Naval Architect Hugo van Wieringen
HAARLEM – In 30 years as a designer and naval architect, Hugo van Wieringen has done his share to make superyachts faster, bigger, more gorgeous. The Netherlands is home to a dozen or so superyacht makers that look back on years of spectacular growth in which one thing never changed, according to van Wieringen: the art of managing superyacht clients’ expectations.
“From start to finish we must manage those expectations well,” he adds. “Then we have to offer that little extra!” Van Wieringen was with De Voogt Naval Architects from 1986 to 2003 when he founded Azure Yacht Design & Naval Architecture.
He occupies a front row seat in a fast-growing industry catering to very demanding clients. Van Wieringen remembers taking a call from Frits de Voogt to say a US client wanted a 27m sport fisherman that could go 37 knots. “Call me back and tell me what sort of power that requires,” added De Voogt. In the 1990s, a Russian client wanted an 86m yacht that could do 33 knots. “Unheard of speed back then. We drew a propulsion system of 4 engines and a 25,000 HP, GE water jet drive,” says Van Wieringen.
These days, Azure does much design work for Oceanco (photo) on yachts of up to 110 meters. In recent years, it has also developed the Awareness which Van Wieringen calls an ‘eco-model’ providing unparalleled comfort and fuel savings of 30% compared to similarly sized yachts. .
Van Wieringen deflates the notion superyacht makers are immune to economic downturns. He says the 2008 financial crisis that triggered a recession in much of Europe led to contract cancellations and postponements. Western Europe’s poor relations with Russia right now means fewer orders. But the future is not bleak. Van Wieringen sees quality and a knack to cooperate on complex projects as the key strengths of the Dutch sector.