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Keeping It Classic

Keeping It Classic

At Rybovich change comes, but very slowly and carefully.

By Capt. Patrick Sciacca — May 2001

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• Part 1: Keeping It Classic
• Part 2: Keeping It Classic continued

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Bill Boutet started working at Rybovich as a cabinetmaker in 1959. He retired in February at the age of 80. Jimmy Becker, a former painting foreman and current behind-the-scenes advisor, has been at Rybovich for nearly 40 years. And then there’s Gary Hilliard, who started working on the floor at Rybovich nearly 30 years ago. Today he’s head designer. This kind of long-term dedication to the craft of custom boatbuilding, combined with a trademark look and mind-boggling attention to detail, make it easy to fathom why Rybovich has been an icon among sportfishing enthusiasts for more than 50 years.

When Tommy, John, and Emil Rybovich started building sportfishermen in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1946, the hulls were carvel-planked mahogany and the frames were mechanically fastened. Carvel hulls demand a high level of skill to make them strong and seaworthy, and at Rybovich the emphasis was always on strength.

“Nobody was concerned with weight back then,” says Hilliard, adding that solid construction was and still is the foundation of Rybovich.

However, modern techniques that would enhance the boats’ lightweight nature were not far behind. In the 1960s cold-molded construction became the standard building practice at the yard.

From 1970 to 1985, Bill Jackman, a noted third-generation Massachusetts boatbuilder, ran the Rybovich yard and pretty much maintained the status quo, with one exception. In 1975 Robert C. Fisher purchased Rybovich and tried to develop a second line of production boats, the Rybo Runners. When it proved unsuccessful, he sold the yard to Harvey Wilson in 1986 who put Hilliard in charge of design and building. Hilliard felt it was time to modernize the classic Rybovich while retaining certain characteristics like the boat’s broken sheerline. “It was quite a task,” says Hilliard. But when you have people like Boutet and Becker working on boats they know as well as they know themselves, anything is possible.

“Harvey was kind of the opinion, ‘you know what to do, so do it,’” recalls Hilliard. “That’s when we took a look at how the [Ryboviches] were constructed.” Today the pedigree hull is constructed of triple-plank, diagonally aligned mahogany, and the company has moved from framed-fastened plank to epoxy-impregnated, which not only protects against water intrusion (no more fittings to come loose) but also reduces weight. According to Hilliard, a 60-foot Rybovich comes in around 51,000 pounds, while a production 55-footer tips the scales at 70,000 pounds. The result was better performance. In the 1970s, a 25-knot Rybovich was common. Today, Hilliard says, the average 60-foot Rybovich hits about 43 knots.

Hilliard recalls that everything came under the microscope. “At that point we were using the hull design from the 1970s, and we needed to take a hard look at [everything] below the waterline,” he adds. Donald Blount, a respected designer and friend of Hilliard, was brought in to “clean up” the Rybovich running bottom, including running gear, struts, through-hull fittings, strainers, scoops, and transducers, with an eye toward reducing drag. “We turned to single-leg struts that are flush-mounted, and there are no through-hulls in the bottom except the flush-mounted sea chest,” Hilliard says. To improve handling, Rybovich also replaced the traditional spade rudders with wedges.

Previous page > Keeping It Classic, Part 1 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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