Luxury on view by appointment only

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The Independent Online
(Photograph omitted)

The royal blue carpeted stairs up to the Oyster 55 yacht was sectioned off with a placard that said 'View by appointment only'. Twenty feet above the masses were a select bunch of people peering down from the platform into the cabin of the yacht, writes Esther Oxford.

'How much is this one?' said a woman, pointing to the boat. A representative coughed, said he could not recall, and checked his price list. ' pounds 550,000 plus VAT', he said.

'Who knows where the money comes from?' Richard Mathews, chairman of Oyster Marine, asked. He expects to sell at least six Oyster 55s a year. 'People who come to buy are from all walks of life, from captains of British industry to people whose aunty has just died and left them a town house in central London.'

George Andrews had been aboard the 'three-bedroomed home' with its American light oak interior. He looked impressed. Could he see himself making the investment? 'No, I'm selling ice cream today. I'm not interested in buying, I own a dinghy already,' he said.

One of those dawdling about was Ian McLean, a company director, who bought a 35ft LM Cabrio at the show last year. It cost pounds 93,000 and is his fifth boat in 20 years - he buys 'upwards' each time. 'It is part exchange. I'd never be able to sell otherwise. The market is dead.'