To describe Andre Hoek as an exterior stylist of classic-looking sailing boats would not only be just plain rude but also highly inaccurate. He is an exterior designer, a naval architect, structural engineer, hull shape optimizer, and performance guru. While working as a consultant to a firm specializing in salvage and heavy-lift engineering, Hoek began to design yachts on a part-time basis. Six years later, he created Hoek Design, which is now nearly 30 years strong. Hoek shares the organization with his office manager and fellow naval architect Ruurt Meulemans. Sitting on board Wisp, a recent Royal Huisman delivery he penned, Hoek shares what sets Hoek Design apart, which project was the biggest challenge, and more.
MegayachtNews.com: You seem to run a very different type of organization compared to some other yacht-design houses. Why do you think that is?
Andre Hoek: In a way, you are right. We have a design office that is specialized in naval architecture, and we do exterior design, which is what most people think of it as. We do focus on the Spirit of Tradition style of yachts, and as one of the few design houses that do that, we could be considered more highly specialized. But we do much more. We have a special team for designing yacht interiors, but still enjoy working with outside interior designers, as we did on Wisp and Elfje. We also run a brokerage company, which while not unique among designers, works well for us. We started it as a service for clients that wanted to build a bigger or smaller yacht and wanted to sell their existing yacht.
MegayachtNews.com: Your projects are classic, evocative of decades ago. Is it a coincidence, or are your own personal tastes mixed with those of the clients?
Andre Hoek: I have always been fascinated by classic-looking yachts. My own first boat was a Scandinavian Folkboat. I have always admired the J-Class and other designs from the past by the likes of Herreshoff and Fife. Clients obviously do have influence on our work, and I always say you can learn something new every day if you keep your eyes and ears open.
MegayachtNews.com: What is it that makes you as a designer different?
Andre Hoek: I think it is our extreme attention to detail and the way we focus on a balanced yacht inside and out. Our philosophy of research and our eye for detail is another area in which I feel we excel.
MegayachtNews.com: What has been your most challenging project to date?
AH That would have to be the 208 ft schooner Athos (below). Not because she is one of the biggest yachts we have designed but because of the need to give her an extremely shallow draft and a 205 ft tall sail plan that could just pass under the Bridge of the America’s. Despite that she had to fulfill the stability requirements laid down by the MCA, sail well, be comfortable without excessive heel and be fast as well. We tank and wind tunnel tested her extensively to get all that right. Not only that, but her owner also expected an extremely detailed exterior that called for barrel skylights and many other unique exterior features.
MegayachtNews.com: You head up a strong design team, yet you remain the figurehead that owners want to talk to. How do you divide up your responsibilities?
Andre Hoek: I spend quite a lot of my time with clients, while Ruurt Meulemans, who has been with me for more than 15 years, is our technical director. He studied naval architecture and aeronautical engineering and is responsible for the naval architecture in the office. Martijn van Schaik, a specialized structural engineer and naval architect, is responsible for all structural engineering and has been with us for a long time as well. We all work with project teams and tend to work on most projects together.
MegayachtNews.com: Are you busy with new projects, and if so, what can you tells about them?
Andre Hoek: We have two new J-Class yachts under construction and a third one in design presently. We have a range of projects at hand, both sail and power, ranging from smaller production yachts to a 164-foot, modern-styled yacht with a flybridge!
MegayachtNews.com: What are the most exciting design developments you have witnessed in yachts in recent times?
Andre Hoek: New and highly sophisticated computerized fluid dynamics programs have made quite an impact in our work. We can now calculate the resistance and lift forces, leeway angles and wave patterns around hulls, and efficiency of keels with such CFD programs. It means we can do projects in house where we run six different hull shapes through this CFD software to see what difference it makes to distribute the volume of a hull in different ways. We can see what the effect of a keel change is on leeway or what difference the change of the shape of the leading edge of a keel makes in upwind performance. Things that were very difficult to calculate or determine in the past can now be visualized and calculated. For our latest project with Royal Huisman, we analyzed six different hull shapes with this software before we started to design and engineer the complete yacht. Other areas that are interesting are development in winches, spars, and sails where all is becoming lighter, faster, and more efficient. This means that we can design bigger yachts which are relatively easy to handle.
MegayachtNews.com: If you were asked to verbally sketch your ideal client in just a few words, what would you say?
Andre Hoek: Involved, enthusiastic, excited, and willing to improve things over and above what has been done before.
MegayachtNews.com: Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be on your drawing board in 2025?
Andre Hoek: Ten years from now is a very difficult concept to predict. I never anticipated in 1985 that I would be designing the kind of yachts that we are today. I never thought we would have more than 400 of our designs seen built in 30 years. More than 300 traditional Dutch sailing yachts have been built to our designs, for instance, and that is apart from more than 100 Spirit of Tradition type yachts. As for super sailing yachts, I do not think they will grow much in size due to the restrictions in beam and height of already existing bridges in, for example, the Panama Canal. There are plans to change that canal and even to create another one. When and if that happens, who knows what size yachts could grow to. Having said that, there are not too many owners who would like to entertain more than four couples at the same time, so you have to ask, how many cabins and how large does a yacht need to be?