HOW IT WENT DOWN
THE OYSTER STORY

A first-hand account of what happened to the Oyster 825-02 sailing yacht, POLINA STAR III, and how a failure to handle the dispute properly, in our opinion, caused the liquidation of the shipyard

Oyster Yachts was one of the most famous sailboat-building shipyards.
In a span of over 40 years of its history, Oyster built over a thousand yachts. They were always noted for their exceptional levels of luxury, reliability, and build quality. In all, the brand used to be the Rolls-Royce of the sailing yacht world.

How was it even possible, then, that a new Oyster boat, less than a year after delivery, literally fell apart in the open sea for no apparent reason, putting not only the brand's prestige but the lives of its customers in grave danger? Read the full story below.
CAST
Main characters:
Alessio Cannoni
Captain of S/Y POLINA STAR III
(Oyster 825-02)
Wim de Pundert
Principal owner of Oyster Yachts
David Tydeman
CEO, Oyster Yachts
Alexander V. Ezhkov
Owner of S/Y POLINA STAR III
Event Timeline
June 2012
The happy customer signs the contract with Oyster Yachts and begins to prepare for his round-the-world voyage dream to come true.
2013
The yacht is built at Oyster.
April 2014
During the final stages of the build, Mr Ezhkov engages Alessio Cannoni, a professional yacht captain. Cannoni visits Oyster to prepare for the delivery of the boat.
First Suspicions
Alessio Cannoni
Captain of S/Y "POLINA STAR III"
I first visited the Oyster docks when the boat was around 80% complete, so I couldn't witness the build from the very beginning. At first, I was delighted at the prospect of captaining a boat built by such a respected yard. However, a week into the project, my euphoria was replaced by very different feelings – those people simply didn't seem to know how boats are built! The list of lapses, big and small, that occurred during the build process, is endless. Yet, the shipyard has been quite arrogant in refusing to take responsibility for any of these faults.
May 2014
The yacht is commissioned and leaves for her maiden voyage to Norway.
July-September 2014
The boat is back at the shipyard for warranty repairs. Emails exchanges take place between Alessio Cannoni (the captain) and Andrew Martin (the shipyard's project manager) regarding the suspected keel dislocation.
Early October 2014
Letters are sent from the shipyard to Mr Ezhkov about the work in progress and the repairs that have been completed, ultimately confirming that both structurally and with regard to the design, all is in order with the keel. The yard assures the owner that the keel is safe and intact.
Polina Star III
14 October 2014
A letter is sent from the shipyard to Mr Ezhkov confirming that Oyster Yachts has extended the warranty for items, such as the keel, the mast, and the equipment that was dismantled during the keel check.
23 October 2014
A letter is sent by Harvey Jones (the shipyard's technical director) to Mr Ezhkov, confirming that the vessel's structure and keel fastening arrangements are safe.

The boat is recommissioned and leaves the shipyard to participate in the 2014 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers).
13 March 2015
The boat is lifted up in Antigua and an independent Marine Surveyor report is carried out. Summary: Movement of the ballast keel is considered excessive and not a cosmetic defect.
07 April 2015
When informed of this, the shipyard sends a letter to Mr Ezhkov and Cannoni, confirming that Oyster Yachts has no concerns about the keel. "This is a cosmetic issue only and does not affect the attachment of the keel to the hull."

Mr Ezhkov decides to cancel his round-the-world trip and return the boat to Europe for repairs owing to concerns regarding the safety and lack of infrastructure.

22 April 2015
Mr Ezhkov sends a letter to Oyster CEO, David Tydeman, expressing concerns about the boat's safety before the Atlantic crossing from Antigua to Gibraltar. Mr Ezhkov invites an Oyster representative to fly to Antigua to inspect the boat themselves and offers the following two options:

  • Option 1: Mr Ezhkov returns his 825-02 yacht to the shipyard as defective and the yard reimburses its cost in full.
  • Option 2: Oyster Yachts builds a new 825 for Mr Ezhkov while he uses his 825-02 in the safer waters of the Mediterranean.
24 April 2015
A letter is sent from David Tydeman to Mr Ezhkov where he refuses to accept either option and reassures Mr Ezhkov that he should continue to have confidence and "enjoy his yacht".
27 April 2015
A letter is sent from Mr Ezhkov to David Tydeman where he stresses upon the fact noticed during the surveyor report in Antigua: "excessive amount of water is leaking from the joint between the keel and stub". A meeting is proposed in June to be held in Spain.
27 April 2015
A letter is sent from David Tydeman to Mr Ezhkov, confirming the June meeting in Spain, stating, however, that his position remains unchanged – the keel flexing is consistent with the design, and Oyster is basically not going to do anything about it.
May 2015
Oyster shares with Mr Ezhkov a report by Giovanni Belgrano of the New Zealand company, Pure Design & Engineering, titled "Audit and Peer Review of Keel Bolting Arrangement Engineering". The design is found "satisfactory" with some suggestions for improvements.
However, the report is dated 18 October 2014 and Oyster has obviously not taken the situation into account after the yacht's re-commissioning and ocean crossing. It is also basically a review of the design and not an inspection and survey of the actual build. Hence, it does not evaluate the design execution on the 825-02.
30 May 2015
Polina Star III leaves Antigua, heading for the Azores and then to Gibraltar.
03 July 2015
The incident takes place.
Friday, 03 July 2015
37°52'30"N, 000°39'30"W
Spanish coast of the Med, about 5 nautical miles South off Torrevieja
14:07 GMT
Unusually strong noise and vibration reported in the hull
14:07:15
Engine compartment is flooded
14:07:30
Water floods auxiliary batteries; all systems shut down
14:07:45
Captain steers the boat leewards; the crew furl the jib manually, engage the emergency bilge pump, and prepare to fight for buoyancy
14:13:00
The keel detaches completely, and the yacht capsizes.
Captain's testimony:

"I ran to the cockpit and looked down to see water splashing above seat-level. That was at 14:12. It became clear that the pumps were not coping, and it was time to tell the crew to abandon ship. We pulled the life raft out of its recess; I signalled Mayday over the radio, reporting our coordinates (standing knee-deep in the water, literally), and grabbed a couple of life vests. At that instant, the keel fell off completely, and the yacht started to heel over. Barely five minutes passed between the first sounds of laminate tearing and the yacht capsizing…"

What is keel loss?
Keel loss is an extremely rare occurrence in yachts, with very few incidents recorded in history.
In a properly built yacht, the keel is a rigid structural element that ensures the stability of the vessel, like the foundation of a house or the wheels of a car. Losing the keel in open sea, without apparent reason, such as hitting the rocks, is a disaster. Imagine a newly built house that sinks into the ground a week after its owners move in. Or a brand-new car, fresh out of the dealership, tumbling down the hill after losing all its wheels in a steep turn...

Over the last 10 years, only a handful of yachts have suffered keel failure in the open sea, for example, the Cheeki Rafiki in May 2014. In Oyster's case, thankfully, there were no casualties. Cheeki Rafiki's crew of four died.


THE AFTERMATH
The shipyard's "head-in-the-sand" attitude
Any organisation is characterised not by an absence of mistakes (nobody is completely guaranteed against them) but by how it handles them. In this respect, the reaction of a shipyard as established as Oyster reflects especially inappropriately. Despite there being overwhelming evidence of a construction flaw, the shipyard focused their efforts not on containing and resolving the issue but on concealing it and dragging out any settlement of their liability.

Management and owners of Oyster Yachts basically did the following:
1
Refused to do anything about the problem when it was imminent
Several months of email communication, where the boat owner, his captain, and independent surveyors tried to point out the signs of dangerous keel movement, resulted in David Tydeman's insolent "enjoy your yacht" note – two months after which, the boat sank.
2
Took time to acknowledge liability and never completely did so ultimately
After the incident occurred, Oyster refuses to cooperate with the surveyors for the investigation at first, and then suggests "the possibility of impact with an underwater object propagating structural failure". Only after the evidence becomes overwhelming (see reports below) do they publish a statement admitting their fault, which is shred to pieces for its vague content by SailFeed, an online blog spin-off of the respected Sail Magazine.
3
Company owners dragged out any settlement proposals
Almost two years of communication with Oyster regarding compensation of losses shows clear signs of company owners trying to drag out, sweep under the rug, and delay solving the problem as far as possible. This is not how serious people, who care about their reputation, conduct business.
4
Company owners never properly apologised to their client
A direct and formal apology from owners of Oyster was never issued to Mr Ezhkov. Instead, they sent him a message calling him a "f***ing idiot" (see below).
"Ostrich Yachts"
Investigations ensue
Within months of the incident, Yacht magazine in Russia published reports of its own investigation into the cause of the crash. Professional British yacht surveyors, Ward & McKenzie, also presented their report
Artur Grokhovsky
Editor-in-Chief of Yacht Russia, one of Europe's top experts in production sailing yachts
We, at YR, consider ourselves to have every right to tell the readers about what happened because we were there and saw the recovered yacht with our own eyes (thus earning the right to make our own conclusions), talked to her owner and the captain, saw the surveyor's report, and spoke with the head of Ascar Shipyard, as an independent expert.

Besides, we are dealing with an unprecedented event: All of a sudden – not in a storm or after a collision or fire – an 80-foot sailing yacht loses its ballast keel and sinks while still being covered by the manufacturer's warranty. All these facts make us feel obligated to go public with a detailed account of the incident.
Chris Nicolle
Director and Principal Surveyor, Ward & McKenzie
[...]
Greater clarity would most likely be possible if Oyster was willing to provide
build information and design specifications. These could be analysed to
determine whether there was a design weakness.
It is at this stage possible to say that the cause could be any one or indeed a
combination of the points discussed in this report. Our initial thought would be
that point 7 [Insufficient strength in the joint between the internal floor
structure and the transverse internal keel stub structure that extends into the
keel stub underneath the internal floor structure
] would be the most likely point
in the direction of the cause of the failure.
[...]
The Story Continues
What happened after the incident: A brief timeline
August-September 2015
August-September 2015
Negotiations with Mr Tydeman
Mr Tydeman after several attempts manages to come into Russia to meet with Mr Ezhkov and discuss a way to resolve the situation. He proposes to build a new 885 for Mr Ezhkov, but Mr Ezhkov's offer to just replace the boat is not on the table anymore, because the situation has changed dramatically. Mr Ezhkov put his son, who was onboard during the incident, in grave danger, lost money invested in boat's inventory and crew, and in addition lost several years of his valuable lifetime to fulfil his dream of circumnavigation. It all obviously lead to serious moral distress and disappointment. Mr Ezhkov's counter-offer is now basically "new boat + financial compensation". The boat is still on the seabed and reports about the incident are in general contained from the PR standpoint, so in theory it could give Oyster the opportunity to save their face and reputation. Mr Tydeman and Oyster's shareholders refuse this offer.
October-November 2015
October-November 2015
Recovery and investigations
The vessel is lifted up from the seabed and moved to England. Yacht Russia becomes the first international media outlet to publish a comprehensive report with the findings of the situation (read it in English here). Professional yacht surveyors, Ward & Mckenzie, also published their report, which was shared with the owner and the underwriters. Conclusions of both reports generally match. Both YR and W&M send their inquiries to Oyster while working on their findings, but Oyster refuses to provide any information.
12 April 2016
12 April 2016
Insurance claim received
Owner of the PS III signs a release & discharge form with the underwriters (Hiscox MGA Ltd) and shortly thereafter receives full insurance for the lost vessel.
May-October 2016
May-October 2016
Other outstanding claims
Since apart from the cost of vessel itself, there were uninsured losses associated with outfitting and crewing the vessel along with eventual moral distress and loss of amenity associated with disrupted plans for the round-the-world voyage, the owner of PS III informed Oyster that he will bring up his claim for the uninsured losses directly with the shipyard.
November 2016
November 2016
"F***ing idiot trying to blackmail everyone"
Communication back and forth with the shipyard continues, with Mr Ezhkov expecting Oyster to come forward with their proposal for the settlement. In the end, the shipyard stops all direct communications and reroutes any inquiries to their lawyers. As his very own special way of saying "sorry", the owner of Oyster Yachts, Mr Wim de Pundert, in an email dated 07 November 2016, calls Mr Ezhkov "a f***ing idiot trying to blackmail everyone".
December 2016
December 2016
Provision for the compensation is made
The annual report for 2015, submitted by Oyster at Companies House UK, shows that provisions are made for settlement with respect to the claims associated with PS III. Because of this provision, Oyster incurs a loss in that financial year amounting to 5,173,961 GBP, as reflected in their Profit and Loss report. This "loss" is purely speculative as the settlement was never actually paid. A counterclaim towards Oyster's subcontractor, Bridgland Moulders Ltd, for the amount of 7,200,000 GBP is announced.
January 2017
January 2017
Enter Thomas Cooper and itBoat Boutique
Yacht management company itBoat Boutique is authorised to act on behalf of the owner in all matters associated with PS III. iBB engages Thomas Cooper LLP, one of the leading international law firms, to represent the owners in bringing up their claims against Oyster for uninsured losses.
February 2017
February 2017
Letter of demand submitted
Extensive research work is done by the itBoat Boutique and Thomas Cooper team to establish the exact quantum of the claim. As a result, letter of demand submitted to Oyster, outlining the details of the claim (see below in Documents).
March-April 2017
March-April 2017
Oyster refuses mediation
A mediation is proposed by Thomas Cooper to Haynes and Boone LLP, Oyster's law firm, as a cost-effective means of dispute resolution. Per their client's instruction, Haynes and Boone refuse to participate.
June-December 2017
June-December 2017
Preparations for litigation
Various investigative and preparative efforts are made by itBoat Boutique along with Thomas Cooper and its counsels to prepare for the litigation. One more attempt is made to offer Oyster the possibility of mediation; the answer remains "no".
January 2018
January 2018
Meeting with David Tydeman
David Tydeman, CEO of Oyster, suddenly agrees to a meeting with Mr Ezhkov's representative, Mr Nikita A. Gorchakov "for the purpose of enabling Mr Gorchakov to explain any proposal which he is authorised to make and for Mr Gorchakov and Mr Tydeman to consider a way forward which avoids litigation". The meeting occurs during the Boot Dusseldorf exhibition at the end of January 2018.

