BOAT TEST: RINGLE 39 YACHT
She’s pretty, oozing old-world charm, a real blast from the past — but don’t underestimate the looks; the Ringle 39 is a modern take of traditional lines that make her an ace on the racetrack
We all remember the scene in Casino Royale, where James Bond sails into Venice aboard a magnificent, traditional yacht. Now an Australian yachtbuilding company is offering a similar craft, on a smaller and less expensive scale.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) sat on the bow of a UK-built Spirit yacht, but the Australian offering is the Ringle 39. Think in terms of millions for the Spirit and thousands for the Ringle, yet the philosophy and quality are similar: there's simply less length as well as fewer furnishings in the Ringle. Also, the Ringle's major build is done in Burma - the home of teak and lower-cost labour - and finished off in Sydney.
Input into the Ringle concept came from a number of Australian East Coast yachterati, including David Adams, Ken Beashel, Kent King, Michael Champion, Chris Anstee, "Zapper" and many more. The Ringle is a product of Sydney Harbour Boat Builders; another collection of notables, including Tim Wilson, Alastair Mackay, Gary Swindail, Peter Taprell, Simon Blundell, Mark Fesq, Colin Betts, Phil West and Jordon Muirhead.
The Ringle's elegant lines were drawn by Andy Dovell, an Australian-based American naval architect who's best known for his involvement in America's Cup 12-metre yacht design and testing in the USA; the Sydney series of performance yachts; several Sydney Hobart winners and the beautiful Palm Beach motorboat range.
So why the name Ringle?
For that we can thank Patrick O'Brian, author of the series of swashbuckling novels about the British Navy's glory days. The Ringle was "an American schooner of the kind called a Baltimore clipper; Jack Aubrey's private property, much coveted by the Admiral for her fast sailing and her outstanding weatherly qualities".
RINGLE 39 DESIGN AND BUILD
Too many cooks may well spoil the broth but the Ringle 39 shows no ill effects from the hundreds of suggestions made during its planning phase. The aim, to produce "a yacht of classic beauty to turn heads, but also go like blazes" has certainly been achieved, as Sydney Harbour around-the-cans race results have demonstrated and our test sail confirmed.
However, Andy Dovell didn't have a clean CAD/CAM computer screen for this boat, because the finished craft was required to fit inside a high-top, 40-foot ISO container, along with its two-piece mast and removable keel. Fortunately, the brief was also for a traditional-looking yacht, from an era when boats were long and slim. The Ringle 39 sits in a rotating cradle inside a container but with its beam of 2.56m could be transported upright, on-road, on a five-tonne capacity trailer.
Moored and even when heeled under sail, there's nothing to distinguish the Ringle 39's hull and deck from those of a traditionally-built yacht: lines with lovely sheer; inlaid teak decking; low-profile, glistening coach house with oval ports; bright-varnished capping on bulwarks and coamings; and a deep cockpit with slatted benches and a long tiller.
There are some giveaways to its modernity however: top-action Andersen stainless steel winches instead of bottom-action bronze types; rod or hydraulic vang in place of rope tackle; carbon fibre mast and aluminium boom replacing spruce and Oregon; rod rigging, not galvo wire; and aramid fibre sails in lieu of cotton canvas. Flip open the gas-strut-assisted cockpit sole engine cover and there's a modern Volvo Penta diesel, not a wheezing, petrol/paraffin Morris Vedette!
Below decks, in the minimalist interior, it's a similar impression: beautifully fitted teak timberwork, white-satin-finish hull interior and frames; teak cabin-sole gratings; red-leather settees; and a vestigial 'throne' with teak backrest. But this traditional finish hides innovation: LED globes inside classic fittings; fridge-freezer where an icebox should be; electric-flush loo, not a bucket; and an instrumented nav station with nary a sign of dividers or parallel ruler.
One carryover is a metho stove, but it's an Origo, not one of the older horrors that too easily spilt blazing alcohol across the galley top.
The main reason the Ringle 39 has the look and feel of a wooden boat is because it is. The hull is formed from strip-planked, lightweight tropical mahogany, but with a twist: integrating modern epoxy, E-glass and carbon-fibre into a composite of greatly increased strength. The deck is a foam/E-glass/carbon composite, topped with laid Burmese teak.
The inbuilt hull and deck strength allowed for a tall rig with a large sailplan. Also, by sweeping back the twin spreaders it was possible to do away with a backstay or runners, freeing the shape of the mainsail. The test boat was fitted with a square-top main and a jib and a sail plan of 70m². Most cruiser/racers put that much sail area on a boat displacing at least 50 per cent more than the Ringle 39. As well, there was a tang on the stem head for an asymmetric or gennaker and the test boat had a conventional spinnaker pole - carbon, of course.
Naturally, the mast was keel-stepped and while the test boat had a carbon stick, aluminium is a lower-priced choice. Also somewhat pricey was the test boat's rod rigging and hydraulic mast jack, so a plain mast step and Dyform wire are optional.
Below the waterline the Ringle 39 transitions from traditional above-water lines to state-of-the-art, with more rocker than a modern, flat-bottomed racer but with a Bisalloy high-tensile-steel deep keel with lead bulb, saildrive with Varifold two-blade prop and an elliptical rudder.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
We had a sunny, fluky Sydney Harbour day for our test sail, with wind varying from 3 to 16kts: ideal for checking performance in different wind strengths.
