The Rybovich 94 packs superyacht styling into a sportfish footprint to create a package unlike any the world has seen before, says Kevin Koenig...
On the starboard side of the saloon on board the new 28.5 metre Rybovich III Amigos there is a dinette unlike any other in the world. In the reflection of the high-gloss redwood burl table one can catch a dancing glimpse of the deep navy-blue leather in the seats, done by Edelman with stitching so delicate and firm that it appears less handmade than it does organic, as if it has always been and always will be.
To starboard of the seats are glove compartments similar to those you’d find in a car – a Ferrari to be exact. That’s because this dinette was custom styled to match the owner’s customised Ferrari, which in turn was styled after one of his homes in Key Largo.
Sheer opulence like this might be the expected standard aboard a 80 metre Lürssen. However, what makes the dinette truly unique is that it’s not on a floating palace being constructed in one of the hallowed yacht-building halls of northern Europe. Instead, it’s on board a fully outfitted sportfisher, built in Florida and set to possibly become nothing short of a watershed vessel for the American yacht lover.
III Amigos is a collaboration between Michael Rybovich & Sons Custom Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens and Patrick Knowles, a Bahamian-born, award-winning interior designer based in Fort Lauderdale. For Knowles, the yacht is a coup. “This boat could be a pivotal game changer for the American sportfishing industry,” he says. Sportfish boats in America occupy a super-charged, ego-driven, niche strata of the marine market. Owners buy these boats to compete for the biggest fish, but also to collect bragging rights at the dock – baddest boat wins, period. And with the Rybovich 94, it feels like a new bully just moved into town.
All yachts are toys, but large, tournament-bound convertibles are also tools. And while still fetching prices sometimes in the eight-digit range, their interiors often reflect a pragmatic raison d’être that simply wouldn’t cut it among most superyacht owners.
Knowles, who has also worked on airplanes and residences for the owner, put it like this: “In the past, if I saw a sportfish boat on the cover of a magazine, I would glance at it very quickly because I’ve already judged it. I know the configuration down below, no matter the builder. That’s not the audience we are after.”
The contract for III Amigos was signed on August 9, 2018, so the ensuing project would stretch to three years plus. For Knowles, the wait was worth it. And in many respects, very much needed.
As we toured the vessel’s interior he pointed to the bar counter on the aft end of the galley. Like the rest of the stone on board, it was sourced in Italy. “The owner flew me to Pisa just to find 500 square feet of marble,” he says. “I spent two days there and my mission was clear: find the most dynamic Bahia blue marble that exists anywhere in the world.”
By the looks of it, he found it. The countertop is alive with colour. Greys and blacks and all manners of blue float and frenzy in a pattern reminiscent of a massive ball of baitfish. The countertop is nicely picked up by the cushions on the barstools, which are upholstered in a lush alligator hide, also blue, that resonates an undeniable masculinity. It helps that the cushions sit upon stools by BlueWater Chairs that the owner stipulated must be “rock solid.” And they are. At Knowles’s bidding I grabbed the back of one of them with both hands and tried to shake it and it wouldn’t budge at all. I should add that the backs of those stools have solid stainless-steel portholes without any flanges. The steel is so snugly fit to the wenge that it’s as if they are one.
That’s a large part of this vessel’s appeal. One of the unique things about III Amigos is that her interior was built by Metrica, a 340-year-old German company that specialises in interiors for residences and superyachts. Metrica constructed the interior to Knowles’ and the owner’s requirements, disassembled the pieces and shipped them to the Rybovich yard for assembling and reinstallation. The level of flexibility this choice allowed Knowles as an interior designer was unparalleled in this market segment.
Take, for example, the yacht’s galley. The owner is a chef by trade so, not surprisingly, his requirements here were rather exacting. The hood over the stove is fully custom, as is the sink, because an 0.8-inch cutout in the corner of the galley space required a unique sink. “It’s the only one like it in the world,” Knowles says. The refrigerator, of all things, also presented an interesting challenge for the designer. “We were deep into the project and the owner decided he wanted a Sub-Zero fridge. But the one he wanted didn’t fit with the space we had, so we had to modify the structure to make room overhead,” he says. “But the question became ‘How are we going to do that without destroying the fluid line [of the ceiling]?’” The answer required some creativity. Knowles ended up adding dark wenge wood to the soffit above the refrigerator, which neatly picked up other wenge accents in the galley and obviated the visual need for perfect symmetry. Effectively, he turned imperfection into art.
The designer is a savant for spatial nuances, and it informed every part of the interior. “It’s so important for spaces to properly flow,” he says, gesturing around an interior that masterfully integrated competing spaces. “Have you ever gone to a restaurant and loved the food, loved the service, and then been, like, but I’m never going there again? Lots of times that’s the feng shui giving you a subliminal feeling that just doesn’t agree with you. It’s so important and people take it for granted.”