However, during this meeting, Mr Tydeman essentially refuses to hear any of Mr Gorchakov's "proposals" and avoids giving any specific answer regarding the claims, citing formal irregularities in the previous communication. At the same time, Mr Tydeman vaguely mentions that proceeds from their counter-claim towards Bridgland Moulders along with their insurance monies would be sufficient to satisfy the demands of both the underwriters and Mr Ezhkov within a reasonable timeframe. Mr Tydeman requests for few days after the show in order to review the claim paperwork.
5 Feb 2018
5 Feb 2018
Belly up
All of a sudden, Oyster goes into liquidation
Objective of this Website
This website was launched on 16 February 2018, following the liquidation announcement of Oyster Yachts. It was created to shed light on the practices of the Oyster Yachts owners and management.
Alexander V. Ezhkov
Owner of S/Y "Polina Star III"
I believe it is my duty to inform our fellow yachtspeople and the whole sailing community about what happened so that the same mistakes can be avoided in the future.
Oscar Konyukhov
Ex-representative of Oyster Yachts in Russia and CIS
Alexander Ezhkov is a very experienced yacht owner and sailor, who had owned and built about 8 different sailboats and in addition, chartered dozens of them. When he shared his plans to build a bigger boat to fulfil his dream to sail around the world, I proposed the new Oyster 825 to him. At that time, Oyster had maintained impeccable pedigree, without a single incident.

As a result, not only did Alexander lose his yacht, time, and money but also put his life and the lives of his relatives and crew at risk. Sadly, he could not fulfil his dream to sail around the world either.

In my view, this problem could be resolved if the managers and owners of Oyster listen to the experienced yacht owner and his professional crew. The boat could be replaced and, yes, with the 825-02, it would be costly mistake; but a lesson would be learnt with the shipyard's reputation intact. Instead, the Oyster management and owners treated the client's concerns and reports as their last priority. As a result, they were always several steps behind in the slowly, but surely unfolding crisis, in the times when they needed to be extremely pro-active. In my opinion, they are completely at fault for this whole mess. Ignoring the seriousness of the situation led to these catastrophic consequences. Had the keel fallen off in the middle of the Atlantic, it would have been fatal.

It's such a shame to see a very respectable yacht brand go down in flames. I sincerely hope that the whole industry will learn from this case.
Questions Without Answers
Company liquidation is usually a pretty straightforward process. However, there are many questions to previous management and owners, HTP Investments BV, regarding why this happened to Oyster.
1
Provisions for losses were made in 2015, so why were no efforts made to settle?
In the 2015 fiscal year, Oyster made reserves for the potential claim settlement. A "virtual loss" of over 5 mGBP in this regard was shown on the balance sheet and the PnL report. However, no genuine attempts to settle were made. It has almost been 3 years since, where has this "loss" gone?
2
Why liquidate now?
There was no direct court order to pay, so potentially, this could have gone on for some time, considering the way it was handled by Oyster. Further, Oyster didn't make any efforts to propose, for example, some way to make staggered payments to the claimants. Mr Tydeman also mentioned that the proceeds from their counter-claim towards Bridgland Moulders (who were insured) and from Oyster's own liability insurance would be sufficient to satisfy all the claims. Apart from the "virtual loss" incurred in 2015, the yard was profitable every year as the reports show. In 2016, it was already back in the black. Just weeks before the liquidation announcement, Oyster proclaimed that they had closed 2017 with a "record order book of over 80 m GBP", which provides at least another 1.5 years of runway for the company. Why the liquidation then? Is there some hidden agenda behind it?
3
Where did all the cash go?
Several peculiarities in the financial statements in Oyster's and their parent company's financial reports during 2012-2016 may point to the fact that there, allegedly, could be a premeditated withdrawal of assets from the company. We are preparing a comprehensive study of the same and will publish it when more information becomes available for public use.
Wall of Fame
These are the people whose negligence and faults, in our opinion, have brought such a respectable company as Oyster to the ground:
David Tydeman
Ex- CEO of Oyster Yachts
As the main executive of the company in 2012–2018, Mr Tydeman, in our opinion, is directly responsible for how the hull of 825-02 was designed and built, how the after-sales process was handled, and how any claims were treated, which we believe resulted in the company's insolvency.
Wim de Pundert
Principal owner of Oyster Yachts
Mr de Pundert, as the principal (60%) shareholder of the company, was directly and actively involved in the case, as his email calling the shipyard's client "a f***ing idiot" vividly demonstrated. Mr de Pundert was also one of the company's directors up until 16 December 2016. We believe Mr de Pundert was involved in all major dealings of the company, including the way the financial statements were prepared.
Klaas Meertens
Co-owner of Oyster Yachts
Mr Meertens also controls a major stake (40%) in Oyster Yachts and has been one of the directors of Oyster Marine Holdings Ltd. till 16 December 2016. We believe that his actions and decisions directly affected the situation of the company. Mr Meertens also owns the Oyster 825-03 yacht, S/Y "MAEGAN", a sistership to PS III, and therefore, can be considered to be properly informed of its structural issues.
Gallery
Files and Documents
Update 1 on 26 February 2018
Over 50.000 visitors in several days and still growing!
Dear friends, colleagues and members of the sailing community,

