The success of Alloy Yachts is intrinsically linked to Tony Hambrook, the man who became managing director in 1989 and has guided the company through two decades of continued growth.
A sailor through and through, Hambrook’s passion for the best infects every aspect of Alloy Yachts’ operation. When an owner wants something that hasn’t been done before – a helipad on a sailing yacht, for example, as on the 54.27m Tiara launched by Alloy Yachts in 2001 – Hambrook will lead his team to find a way to create the perfect solution.
Hambrook’s own story starts in Motueka, a small rural town at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. His father had an engineering workshop where Hambrook learned many skills he then bought to later roles. An apprenticeship in heating and ventilation followed high school and he built freestanding fireplaces for several years.
Approaching his 30th birthday, Hambrook decided he’d like to build himself a yacht. Sourcing a 52ft Frank Pelin design steel ketch, Hambrook started the project in November 1976 and around 18 months later his large home-built craft was complete. Hambrook and his wife taught themselves to sail and after an initial circumnavigation of the North Island, the pair sold up and set off 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, including yachting annual fixture, Antigua race week.
That first long sailing trip still provides opportunities for learning and inspiration for Hambrook today. In the days before global positioning systems (GPS), Hambrook relied on a sextant to find his way, just as mariners have done for centuries before him. That sense of exploration, of self-reliance, can be seen in the way Hambrook ensures Alloy Yachts fabricates and fits virtually every component of every craft – Hambrook does not believe in outsourcing, preferring to maintain control – and therefore quality – over all the complicated components required to build an award-winning superyacht.
Back in New Zealand in the early ‘80s, Hambrook knew he wanted to build yachts. He started out as a consultant for a company that then played a role in Alloy Yachts’ formation. In 1986 Hambrook was appointed Alloy Yachts’ production manager then when the company was sold to New Zealand owners, he was asked to manage the entire company in 1989. He has been managing director ever since.
Hambrook’s passion has always been for sailboats, finding them more of a challenge than motor yachts – not that Alloy Yachts has limited its production to only sailing craft over the years; the team can build a beautiful, award-winning motor yacht equally as well as they can craft a superb ketch or sloop.
His link with superyachts, defined as being 100ft or more, dates back to his time cruising offshore and Hambrook decided the big boat business really had a future after attending a seminar on the competitive advantage of nations by the then-Dean of Harvard Business School, Michael Porter, in Auckland. The Dean’s talk made the point that there is always someone who can build a product more cheaply; that if you’re going to compete on the basis of price, be prepared for someone to undercut you. So Hambrook’s focus has always been on quality.
Hambrook talks about the yachts his team has built with great affection. Each one has its own character, its own features that make it special for Alloy Yachts as a technical or design achievement. But more important for Hambrook is the craft’s owner, the fact that they have commissioned and received a craft that does more than meet their expectations. The level of detail Hambrook covers with owners as yachts are in the planning phase is considerable and he makes it everyone’s goal that the owner will get what they want.
A sure sign of Hambrook’s talents at the helm of Alloy Yachts is the fact so many staff have remained with the company for many years. Loyalty to the company is recognised in traditional ways with graduating apprentices and those who complete twenty years with the company receiving an engraved watch.
It’s a small pleasure, but one he ensures he never misses – at the launch of every new boat, motor or sail, Hambrook is the first to take the helm, the first to test thousands of man-hours of talent, skill and labour on the water, and the first to savour yet another perfectly-built Alloy Yachts craft.
Hambrook’s contributions to the New Zealand marine industry were recognised when he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (O.N.Z.M.) in 2006.