The Oyster line has remained faithful to its series of raised saloon boats for years, and until now, they have all been Holman and Pye designs. When I saw the sail plan of this Oyster 56, I immediately realized that there was a new design hand at work here.

The Oyster 56.

The Oyster 56.

The brochure listed the designer as "the Oyster design team." Oh great. But flipping through some information I had been sent, I found a photo of the assembled "team." It consists of: Daron Townson, Murray Aitken and Richard Matthews of the Oyster company; Donald Pye of Holman and Pye; and, the biggest surprise of all, designer Rob Humphreys. Of course! It was Humphreys' stamp that I noticed in the sheerline of the new model. Anyway, I thought I did.

The deck of the new 56 was designed with the help of the Loughborough University Department of Ergonomics. This sounds too much like a Monty Python skit to me, but apparently this group has been instrumental in auto interiors. I really can't see anything special in this deck design; the contributions of the university group must be very subtle and will need to be experienced to be appreciated. The deck is handsome and carefully sculpted, but the side decks seem too narrow for a boat of this size.

The saloon features a big curvy dinette. These look good on drawings, but I prefer corners to my settees. They don't look as sexy on the drawing, but I am convinced that corners work better. The short settee to starboard is not long enough to make a berth. The galley is huge and very well laid-out with lots of counter space. Note the big freezer compartment. The aft stateroom looks very comfortable with its curved settee and centerline vanity. One of the biggest benefits to any center-cockpit design is the volume made available for a real, walk-in engine room.

The hull form of the 56 is all the work of Rob Humphreys. Humphreys has produced a long list of race winners, and you can see this pedigree in the lines of the 56. The forefoot is softly V-ed, and there is plenty of rocker to the hull profile forward to help reduce pounding. I prefer vertical rudder posts when the rudder is combined with a skeg, but this one is raked 11 degrees. Note the extended fin fairing that precedes the actual skeg. This may possibly improve directional stability, but it just looks like more wetted surface to me. The D/L ratio is 237 and the L/B is 3.53. This is right about in the middle of L/Bs.

There are two keels available for the 56. The shoal-draft keel draws 6 feet, and the deeper keel draws 7 feet, 10 inches. The shoal keel shows a bulbish tip while the deeper keel shows a flared and flattened tip with no bulblike geometry despite the brochure labeling the keel a HPB (high-performance bulb). What I see on the drawings is more like an NAB-type (no apparent bulb).

The rig size is modest with an SA/D ratio of 15.28 with 100 percent of the foretriangle and the displacement listed as "cruising trim with half-full tanks." The rig shows triple spreaders, aft lowers and a babystay. The babystay intersects the mast at an 8-degree angle, which I would like to see increased to 10 degrees.

A 110-horsepower Yanmar diesel with a 3-bladed Max prop should push the 56 along at about 9.3 knots. There is tankage for 190 gallons of fuel with a dipstick supplied. There is tankage for 170 gallons of water and an additional dipstick (ADS). Construction is solid GRP in the hull with a balsa-cored deck.

There is little argument that Oyster builds spectacular boats.

Spacious cruiser with raceboat pedigree.

Boat Specifications
Draft7'10" (standard keel), 6' (shoal keel)
Displacement57,200 lbs.
Ballast16,070 lbs. (standard keel)
Sail Area1,418 sq. ft.
SA/D ratio15.28
D/L ratio237
AuxiliaryYanmar 110-horsepower diesel
Fuel190 gals.
Water170 gals.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.