comfortable the aft cabin is?
Enlarging the port here could help, but otherwise the galley is hard to fault – a superb place to store, prepare and cook food.
The passageway is wide enough for two people to pass for access to the aft cabin, yet narrow enough to provide bracing.
The Avonite (Corian-like) worksurface, is fashioned by the yard with high-fiddled edges to prevent lying water. The abundant stowage is well organised.
A Force 10 stove, easy to clean Frigoboat freezer and fridge are standard, while the domestic-sized wash/dryer and chest dishwasher are essential for charter.
An outboard view is just about possible when standing, but a low sole means there are only two shallow steps down going forward or aft.
The saloon table top slides to access hinged leaves that open to seat seven with the addition of director’s chairs, and there’s useful stowage beneath the portside seating.
It’s questionable how often the double sofa to starboard will be used; the lifting flatscreen TV is contained behind here and thus not viewable from this side of the saloon
You’d be hard pushed to beat this cabin for headroom, space, light and comfort.
Standard layout has a desk to starboard, but this area can be additional stowage, or as we had on On Liberty, seating, which proved useful for reading, changing or working.
Again, larger hull ports might give it the edge.
It was tough in here at sea though. . .
You might mock, but we had enough heel to have to figure out the best angle to sleep at, or whether to use the leecloth.
The main problem with aft cabins, however, is noise from the dock, engine and deck, which will wake you no matter how you sleep in that palatial berth
A chart table that’s comfortable and spacious, with plentiful instrument/screen space, plus a large shelf for pilot books, good stowage and a no-nonsense distribution panel on the bulkhead behind.
All electric panels hinge to allow easy access to wiring
Machinery: the mark of quality
The machinery space and attention to installation detail on the Oyster 575 is a trump card.
Oyster’s walk-in engine room, providing unhindered access to the VW 150 TDI, is double-insulated, using a laminated layer of foam with high-density rubber, while the generator is sited under the companionway steps.
The main fuel tank has three easily viewable inspection hatches and a second fuel tank under the forward sole increases capacity to 1,400lt.
All water pumps are in the saloon sole (to keep noise away from the accommodation), as is the 480ah gel domestic battery bank and starter batteries.
Raw water manifold systems for engine and genset can be linked, so if one blocks, you can carry on changing the other without stopping the engine.
All watermaker servicing elements are contained neatly next to the navstation for ease of servicing, while in the pilot berth cabin further aft is a cupboard for membranes and fuel filters, which is so tidy it could be mistaken for artwork.
Oyster have just launched a 655 and a 54, and the first 625 is building at SYS, so you have to admire their confidence that there’s demand for another model in between.
When you consider that each extra foot over 54 corresponds to an additional £100,000, you’ve got to really want that extra bunk and stowage space.
Proof that Oyster customers do is that 14 Oyster 575s have been sold within a year of launch.
Oyster yachts are finished to a premium standard.
Internal stowage particularly has been well thought out.
Were it possible, I’d like to see a lower cockpit sole, with higher backrests and larger hull windows like those on the 625.
The coachroof is sleek and the cockpit is excellent – bar a poor genoa sheet lead – but the helm positions are still quite exposed, which will always knock Oysters’ chances in a beauty pageant.
The Oyster 575 proved easy to handle, manageable for a couple, with powered systems all to hand.
She’s another slippery yacht from Humphreys, coupled with an easy motion that will be greatly appreciated at sea.
First published in the February 2011 issue of YW.
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