Tucked away in the Dutch city of Edam, Hoek Design Naval Architects was founded by André Hoek in 1986 and boasts one of the world’s most impressive portfolios in custom and semi-custom sailing yacht designs, with a track record of designing more than 250 Dutch flat bottom yachts and over 120 ocean-going sailing yachts during their 31 years in business.
Andre Hoek and Ruurt Meulemans with their new Turquoise motor yacht project
In response to both the transforming superyacht market and the changing needs of their clients, interestingly, Hoek Design has recently moved into the motor yacht market. We sat down with company founder André Hoek and his business partner Ruurt Meulemans to hear more about this new direction.
For both Hoek and Meulemans, it was their passion which brought them into the yachting industry. Hoek has been an avid sailor since the age of five and Meulemans admits candidly that his earliest enthusiasm was actually for motoryachts, not sailing yachts. “When I was a young kid I also grew up in boats and sailing boats, and when I was really young I always wanted to have power boats because they’re much more exciting!”
For Hoek, it was optimising his brother’s traditional Dutch leeboard skûtsje for sailboat racing which marked the start of his yacht designing career. Since then, he built up a reputation for his optimisation of traditional Dutch flat-bottomed boats for racing alongside his jobs working for, amongst others, the design office of the Canadian yard C&C yachts in 1979 - at the time, one of the world’s leading design offices.
On arriving back to the Netherlands from Canada in early 1980, Hoek was confronted with limited work in yacht design offices at the time, and so took on a position in an offshore salvage and heavy lifting company, where he subsequently worked for six years - of course continuing to indulge in his passion of designing all kinds of yachts on the side. During this time, Hoek also took on an MBA with a marketing background: a move which would prove vital in the foundation of Hoek Design. “After one year I decided to stop my job and do a full-time MBA. When I quit my job, then all of a sudden in 1986 I got all kinds of requests from left, right and centre. That’s how I started what would become Hoek Design.”
From its humble beginnings in the attic of Hoek’s Amsterdam house, Hoek Design moved to Edam in 1988 and the first yachts in their recognisable ‘Truly Classic’ line were born.
The 54.64m Vitters-built Adele
The first two early, classically styled 70-foot sailing yachts were characterised by a classic hull shape, wing keels and spade rudders. “On this side of the pond we were the first ones to develop these kinds of boats, and from there on we started to develop different kinds of boats - bigger boats,” explains Hoek. Since its foundations, Hoek Design has designed custom and semi-custom yachts in a wide range of styles and sizes, ranging from the Truly Classic to the ultra modern.
A year before Meulemans joined the company in 1999, Hoek Design expanded and launched Hoek Brokerage, a company which, as Hoek makes clear, is completely separate from the design company to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. In fact, the brokerage side of the business was really established in order to offer an additional seamless service to Hoek’s clients looking to sell their yachts or upgrade - not with personal financial reward in mind. As Hoek explains: “From the very beginning, our brokers work on a salary basis, not a commission basis. For new yachts being built, we never ask for commissions. It is just the design office involved in that process, not the brokerage company. We do fair and honest business: it takes forever to build a name but you can destroy it pretty quickly.”
Hoek and Meulemans have established this name for themselves by carrying out the entire design process in-house - a strategy which sets them apart from a number of their main competitors. “We are different because our office can do basically everything. We do in-house structural engineering, CFD work, interior design, exterior design and a lot of optimisation work,” explains Hoek.
The 62m Athos, built by Holland Jachtbouw in 2010
Hoek’s J-class racing yachts and Truly Classic range with growing sizes have remained enduringly popular - an overwhelming advantage in the somewhat dwindling sailing yacht market. Both partners are active racing sailors themselves. Meulemans has been sailing all year on the winner of this year’s World Championships, the J-Class Lionheart, and Hoek raced on the J-class, Topaz. Since the last America's Cup, Hoek Design experienced increased interest in these classic yacht designs from younger owners, with their new Vitters-built J-Class Yacht, Svea, being launched for a new owner in January this year.
Continuing their philosophy of innovation, Hoek Design has been on the cusp of sailing yacht market developments in recent years. Their newest, custom sailing yachts, such as the 46-metre Pilot Classic, Elfje - built at Royal Huisman in 2014 - focus on performance to appeal to a younger clientele but still retain their classic designs. As Hoek explains, “Why do people build boats that are classically styled? They are beautiful and they will still be beautiful in 10 years time. There are not many clients who want to know from the moment that they launch a boat that they have lost half of their investment. Look what happens to the modern styling of boats. It’s different, but there will be another boat that’s going to be even more extravagant than that one and then all of a sudden that one is outdated again, so, regardless of age, the financial side is also important.”
The decision for Hoek Design to move into motoryachts was a natural one for the partners, with the changing needs of their clients at the forefront of their minds. “Quite a number of our clients are getting older and they want to go from sailing into motor yachts, so we wanted to develop something with the same philosophy in mind that we have had for all of our boats”, Hoek told us.
With numerous motoryacht projects currently underway, one of their most recent is the 56-metre expedition yacht currently in build at Turquoise Yachts in Turkey. “There’s a big trend at the moment in expedition yachts, and a lot of people think that when you do expeditions you have to do something agricultural. That’s not the case: we wanted to design something that is both beautiful, performs and keeps its value”, explains Hoek. The 56-metre vessel is RINA classified as ‘Ice Class B’ and can reach the Arctic, Antarctic and Northwest passage, with an ice-breaking bow and 12-metre tenders stored under her decks. “It’s got everything that you could imagine on a new, modern boat,” says Hoek.
Regardless of their new motor ventures, it is undoubtedly the sailing background of Hoek Design which gives them a unique approach to motoryacht design. “We are designers that focus on the styling and the proportions of the design, more than perhaps a motoryacht designer does. Many motoryacht designers just take on the exterior design of a project, whereas our office is responsible for exterior styling, naval architecture and sometimes interior design work too, as is the case with our 56-metre at Turquoise,” says Meulemans.
Looking to the future, Hoek and Meulemans hope to establish a recognisably Hoek design for their motoryachts. As Meulemans puts it, “Many people around the world can see when a boat is located at anchorage, that it’s a Hoek design. It would be fantastic if people can see that on a motoryacht too - we want people to look at all of our vessels and immediately say: ‘This is a Hoek Design’.” With a planned launch date of their Turquoise project scheduled for February 2019, Hoek and Meulemans won’t have to wait too long to see this desire turned into a reality.
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