Toby Hodges takes an overnight test of the Oyster 595 and finds out how this £2.3m yacht managed to pick up 16 buyers before the first one even hit the water
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 year, However, if uptake of the new Oyster 595 is anything to go by, many sailors are looking to set off to see a bit more of the world in the coming years.
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 Oyster 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 an Oyster 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 Oyster 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 Oyster 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 Oyster 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 Oyster 595 replaces the Oyster 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.
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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 Oyster 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 Oyster 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.
The Oyster powered along magnificently towards a beckoning empty horizon. It was during that reach across a swell, which grew the further we got into the Channel, sailing with the kite in a Force 5 at 150° to the true wind, where I really felt the yacht’s passagemaking ability, as the log steadily clocked 9.5-11 knots.
The deep twin rudders provide stacks of grip yet let you know when they are loaded. With full sail up in a 2m swell and gusts topping 20 knots on the beam, we remained in control even though the helm felt laden. The motion remained very comfortable despite the power, and I was impressed with the consistent average speeds.
Indeed, when we finally gave up the chase, we were approaching the Traffic Separation Scheme mid-Channel. Were we not in travel restricted times, we’d have been tempted to plough on to France.
The Oyster 595 has the displacement, shape and length to slice through waves effortlessly. And during the fetch/close hauled leg back to the coast, we averaged 9 knots, up to 9.5. In these conditions it felt like a relatively high angle of heel. This is particularly noticeable when you go below decks under sail, where it’s tricky to move forward across the saloon as the handrail on the deckhead is so high.
Arguably these are the downsides for those who choose this extra length and volume over the 565 – it’s that much more yacht to manoeuvre around at heel and it is not quite as rewarding to sail. That said, the heavy feel of the helm on the test boat is likely to do with the fact that the rudder bar and tow angles had not been optimised. Adamson has since reported: “After resetting the tow angle and with a slight adjustment to the geometry of the drag link, she is now super light on the helm”.
For those still concerned about the use of twin rudders for bluewater sailing, he says the yard has never had an issue with rudder damage. The blades are designed to sever in the case of a serious impact and there are watertight bulkheads each side of the stocks. They also allow for a shallow draught centreboard option.
The contemporary deck layout is practically identical to the 565, including the flush foredeck, excellent sail locker and generous lazarette, but with some extra space in those ends and in the cockpit. Again there’s a substantial bowsprit, which allows for the easy setting of a large anchor. An impressive 130m of stainless steel chain comes as standard, complete with a deckwash system.
The light show
Anchoring for the night below the embrace of the Purbeck hills at dusk gave us an ideal opportunity to experience many of the comfort features of the boat at rest. The windlass can be operated from the helm, while a touch of the screen at the pedestal changed the nav lights to anchor and spreader lights, illuminating the foredeck. Underwater lights then beamed into the deep like a space probe, attracting marine life.
The ability to change the lighting at the push of a button from the helm or below decks is a feature which quickly grew on me. Having said this, it still came as a surprise when the first thing Adamson wanted to show me on boarding was the lighting system. He says Hadida is adamant that if people spend millions on a yacht, they should have a decent lighting and sound system.
The LED spotlights, sunk into the deckheads so you don’t see the lenses, are a particularly neat touch. There are three different mood lighting settings as standard, encouraging you to instantly change the lights to a brighter/softer/night time mode at the push of a button.
C-Zone’s digital switching is at the heart of this and the electronics system. It has encouraged Hadida to also develop and integrate a ‘Guardian Angel’ system, which clearly displays all the yacht’s systems on touchscreen displays. In time this system will enable the yacht’s technical systems to be beamed live to Oyster HQ via the Yellowbrick tracker system.
“We will be able to push notifications to them and owners will be able to push a button to ‘request assistance’ – a concierge service,” says Adamson.
The 595’s interior shows Oyster at its best. Anyone who has sailed its midsize central cockpit designs in the last two decades will know the aft cabin, galley and engine room layout is hard to better for ocean cruising.
Granted, the seven companionway steps are a comparatively steep descent by today’s standards, but they help open out an impressively light and modern saloon and navstation. It’s a vibrant, bright, voluminous and modern interior awash with natural light. The ventilation is also excellent, particularly from the forward-facing coachroof windows.
The spacious saloon is raised enough to create abundant machinery space below, but the open spaces and height present a challenge when trying to traverse it at heel. The navstation is set at 45º and has plenty of space for instruments, however it feels a little compact, particularly for those wanting to use it as an office too.
The backrest is very upright, and you can’t stretch your feet out properly, though it is possible to have a swing-out stool instead. Otherwise, however, it has a large chart table and an excellent layout of electronic systems, with easy access to the wiring behind.
The passageway galley is superb. With abundant worktop and locker space it is bright and practical to work at at sea. You can brace against the opposing countertop, yet it is wide enough for two to pass.
The test boat was brimming with domestic appliances including dishwasher, ice-maker, washer-dryer and microwave. Its GN Espace induction cooker set-up is an option but one Adamson is pushing to make standard.
World cruisers are always searching for gas bottles and different countries use different regulators, he comments. “With this you can use the generator and if you lose that you can run the microwave through the inverter and service batteries.”
I’d wager that it’s on viewing the aft cabin where the majority of cheques get signed. This cabin presents a supreme amount of space and natural light. The standout features are the triple vertical hull portlights and the ambient lighting. You lose standing headroom alongside the berth, yet there’s plenty at the forward end of the cabin (6ft 3in/1.90m).
Guests would feel pretty spoiled in the forward cabin too, where the stellar skylights harness so much natural light. Look closely at how well Oyster has integrated the dual blinds, the lee cloth attachments, ventilation and spotlights into the headlining alone, and you’ll appreciate the premium quality.
The forward cabin has its own access into the shared heads and shower. Given this will be used by crew in two or three cabins, it needs to be, and is spacious and practical, with a deep sink, good stowage and light. A heated rail or some method of drying towels and wet gear would benefit both heads compartments further.
The standard Oyster 595 has two bunks in the midships cabin. Skye III has been set up for the world rally and will be crewed by a professional skipper and first mate, who have a pilot berth cum workroom, which I think is ideal.
Lift the saloon sole panels and you’ll find the whole of the central section is an intelligibly laid out manifold network, as per the 565, with the portside for engineering (engine and genset) and the starboard side for services such as refrigeration and aircon. If one becomes blocked you can link to the other.
An aluminium grid provides a stiff structure for the floor panels.
Oyster’s current method of using monolithic carbon infused structures (as opposed to the foam-topped method of the past), creates additional bilge space above the deep keel sump. The Lloyds-approved structures are costly but create more structural stiffness.
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