In the early-to-mid 1980s big yacht building grew and solidified into a serious, self-contained industry that required designers, and in 1986 Hoek Design, Nauta Yachts, Andrew Winch Designs, and Bill Dixon Design all entered the breach. The influence of these leading design teams has shaped the modern superyacht, in all its variations.
‘What surprised me is in all those years since there have not been that many new design offices,’ says Andre Hoek, founder of Hoek Design. ‘It’s not an easy market [in which] to design and build a business like this; you have to be passionate about yachting, focused and a little lucky.’
Indeed, Hoek’s background describes a determination to work in yacht design, even when it was not an easy path.
After gaining a naval architecture degree in Holland and serving an apprenticeship at C&C yachts in Canada, Hoek was unable to find work at a design studio. So he took a job as a salvage engineer at a Dutch company, where he supervised the enormous submersible ships that carry offshore drilling platforms. In its own way the job was excellent training for a superyacht designer, with an abundance of engineering, stability and organisational work.
‘During those years I was also always involved in yacht design, but not on a professional basis – I did it more as a hobby for clients who were friends and family. I was optimising a racing class of leeboard yachts that are popular in Holland, yachts I raced myself for a very long time.
‘We optimised sailplans, stability, performance, foilshapes in leeboards and more, and later on designed new yachts in this style. Through the past 25 years more than 300 of these yachts were built to our designs.’
In 1983 he left his job to take an MBA in business administration, but his growing reputation as a designer interfered with his plans.
‘When people heard I’d quit my job I got a lot of enquiries asking if I could do boats. It took me three years to do the MBA and when I finished I was already working with four people – it turned from a hobby into a business.’
Hoek Design is also active in motor yacht designs, and is working on various projects including the 50m and 65m Hollander projects. But it, too, is best known in the sailing arena and like Mario Pedol of Nauta Yachts, Hoek believes his sailing yachts have a definite character.
‘You can definitely recognise the boats that we do,’ says Hoek. ‘We have an emphasis on performance and also on looks – how it looks on deck, how well-balanced the profile is.’
In particular, Hoek Design has become renowned for yachts offering classic styling and modern performance. Its early analytical work, optimising Dutch leeboard sailing yachts, caught the attention of big-yacht owners.