Combining much of the concept behind Niklas Zennström’s radical Fast40 Ran VII with the experience of Oyster Yachts founder Richard Matthews is bound to result in an exceptional yacht.
Given Matthews’ latest 52ft IRC racer doesn’t have to fit a box rule, designer Shaun Carkeek had plenty of latitude to create the fastest possible 52-footer. As a result this boat is wider, more powerful and significantly faster than a TP52.
It’s also just as likely to turn heads as Ran VII. Matthews has been deeply involved with this project and has brought his enormous experience to many aspects of the vessel. The first boat out of the mould will be his 35th racing yacht and the builders, Lymington-based Fibre Mechanics, hope it will be the first of a short run of semi-custom boats.
The design lends itself to either inshore or offshore use, with Oystercatcher XXXV configured for longer offshore races including events like the Rolex Fastnet, the North Sea Race and maybe RORC’s Caribbean 600.
The boat is fitted with twin rudders that will help to create a very fast reaching machine. It also has water ballast to allow racing with a civilised crew size of 7-8 people. However, an inshore-optimised boat sailing predominantly windward-leeward courses would suit the single-rudder option better.
The hull shape and low freeboard mean this has the potential to be a very wet boat, so a great deal of effort has been made to stop water getting below decks. There’s a pneumatic seal on the forehatch, for instance, and the companionway is under a dodger, which gives sufficient headroom to be able to stand up. In addition, where control lines, sheet and halyards run under the deck they are in sealed tunnels.
Construction of Oystercatcher XXXV is of high and intermediate modulus carbon with a Nomex core, plus foam core in the slam area forward. “It’s as extreme as you’d want to go with an offshore boat,” says Geoff Stock, co-founder and director of builder Fibre Mechanics.
This Lymington-based company, which rose from the ashes of the former Green Marine, has already been involved in notable projects, including building the deck and foil boxes for Jérémie Beyou’s IMOCA 60 Charal.
The deck layout is the result of input from both Shaun Carkeek and Matthews and his team. “We’ve made the deck mould in such a way that the layout is easy to customise,” Stock told me. “It has to be adaptable in terms of deck layout and we can change it radically if necessary.”
Bare not barren
All too often the stripped out interiors of grand-prix offshore raceboats lack the ergonomics that are needed to create an efficient environment at sea. “Richard doesn’t want to go offshore in a completely basic boat,” says Stock, “He says it just doesn’t work for the crew.” While the interior of Oystercatcher XXXV will still look bare, with a lot of pipe cots and an engine box in the middle, the galley is carefully thought out and there’s a working head, alongside much practical detailing from Matthews himself.
Stock says, apart from the pipe cots, the total weight of the composite interior elements is only 8kg. Matthews’ input goes right down to the angle of the base of the lockers, so kit stays where it should be, even in extreme conditions, and to the design of foot chocks.
Equally, he brought his experience to bear in areas like stowage around the companionway.
The final solution adds no extra weight but makes the whole arrangement more ergonomic. Instead of building a single custom boat, Fibre Mechanics has built female moulds, which will enable further boats to be built at a reduced cost.
“It’s a solid and very powerful platform that a race team can come in and tweak to optimise for their own purposes,” says Stock. Owners of subsequent boats will also be able to benefit hugely from the experience and knowledge that has gone into this first boat.
In addition, amortising the cost of design and the tooling over a number of boats gives a cost saving of around £200,000 compared to a TP52 built and equipped to a similar specification.
Moulding of the hull and deck shell were completed and baked at the end of October 2020 and the boat is expected to be afloat at the end of April 2021. At the time of writing build slots for subsequent examples were still available for the 2021 season.
Hull: length 15.85m / 52ft 0in
Beam: 4.96m / 16ft 3in •
Draught: 3.60m / 11ft 9in
Displacement: 6,800kg / 15,000lb