The definitive crossover size boat, the 575 is large enough to justify a paid crew and be chartered, yet is still manageable by a couple, says Yachting World’s Toby Hodges – and her sea manners are as smooth as her looks.
You have to hand it to Oyster – defying market trends, they seem to go from strength to strength. New designs don’t seem to get radical shake-ups. Instead, tweaks here and there gently keep them in the ‘current’ bracket. It’s a sign that the Suffolk-based yard know their clientele through and through: they know that despite having six different models between 46 and 65 feet, they continue to do enough to top many a sailor’s list of dream cruising yachts. This, despite the probability that there’ll be another similar looking Oyster in that long dreamt of anchorage that awaits them. Proof of Oyster’s success is the announcement that they will be conducting their own around the world rally next year, which has immediately been oversubscribed.
Oyster owners know what they want, and their boats seem to deliver it in abundance, so changing the recipe could be risky, especially when you’re talking about replacing their most popular model ever, the 56. An impressive 75 yachts in that size are now roaming the planet’s oceans, so how to go about creating a worthy successor?
Viewed against its predecessor, the 575 stands to be a better charter and family boat largely thanks to a separated cockpit area that’s free of sail systems, and twin wheels giving walkthrough access and better views forward. Elsewhere layout is similar, but the beam carried further aft creates space for a larger aft cabin and galley, plus a modernized C-shape main saloon. And there’s more overall volume and usable storage, complete with that all-important deep-V sea-parting bilge. Using composite materials for her build lay-up implies a livelier performer than the 56, backed-up by nearly a metre extra waterline. It comes as no surprise then that several existing 56 owners are apparently looking on this as an upgrade.
Built in quality
As of this year, all Oysters other than superyachts are being built in the UK. In line with the modern Oyster crop (following the 655 and 54), the composite lay-up of the 575 includes the use of carbon and Kevlar to increase strength and shed weight. The test boat had a deep keel, but they are offered with a shallower fixed version (2.06 metres) or with centerboard and dual rudders (reducing draught from 3.82 to 1.65 metres).
Attention to detail is epitomized by the machinery space. The walk-in engine room and generator cited under the companionway steps are double-insulated, using a laminated layer of foam with high-density rubber, while water pumps are housed in the saloon sole to keep noise away from the accommodation. All sole boards have rubber insulation strips and can be locked down, and there are easily accessed inspection hatches for the fuel tanks, which hold 1,400 litres. All the manuals and wiring diagrams for every part aboard are provided in ring-bound files and on CDs, showing Oyster’s unwavering philosophy of customer support: everything needs to be reliably tested and easily serviceable worldwide.
Speed at sea
Liveaboard cruisers aren’t often known for their pace in light winds. Yet the 575 and I were quick to make close acquaintances when, in a force three, she immediately showed the slipperyness exhibited by the 54. Small gusts affected speed instantly, converting these light breezes into an easy seven knots close hauled with the 135 percent genoa.
Most ocean-bound clients choose the in-mast mainsail and cutter sail set up we had – slab reef, double-headed or sloop rigs are all options offered. Unfurling the staysail engages another gear whilst still being able to tack through 100 degrees, and with each extra knot of wind another few decimals would appear on the log. As the wind nudges up into the teens the helmsman is gently reminded of the increased loads as weatherhelm creeps in, speaking the language of a well-mannered cruiser. And bearing-away to such a boat’s trademark point of sail, a broad reach, provided evidence of how comfortably and easily nine knots can be achieved.
Such relaxing, easy sailing, where one simply sets the sails and the helm almost takes care of itself, is what a bluewater yacht should do. The importance of this shouldn’t be understated. Pass through some swell on the 575, and you’d be hard pressed to know it. Down below, all is calm, smooth and quiet. The steering linkage may be long, and dual autopilot rams dulls feedback, however the rewards are on a consistent, comfortable level. And thanks to the twin wheel format, the helm has the unhindered views forward from leeward or windward that was lacking on the 56.
Contained in that formidable and thoughtful engine room, the VW block obviously thinks it’s in a library. When the sails are stowed, it’s quiet enough at low revs that you have to double-check the engine instruments to check that it’s running.
