Sparked by a nostalgic conversation between founder Tim Wilson and noted America’s Cup yacht designer Andrew Dovell bemoaning the loss of grace and romance in modern racing yachts, the Ringle 39 project owes its success to passion, expertise and resourcefulness.
Fundamentally the aim was to eschew the composite materials and ugly racing hulls commonly found today and build a yacht that was beautiful and evocative of the maritime traditions of the early 20th century, whilst incorporating modern technology for lightness and speed and without any ‘house boat’ concessions. Wilson aptly likens the Ringle 39 to a “vintage Ferrari, with luxury touches and modern tech to surprise”, and explains that the name of the boat itself is derived from “a yacht captured by the Brits during the American war of independence… [that] was the fastest and sweetest sailing boat in the fleet”. A final point in the brief was portability – the boat can fit in a forty-foot container and be assembled in 12 hours, allowing it to be affordably shipped around the world to participate in the great regattas. Consultation with internationally competitive sailors led to the inclusion of adjustable rigging and hydraulic winches, as, in Wilson’s words, “most wanted to enjoy the thrill of sailing fast with little to distract”.
Actual construction of the boats had always been intended for Myanmar, where Sydney Harbour Boat Builders (the parent company to the project) operates a shipyard. While this allowed the project to make use of sustainable recycled and plantation Teak and lower labour costs, it has also presented various hurdles. As Wilson comments, unexpected challenges were encountered at “every stage” – ranging from low workmanship and organisation standards, a closed banking system and a cash economy (“the largest note is equivalent to 1USD – pay day is interesting”) to monsoon rains and debilitating heat.
Nevertheless the company has made a point of investing both in the material infrastructure and in its local employees (of which there are 80 and rising), providing education, substantially better health and safety standards, interest-free loans to assist workers with unforeseen expenses and a square meal every day. Wilson underscores how enriching this has been, stating “we have been inspired throughout by the kindness and loyalty of our workers and their great enthusiasm for acquiring new skills and responsibilities”.
As wonderful as the evocative, Great Gatsby charm of the RIngle 39 is, the fact that it also represents themes of ethical international collaboration and sustainability makes it even grander than its forebears.