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Father of New Zealand superyacht industry dies

by Justin Ratcliffe 3 Feb 11:45 NZDT 3 February 2018
Tony Hambrook of Alloy Yachts ©

Justin Ratcliffe of reports on the passing of Tony Hambrook, former MD of Alloy Yachts in New Zealand, who died peacefully on 1st February, 2018, in the arms of his wife Kristen.

The first time I met Tony was back in 2004. I was one of a handful of journalists invited to Auckland to sea trial Tiara, a 54m sloop renowned for being able to land a helicopter on her aft deck (a tricky manoeuvre that to the best of my knowledge was attempted only once for the photo shoot).

My first impression was of a man of few words; a straight-talking Kiwi who got on with the job of building boats and was a bit bemused by all the media attention. We met regularly after that at boat shows and developed a respectful friendship. Throughout he remained a singularly unaffected person, still reserved but more assured in his meetings with the press.

Tony was working at his father’s engineering firm in Nelson when he set out to build his first boat, a 35-foot steel motor cruiser. This was in 1974 at the start of the oil crisis, and with the price of fuel shooting up he decided to build a 52-foot sailboat instead. “I started the build and realised early on that the hull was going to be the easy bit,” he told me. “The engineering and systems were a lot more complicated.” The lesson remained with him and years later Alloy would develop its own build specifications in line with the naval architects’ drawings, including many custom features integrated across all the systems to provide holistic solutions and total quality control from start to finish.

The only problem was that Tony had never sailed in his life. But in a nation of do-it-yourself boat builders, local knowledge was close at hand: “I had a Danish neighbour who was building a cold-moulded cruiser-racer. He was very helpful in telling me where to put the winches ­– and why I needed them! He gave me three weekends of sailing instructions and then I was on my own. It was a steep learning curve and I made some mistakes, but learnt very quickly what happens if you don’t get your sails down in time with a squall approaching.”

He then set off with his second wife on a three-and-a-half year cruise. From Fiji, they sailed across the Pacific to Canada, down the US coast to Mexico, Panama and the Caribbean, taking on various jobs along the way from boat building to converting a crane into a pile driver. The plan was to sail around the world, but when his father fell ill and missing his children from his first marriage, Hambrook decided it was time to return home:

“We were doing two eight-hour watches each and one watch together. I remember very clearly reading the stars one night and thinking what I was going to do when I got back to NZ. I decided I wanted to be in the business of building big yachts.”

For the rest of this tribute click here

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