The Ringle 39 motored out of its d'Albora Marina berth effortlessly and proved easy to aim, thanks to its large rudder and foil keel. I can recall some traditional yachts with keel-hung rudders that had more minds of their own than that!
Engine noise and vibration were minimal and the slim craft slipped along happily at 6kts-plus. Controls positioned on the main sheet winch pedestal made engine operation easy.
Hoisting sail had a touch of the old-fashioned about it, with the main halyard operated by a mast winch. This was an aesthetic decision, it seemed, eradicating winches from the cabin top. However, the main sped up the stick without too much effort. The test boat's below-deck headsail furler preserved the traditional look and put the furling line below decks, running unseen behind a teak facing panel into the cockpit.
We were fortunate to have Simon Blundell onboard, because he was involved in the Ringle project from the outset and has unrivalled old and new sailboat skippering experience.
I found the Ringle more tender in gust-response than a fat-sterned, beamy hull and Simon said that this effect was intentional, to lengthen the waterline. He illustrated the fact by pointing out that the optimum transom wake was offset to leeward. Whatever the hydrodynamic science, the Ringle 39 was obviously a quick boat and slippery enough to ghost though wind lulls.
On the wind, the narrow jib sheeting angle and relatively flat sails had us pointing at 28 to 30 degrees, with boat speed always more than half wind speed. Cracked off the wind it took off and several times exceeded 8kts in 12 to 14kt puffs. It was easy to see why the Ringle has caused havoc in the Sydney Harbour twilight fleets.
All the while the boat's manners were impeccable. It could be spun quickly through tacks, with the optional powered mainsheet winch encouraging correct trim to keep boat speed up. Powered winch action was summoned by a toe poke on a fat button.
The mainsheet was aft-deck anchored, passing up through a boom turning block and disappearing through a deck deadeye, to emerge from under the port cockpit seat and thence directly to the winch drum. Its powered action and proximity to the tiller made it easy for the helmsperson to trim as well, so two-up sailing wouldn't be a problem.
A long, laminated-teak tiller was a blast from the past, but provided excellent rudder control and lifted to allow walkthrough bench swaps during tacks and gybes. Minute changes to mainsheet tension were felt immediately in tiller pressure.
A nice touch was the fitment of scupper grates between the bulwarks and the primary winch pedestals, so any water we shipped quietly disappeared between hull and cockpit lining, funnelled into the cockpit drains.
Although there were no lifelines and stanchions on the test boat the cockpit felt dry, snug and secure, and any crew movement around the decks was aided by proper bulwarks. However, for those who want them, demountable stanchions and lifelines are an option.
While I greatly appreciated the power of the modern sails I felt that the fabric colour detracted from the traditional appearance of the Ringle. I reckon a set of traditional-looking sails would make the boat a real Q-ship and upset even more new-boat owners.
AT THE HELM
Helming the Ringle 39 was sea-change from steering one of the broad-sterned, flattish-bottomed cruiser/racers that are the norm these days. It looks like it belongs at the back of the fleet, not up with scratch boats and IRC-raters.
The Ringle is a powerful yacht, but it heels more than modern designs and that takes a little adjustment from the helmsperson and crew, until they realise the thing is going like hell and they can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Simplified controls and few lines to tangle in the cockpit make it a great recreational boat as well.
The Ringle 39 is expensive if evaluated by its 'fruit' quotient: it doesn't even have a separate room for the dunny! The plus side is performance that belies its traditional looks. We can't help but feel that a more conventional sailplan - whitish sailcloth and a roachy main - would heighten its traditional appearance and increase its appeal to the retro-minded.
› Traditional style
› Quality fit and finish
› Great sailing performance
› Ease of handling
› Wide options list
› Sparse interior furnishings
› Modern-looking sail choice
Specifications: Ringle 39
PRICE AS TESTED
Carbon fibre two-piece mast; hydraulic mast jack; hydraulic vang; rod rigging; powered mainsheet winch; cabin top, coaming and bulwark bright finish; coloured hull finish; ISO container transportability kit; Nexus instruments; teak cockpit table and flagstaff; Dyneema halyards and mainsheet; and aramid-fibre sails
MATERIAL Thynkado strip-planked hull with epoxy, E-glass and carbon fibre composite structure. Airex foam, E-glass, carbon fibre and epoxy composite deck, with 9mm laid teak
LENGTH 11.96m (overall); approx. 9.7m (waterline)
PEOPLE (NIGHT) 4 (vee-berth and two settee berths)
HOLDING TANK 50lt
MAINSAIL Fully-battened (square-top optional)
HEADSAIL Furling genoa (asymmetric spinnaker and gennaker options)
TOTAL AREA 70m² (jib and main)
MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta D1-20
TYPE Diesel saildrive
RATED HP 20
PROPS Varifold two-blade folding
Vicsail, d'Albora Marinas,
New Beach Road,
Rushcutters Bay, NSW, 2011
Phone: (02) 9327 2088
Fax: (02) 9362 4516
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #434, December 2012.
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