di Alberto Mariotti - 15 May 2023

Rob Humphreys: the interview with the designer of the Oyster 495 which won the European Yacht of the Year

We interviewed the English designer Rob Humphreys, protagonist of the design of the Oyster 495 which won the European Yacht of the Year 2022 in the Luxury Cruiser category

What does it mean to have won the European Yacht of the Year award?
«It’s a great honour because it’s one award that is judged by a pan-European group of highly experienced sailors/journalists, so it has gravitas. So many awards these days are thrown open to public vote, which means it’s less about the product than the strength of a social media effort. I think this may be our fourth or fifth European Yacht of the Year award and it’s as exciting as the first».

What aspect did you focus on most on 495?

«I’m not sure we could say there was one thing in particular. The heritage of Oyster is fairly well defined and understood as a blue water yacht that is comfortable, seakindly, self-sufficient, etc. From the beginning of the project we were all clear that the 495 had to live up to this ethos, even though it could be considered as an intro-boat into the range».

Can you tell us about the philosophy of the boat and its strengths?

«The answer here is much the same as the previous question I guess. It’s certainly a friends-and-family boat as opposed to the larger models in the Oyster range (typically, above 60ft) which normally have a professional crew, and as such it was perceived as a very easy boat to sail and manage, with a performance that will surprise many».

A comment on keel, rudder, sail plan and its options

«The 495 features a twin rudder configuration which is now standard on all Oyster models. The lead keel is supported by a shallow composite keel stub. Both standard draft and shoal draft (sub 6ft) keel options are available. For the rig you can choose between in-mast furling or slab reefing configurations with an aluminium or carbon mast, and with either a self-tacking or larger non-overlapping blade headsail».

What is the typical owner of this 495?

«I think you could say young family at one end, and at the other end a retired couple. Some owners will not want huge boats even if they can afford them, but they might want the same Oyster level of comfort, luxury, security and trans-oceanic capability that may not generally be available in other boats of this size range».

What does this little one of the fleet have in common with the bigger sisters?

«The 495’s DNA is very much Oyster’s DNA. I’m repeating myself but she is very much a little sister with very similar fundamental characteristics».

A comment on the world of current luxury bluewater. What are the features that cannot be missing on board such boats today?

«As time marches on and we see advances in carbon construction, hydrofoils, etc., it is tempting to think one could transform the blue water landscape, or should I say seascape. But comfort at sea is still heavily dependent on displacement, in terms of vessel motions and load-carrying capability. On the whole, Oysters do go in for long passages while many other aspiring blue water yachts tend not to very much. It’s fairly indicative to say that over 100 Oysters have circumnavigated, and we have no doubt that some 495s will join this ‘club’».

What is your opinion on electric or hybrid propulsion? For sailing boats, even larger than a daysailer, can it ever become a standard solution?

«We are heavily involved in alternative propulsion solutions, particularly in our Explorer motor yacht work, and whilst it’s more evolution than revolution we can imagine that propulsion systems will evolve even for sailing yachts. Solar will no doubt continually improve, particularly if solar sails become more efficient and contribute more usefully from their large surface area; and energy input drawn from the yacht’s passagemaking capability will do much to top up battery charge. How long it will take to get clean away from fossil fuel on sailing yachts is a matter of opinion, but one thing is sure – there is nothing better than an efficient sailing yacht for delivering an efficient return on resource. We often think back to our Global Challenge boats – we were told that they aggregated over one million sea miles using only that ancient resource we call wind».

Oyster 495