The Rybovich’s accommodations deck was also done by Knowles in conjunction with Metrica and has myriad touches that strike at the megayacht aspirations of this fishing machine. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the thickness of the doors down below. While most large convertibles would typically have doors about 1.4 inches thick, the doors on III Amigos are twice as sturdy at 2.8 inches. They feel like the doors on a safe and are much more akin to what you’d find at the Monaco Yacht Show than at the Bermuda Big Game Classic. The en suites on this level feature Striato marble imported from Italy, notable for the rich grey stripes that streak through the off-white base colour.
A VIP to port hearkens to Knowles’s early days as designer for private jets. It’s modeled after a cabin on board the Boeing Business Jet, and has a cambered ceiling that mimics the cylindrical shape of an aircraft. About that ceiling: it’s tongue and groove, and as I was exiting the VIP I noticed that one of the planks was perhaps a tenth of an inch longer than the other ones. Feeling cheeky, I pointed it out to Knowles. “Ah yes, you’re right,” he says with a smile, running his fingernail over the tiny gradation, “we’ll have to get that straightened out.” It was the only blemish I registered regarding the entirety of this 28 metre's fit and finish. Sometimes it really is the exception that proves the rule.
But the yacht’s interior is not all that sets it apart. It has another aspect that makes it distinct among Ryboviches. “This is our first enclosed flying bridge,” Michael Rybovich says. “About halfway through the project the customer decided that they were going to make a change in the bridge structure. Originally the boat had been designed with a traditional open bridge. But the owner wanted it to be enclosed for practicality. They do a lot of traveling and in long-distance running it’s a lot more comfortable to be inside and not at the mercy of the weatherman, so to speak.”
Captain Jody Whitworth, who has been with the owner for nine years, seconds Rybovich’s assertion. “We do a lot of running from the Keys to the Bahamas and Panama and Costa Rica on the Pacific side, with lots of stopping and bottom fishing along the way,” he says. “That’s a lot of time on the boat, so for us to have our own little space, almost like a saloon, that’s huge for the crew.”
Rybovich is also quick to point out other qualities that make her a legitimate tourney boat, should the owner choose to enter the large fishing tournaments that are so popular in the Americas. “We are running twin 16V 2000 M96L MTUs on this boat,” he says. “Those engines are the biggest, most powerful engines we can get in a practical profile in the high-horsepower line of diesel engines available for marine use. It’s the engine of choice in large sportfishermen for a number of reasons that include speed, power, quiet operation and overall smoothness.”
Whitworth adds that those engines have the boat running at a tourney-ready 41 knots, while cruising at 34 knots at 1,950rpm. Speed is especially important to sportfishers because when the fish are biting, he who gets there first, wins. And conversely, during a tournament, boats usually need to be back at the docks to weigh their fish by a certain time, so a faster boat allows for more time spent fishing. The Rybovich can also travel for 2,000 miles at nine knots thanks to 4,400 gallons of fuel at full load.
That’s enough to get her from Florida to the Panama Canal – and the black marlin and Indo-Pacific sailfish-laden riches beyond – on her own bottom. She’s also cold molded, which Whitworth likes for a few reasons. “In a composite boat, the owner’s stateroom, for example, can be pretty loud,” he says, “because the water laps against the hull at anchor, and the glass and foam make the sound echo and resonate. Building with wood, and with four layers of 5/16ths mahogany below the waterline and three layers above it, the material should absorb that sound and energy.” There’s also a suspected advantage to fishing a wooden boat. “The wood has a different sound to it when you’re trolling, and it seems to give cold molded boats a slight advantage attracting fish,” Whitworth says.
The captain, perhaps not surprisingly, is also enamoured with the boat’s command station, which looks like it belongs on a Feadship. Four massive Furuno screens complement excellent sight lines. A dining settee aft provides climate-controlled stowage for a treasure trove of rods and reels beneath its cushions as well. The 94 has also got loads of flashy (but oh so necessary) fishing accoutrements including 26 rod holders, four livewells to hold live bait, a 150-gallon fishbox, and three ice makers that can make 2,540 pounds of ice per day.
“We’ve never worked with an outside subcontractor before, and this boat will be a different cup of tea for most of the sportfishing crowd, I can say that,” Rybovich says with a lilt in his voice. “She’s spectacular in every aspect. We’re absolutely thrilled. It’s our latest and greatest.”
But is she spectacular enough to start a revolution in the sportfish world, bringing superyachts and convertibles ever closer to being one and the same? The answer may very well lie in just how much future guests like that dinette. I know where my money lies.
This feature is taken from the Feburary 2022 issue of BOAT International US. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW