The big sailfish leaped and splashed at the end of my line, glowing iridescent purple against the bright blue sea off Fort Pierce, Florida. This was the 14th shot we’d had at a fish that day, and mine would be the third sail we hooked and released from Ring Leader, the new Ullberg 65 Express custom-built by Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Maine.
“That’s about as good a show as anything you’re going to see,” said the boat’s owner, Randy Ringhaver, chairman and president of Ring Power Corp., the Caterpillar dealer for northern and central Florida, as well as a major entertainment-services provider worldwide.
There is no doubt — this pretty yellow boat raises fish. But that’s only one of the missions that Ringhaver set for his new yacht.
“A lot of our customers are on the water. We move the boat around the state,” said Ringhaver, who also plans to campaign it in the Bahamas. A passionate angler who has reeled in a 722-pound blue marlin, he also owns a 72-foot Merritt, Bree, which he keeps for his personal use.
Despite moving up dramatically in length and volume from his previous boat, Ringhaver opted to stay with the express configuration, which optimizes space on deck. Finding a boatyard that was willing to build a 65-foot express sport-fisherman with a 19-foot beam proved to be a challenge, however.
“Several builders turned down the idea of an express that large,” said Robert Ullberg, the boat’s designer. Ullberg worked with legendary naval architect Tom Fexas for six years in the early 1990s before opening his own firm, Ullberg Yacht Design, in Winter Park, Florida. He is known for the fast, seaworthy sport-fishing yachts he has designed for Bayliss, Garlington, Whiticar and Willis Marine, among other yards.
After talking with a half-dozen boatbuilders along the Eastern Seaboard, Ringhaver and Ullberg ultimately brought the 65 project to Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Maine. While Lyman Morse has a reputation for producing aesthetically pleasing motor and sailing yachts rather than sportfishermen (Ring Leader is its first), the yard impressed Ringhaver with its rigorous attention to detail.
“It was a shoo-in,” Ullberg said. “Everything was there; everything is done in-house.”