Maegan: The Oyster yacht built for bluewater cruising
by Tim Thomas
“I have a very interesting statistic,” starts David Tydeman, CEO of Oyster Yachts. “We looked back over the last 300 boats we’ve built and found that less than 20 per cent had a mooring or a berth. They were mobile. I love that: that’s what Oyster is about. We build boats for sailing, not for marina or regatta glory.”
There’s a sense of irony in his last statement, as Maegan has had a successful racing career so far. In 2015, she finished her first bout of racing at the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo, coming sixth in her class; just a week later the same yacht topped her class at the Superyacht Cup in Palma; and in March 2016 she finished second in her class at the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta.
In its 42-year history, Oyster has garnered a reputation for building solid, high-quality bluewater cruisers, at home on the high seas and often encountered in the most remote destinations. I am quite surprised, then, when we head out into a near-windless Med for a trial sail and discover that far from being a chunky, heavy, ocean thoroughbred, this modern 24 metre is light, nimble and – when it comes to sailing – remarkably easily driven.
With the breeze hovering between 2.5 and four knots, we hoist the in-boom furled main and unroll the blade jib, and with a gentle hand on the wheel Maegan moves. At 30 degrees apparent, we’re clocking close to five knots — more than a knot above true wind — and it’s a similar story when we bear away and try the furling Code 0. With the apparent just forward of 90 degrees, she ticks along at a knot above true wind.
She’s not just a light airs special, either. “We’ve had her surfing at 16 knots, on the passage past Portugal, without much effort,” beams Maegan’s captain James Micklem. “And she really enjoys 10 to 12 knots of wind.”
A glance around the aft deck area shows the thought that has gone into Maegan’s design and layout. Her winches are all positioned aft of the steering pedestals and her two-to-one mainsheet runs under the deck from the end of the boom. The blade jib forward means the jib tracks are kept to the aft end of the foredeck and her sheets run close to the coachroof coamings.
Coupled with outboard chainplates, the side decks on Maegan are blissfully clear of obstructions, while the large guest cockpit is safely away from lines, sheets and sailing controls. Runners and an inner forestay add security for heavy weather sailing, but both can be removed. It all adds up to a yacht that is both easy to handle, yet safe for guests.
Maegan’s high topsides mean that there are no steps fore or aft on deck, and her foredeck has been kept clear through an optional forced-air system for the interior, so foredeck dorades are a thing of the past. Removable dinghy chocks can seat a 4.5 metre tender forward — easily launched using a pole system on the mast — while with the tender gone a large lounging deck-space forward complements the broad, flat aft-deck area. The guest cockpit itself features a generous teak folding table complete with built-in fridge, while a large sliding hatch leads below.
On descending the steps, the first thing you notice is Maegan’s huge lower saloon. Generous seating either side invites you to relax, while the three distinctive vertical hull-ports either side are at exactly the right height to enjoy a water-to-horizon view.
The 825 can be specified with different saloon configurations, including a raised saloon and a deck saloon, both of which lose the hull ports but which offer seated views through the coachroof windows. You also gain more space for the engine room, which is below the saloon sole, although even the crawl space on Maegan is less of a disadvantage than you might think.
“The engine room layout is much improved over the 82,” says Micklem. “It’s more accessible, and there’s more in one place so you don’t have to go lifting guest floors to access pumps – everything is contained in one area.”
For Maegan, forward of the saloon lies a chart table and the central monitoring system. The longitudinal galley links the guest areas with the crew space, and the galley itself is well equipped for long-distance cruising — although any number of configurations can be specified.
There is a fourth guest double cabin, although as Maegan runs with three crew this is used as a very generous captain’s cabin. The crew space includes a small laundry area, twin cabin for crew, head-cum-wet room and a watertight hatch through to a large foredeck sail locker.
The owner and guest accommodation is set aft, with the full-beam owner’s double cabin towards the stern. The positioning is deliberate: if you’re a sailing yacht owner who likes passage-making rather than flying out to the boat post-delivery, this is the most comfortable area. Maegan’s seaworthy touches are evident in the addition of hooks and eyes in the deckhead for lee cloths.
The master en suite is set to port and the cabin layout itself can be easily customised according to desires. Take away the sofa and a desk can be put in its place, or another wardrobe can replace the vanity unit. In fact, the entire interior arrangement can be customised and reconfigured – one 825 has had the entire aft area set out as a single, large, owner’s apartment. Another has replaced the guest double with the galley.
As Maegan stands, an en suite guest double to starboard and an en suite twin cabin to port – which converts to a double – complete the guest quarters.
The décor on Maegan is light and contemporary, featuring limed oak and large expanses of white panelling. A walnut detail runs here and there, linking the palette with the walnut floor. It’s an incredibly calm space to be in, clean but not sterile, airy but not clinical.
As we sit back on the dock in Porto Cervo, one of Maegan’s siblings – an Oyster 885 called Karibou – slides into the berth next door. It begs the question: why, in the new line-up, did Oyster design two yachts so close in size, separated by just two metres? “We started with the 885 in early 2010, with the design concept,” Tydeman explains, “and the first one hit the water in 2012.
“We committed to the 825 about a year after the design of the 885, so in 2011. We learnt from the 100 and the 125 that as you step over the 24 metre loadline rule, you have to provide much more space for the crew if you want to be commercially coded,” he continues. “So I sat with designer Rob Humphreys and we decided to start with a boat just an inch underneath that limit – the 885 was designed to have two crew cabins and four guest cabins.
“But the decision to go with the 825 was a brave one – could we afford to invest in two boats that were only [two metres in length] apart? We decided there was a market, as one is a six-cabin boat, and the other is a five-cabin boat. Also, 80 feet (24 metres) is the smallest size you can sensibly and socially separate crew and owner.” It is a gamble that has paid off: Oyster has sold six each of the two models so far.
So how about that performance aspect? “We chase performance, but in a different dimension to racing in a regatta,” Tydeman continues. “We measure performance in terms of how far you can sail without having to refill the water and fuel tanks. If you look at our tankage we have twice the capacity across the board of similar yachts, and we also define performance in terms of quietness, vibration and the ability to enjoy long-distance cruising at a sustainable speed.”
As a natural evolution of the Oyster 82, the 825 has already been proven to be some 10 per cent faster. Moreover, that tankage — and the fact that the 825 drinks just 12 to 14 litres of fuel per hour at cruising speed and with everything running — means Maegan has transatlantic range under motor at nine knots, and with the throttles eased back she can also boast potential transpacific range if motor-sailing.
With such space in her interior and flexibility in her configuration — you really can customise the yacht to your preferred layout and equipment — coupled with sailing performance that can handle everything from zephyrs to the worst the oceans can muster, Tydeman’s opening statistic starts to make sense.
Why would anyone, with a yacht like Maegan, choose to stay in a marina? Eighty per cent of the last 300 Oyster owners agree. After all, the world is your oyster – and the Oyster 825 is a real pearl.
First published in the August 2015 edition of Boat International