Ullberg 65 Express
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.”
Lyman Morse constructed Ring Leader’s hull of resin-infused composite, with Corecell foam coring throughout, including the bottom, for added strength and stiffness. “We infused the hull in one shot, which was a spectacular sight,” Ullberg said.
The shipyard’s metal shop played a key role by helping to turn the engine room into a showcase for the boat’s twin Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels. (Naturally, the gensets are also Cats, 21.5 kW C2.2s.) All the stainless fuel lines are hand-polished, and the gauges sport gleaming chrome. Most of the machinery was stripped and repainted so it would match perfectly. The floor is painted gloss white. Capt. Greg Simmons, who has been part of “Team Ring Leader” for 18 years, keeps the engine room as clean as it was the day the boat left the yard in Maine, and regularly shows it off to guests.
“The original reason we got into this was to promote Cat engines to the sport-fishing industry,” said Ringhaver, whose family-run corporation started as a marine Caterpillar dealership in St. Augustine, Florida. A mechanical engineer by training, Ullberg appreciated the emphasis Ringhaver put on the boat’s machinery spaces. “Ninety percent of the people who are going to see Ring Leader are…’diesel heads,'” he said. His mantra was: “‘Let’s get the engine room perfect and let’s get the performance to match it.'”
Driving Ring Leader offshore at just under 41 knots with the big Cats purring below my feet was almost as big a thrill as landing that sailfish. She accelerated effortlessly through the rpm band and handled beautifully at all speeds. The hull was particularly responsive to adjustments to the Humphreys trim tabs. Cruise speed is around 38 knots at 1,950 rpm and she hits 43 knots at 2,350 rpm at wide-open throttle. “The performance is fantastic,” Ringhaver said. “It’s the best ride in rough water I’ve had on a boat — and it’s a dry ride.”
As befits a serious sport-fisher, Ring Leader backs up with minimal exhaust and leaves a clean wake at trolling speeds. Thanks to the full-scale mockup Lyman Morse created of the bridge, the controls are at the perfect height for Simmons to work behind his back while maneuvering on a fish.
The helm station has three swiveling Pompanette chairs that provide good sight lines over the boat’s long bow. Fairwinds Technical Services of St. Augustine installed the custom electronics package, hand-selected by Simmons, which includes a full Furuno suite. The helm array is ultraclean, with 19-inch flush-mounted Hatteland display monitors above a flip-up electronics box. Overhead is an actuated drop-down box with Cat system displays, controls for the FLIR night-vision camera, and other instruments.
Where possible, the Ring Leader employed Florida vendors. The tuna tower was built by local guru Jack Hopewell in Fort Lauderdale. It has a shaded upper station with full controls, a Furuno fish finder and comfortable bench seating. The tower is fully anodized, with smooth, ground-out welds and a satin finish. Hopewell uses 6,000 series alloy aluminum, which is pricey but less prone to corrosion. “He’s a traditionalist, but I think he’s the best in the business,” Ullberg said.
The boat’s hardtop, which is incorporated in the tower, was built by Lyman Morse and offers easy hatch access to the controls for the Rupp 46-foot hydraulic outrigger system and Miya Epoch super HD electric fishing reels. It also anchors a Seaworthy isinglass enclosure.
The bridge deck is designed for entertaining, with a large teak sole, a long L-shaped settee and a counter with wet bar and refrigerator. Even so, the beam is wide enough to accommodate decent-size walk-arounds to the foredeck, so anglers can fish all the way around the boat.
The cockpit is designed for versatility and is fitted with a central stanchion that held a teak Pompanette rocket launcher but also accepts a fighting chair and interchangeable baitwell. There is a large double fish box in the cockpit sole with two 600-poundper- day ice makers, one for each side. The lazarette is big enough for a man to lie down in. The cockpit corners have plug-ins for downriggers, deep-drop electric reels or standard reels. And there are concealed rod lockers in the gunwales beneath “rolled” teak coaming boards. “The teak work we got at Lyman Morse is as good as we’ve ever seen,” Ringhaver said.
A couple of steps up, the comfortable mezzanine seating conceals a wealth of gear stowage, including pull-out tackle drawers and a cold locker.
While most of the entertaining aboard Ring Leader will take place on deck, her interior is also open and inviting, with 6 feet, 11 inches of headroom. On one side of the salon is an L-shaped leather settee served by an oval granite high-low cocktail table. The day-head is tucked into the aft bulkhead. Opposite the settee is a galley with a long granite counter lined with housesize Miele appliances.
The entertainment system includes a 42-inch plasma LG TV, mounted on the forward bulkhead, that, in addition to playing DVDs and satellite television channels, also displays the ship’s systems panel and the feed from the CCTV camera mounted above the cockpit.
Forward, there are two staterooms side by side that share a full head with separate shower in the forepeak. One of the cabins is configured with a double berth for the captain; the other has bunks. Ullberg placed a pocket door between them to open up the space during the day.
“I also have been thinking about alternate general arrangements…to suit different owners’ individual requirements — as long as it doesn’t interfere with the machinery space,” Ullberg says. The plan is to offer the Ullberg 65 Express as a semicustom series for discerning anglers who entertain in style.
Weight: 60,000 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 1,943 gal.
Water Capacity: 450 gal.
Transom Deadrise: 16 degrees
Engines Tested: 2 x 1,850-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERT
Top Speed: 44 knots
Cruising Speed: 38 knots
Price As Tested: Upon Request
**To read more about the custom build process click here.