we are very humbled and overwhelmed by all the messages of support, stories similar to ours and constructive suggestions we've received from all around the world during the last 3 days. Unfortunately, because there are hundreds of requests, we are unable to quickly answer to them all. We promise to get back to everyone who had proposals or requests. We are also currently re-evaluating our legal strategy in light of the new insights which we've had so many, thanks to your feedback. But we can confirm that we remain dedicated to seeing this case further in order to make the sailing world better. We also would like to reaffirm that all the sensitive messages we are receiving will remain confidential as per their context or senders' requests.

Yours,
Team OysterStory.Info
Update 2 on 26 February 2018
Statement received from Mr David Tydeman, ex-CEO of Oyster Yachts
David Tydeman
Ex- CEO of Oyster Yachts
This has been a long and distressing story for all parties. I flew to Moscow after the incident as soon as I could obtain a visa and in a personal capacity, apologised sincerely to Mr Ezhkov for the incident and the distress that I was sure that he had suffered. During the following months, Mr Ezhkov and I tried to find a solution to build him a new Oyster 885 although that proposal failed to develop. I was personally pleased to see that Mr Ezhkov was paid out by his insurers and, in my capacity as CEO of Oyster, we were waiting for those insurers to present their subrogated claim against Oyster. The fact that this was not presented was outside Oyster's control, but at no point did Oyster seek to avoid its liability or legal responsibilities. I again express my apology in a personal capacity to Mr Ezhkov for all that he has experienced. I am unable to comment on Oyster's behalf since the Company is now in administration.
Nikita A. Gorchakov
Spokesperson for Mr Alexander Ezhkov
For the sake of clarity and objectivity, we have agreed to publish this statement of Mr Tydeman exactly as we received it by email from him. However our evaluation and collation of all the facts in it's entirety is quite different. Mr Tydeman tries to dismiss a very long and complicated process, which spanned 3 years, in just a few lines of statement. We can somehow relate to his intention to try to clear his reputation, and convey a position where his was just acting on the orders of shareholders. However, as the director of the company, who cares about his reputation and does seriously disagree with his shareholders, he had always the option to step down.

We could give more details on what Mr Tydeman is referring to, and those in our opinion would prove our point even further. For example, his statement that Oyster never received any subrogation claim from the insurers is simply not true at all.

But the story of only the PS III claims settlement is actually slightly beyond the point at this stage. The objective of this website was to give a broader look on how malpractices lead to the end of even the most famous yacht building companies. We wanted to help the industry, of which we sincerely care about, become more healthy. There were also certain questions raised about financials of Oyster and we still haven't received any comment on those.

Even the launch of this website and subsequent flurry of discussion shows, that Oyster's directors and owners were always several steps behind in handling the unfolding crisis of their company which ultimately lead to it's liquidation. One needs to be very pro-active when dealing with such high-profile clients and cases.
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DISCLAIMER:
This website was made upon the order of Rugiero Universal Inc. and Mr Alexander V. Ezhkov. The above represents, to the best of his knowledge, the statement of Mr Ezhkov's honest opinion, errors and omissions excepted. All photo and video materials belong to their owners and are used for demonstration purposes only.

* This site was slightly updated on 26 February 2018 in the "Aftermath" and "The Story Continues" sections to clarify Mr Ezhkov's recollections of the events.

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