Forward of either helm is a useful step up to the cockpit (or down to the sidedeck currently hindered by the genoa sheet lead to the primary winch, so re-routing this would be advised). But movement forward is aided by high guardrails, with grab rails at a sensible height on the coachroof. And for relaxing moments at anchor, there’s room for sun-bathing cushions on the foredeck, yet it’s hard to beat those cushioned pushpit seats for admiring both the boat and surroundings.
And talking of enjoying the ride, the al fresco comforts of the segregated cockpit come highly recommended – although the low backrests could do with some extra cushioning. The benches are long enough to lie on or seat eight around a sturdy table complete with double cool box. Standing watch from under the protection of the large sprayhood is exceptionally comfortable.
In terms of stowage on deck, a vast lazarette aft easily swallows downwind sails, fenders and toys, including a rail for hanging warps. The anchor locker also boasts good proportions, divided to keep the chain neatly to one side. An Avon 320 RIB with a 15-20 horsepower is the standard dinghy choice, stowed on davits.
Oyster’s centre-cockpit layouts take some beating, and their built-up experience has obviously been poured into the 575, as it is truly top drawer. The aft cabin is remarkable, and the passageway galley is a joy for either owner or paid crew. The saloon speaks practical quality – maximising daylight from the coachroof windows, with the horizon line just visible to each side when standing, yet low enough for privacy. The large forward facing port and starboard windows open outwards, found to be a very popular feature with Oyster owners for getting ventilation below in the tropics, as are the lockers which all have vents that go up into headlining.
While layout options are limited, joinery and upholstery choices obviously make a big difference on the overall feel. White oak is standard, teak, maple and walnut are offered along with the American cherry that we saw, which makes a smart choice for the warming feel it creates.
Stowage room is excellent, maximized throughout, especially in smaller areas including the heads and galley. The saloon table is also cleverly thought out, sliding open to access hinging leafs that extend to seat seven. And the small cabin behind the navstation is a typically useful space: it can be used as a workshop with an optional lift-up bunk, or can house paid crew as an alternative to the Pullman forward.
The navstation is a cruiser’s delight, boasting a spacious chart table, with large shelf for pilot guides, good stowage and ample instrument/screen space. But it was a toss-up between the aft cabin and galley as to which deserves the ultimate accolade. The galley is meticulously well designed for preparing, cooking or storing food. Sizable Avonite worksurfaces have high fiddled edges and are spaced perfectly both for bracing, while leaving room to pass. And there’s plentiful space for domestic comforts like fridge, freezer, washing machine and dishwasher.
The aft cabin stamps home the true mark of quality. There’s still the headroom and space to walk around without feeling like you’re confined below a cockpit. Deep under-berth drawers provide practical stowage in addition to wardrobes and multiple small cupboards, and an optional desk or seating area to starboard. And if you are ever invited as a guest aboard a 575, the forward cabin is comfortable enough too. The island berth has a large shelf beneath (an improvement over the 56), with a section large enough to house the cruising chute if needs be. However the heads is shared with the Pullman cabin, so crew and guests would have to share.
This is Oyster’s specialty length, and while it may not push the envelope, everything has been done to a very calculated, premium standard. After the 54, internal stowage particularly has been well thought out and maximized (although a sail locker forward would be a pleasing option). Easier movement between outside and in (the companionway steps are steep), plus larger hull windows in the saloon and aft cabin would be my only changes.
At sea, the 575 proved very comfortable and easy to handle, certainly manageable for a couple with powered systems all to hand and the traveler within reach. And she’s another slippery one from designer Rob Humphreys, with a decidedly easy motion.
Oyster’s unwavering popularity looks set to continue.
In Asia: www.asiayachtservices.com
Technical Specifications – Oyster 575
LOA 17.89m (58ft 8in)
LWL 15.72m (51ft 7in)
Beam (Max) 5.00m (16ft 5in)
Draught 2.70m (8ft 10in)
Disp (lightship) 26,500kg (58,422lb)
Ballast 8,090kg (17,835lb)
Sail Area (100% foretriangle) 162.2m2 1,746ft2
Engine 150hp VW shaft drive
Water 950l 209gal
Fuel 1,400l 308gal
Price (ex VAT) £1,213,000 ex VAT
Design: Humphreys Yacht Design and Oyster Design Team