PETER HRONES - BIG BOAT CONSULTANT

Passion for Yacht Design and Build

What drives a young Australian to spend 18 months travelling around Europe, USA, Canada and Africa in a campervan visiting 22 boat building factories? For Peter Hrones founder of The Windcraft Group, the driving force is clearly passion… Passion for great yacht design, top build quality and doing the right thing by his customers.

Once Peter starts talking about boats his face breaks into a smile and his eyes shine. Here’s a man who clearly loves his work. It all started when a very young Peter and his dad built a Sabot sailing Dinghy. They customised the little boat to fit into the cockpit of their 22ft Timpenny trailer sailor – (it had to be a Timpenny because Peter’s mum loved the self-tacking headsail).

Then every year the Hrones family drove north and spent a month cruising the Whitsundays, towing the faithful Sabot along behind them.

Throughout his teens Peter became an accomplished sailor racing MJs and Flying 11s at Avalon sailing club. He then moved onto Etchels in the late 80′s sailing out of RPAYC. Every weekend was a sailing weekend with Peter touring Australia extensively and competing very successfully. He cut his teeth as a yacht broker in Palm Beach for 5 years before heading to Europe and having fun delivering Sigma and Moody yachts. The time in Europe opened his eyes.

It was clear to Peter that 1990′s Australia lagged behind Europe in yacht design and building. More competition was needed and it seemed European imports could provide the answer. Peter became a man on a mission. On his second trip to the Northern Hemisphere he scoured Europe, the USA, Canada and Africa looking at every boat building factory. His formula was simple. Score each factory on key points and choose the best.

We asked Peter about yacht design and his key criteria...

“First and foremost good yacht design is crucial. I must like the look of the boat. The shapes of the hull, the deck and windows have to excite me. The windows must let sunshine flood in. The keel, rudder and rig have to be right. The cockpit space has to be big enough for entertaining, yet still comfortable at sea – Australians love to be outside.

The interior space and layout has to offer key ingredients like seagoing galley and plenty of handholds too. Australians want quality interiors with home comforts, decent headroom and lots of opening hatches. Next, it has to be a sailor’s yacht. It has to handle and perform well. It has to be good quality, well engineered and well put together. And of course price is important.

A boat has to be competitive with other new yachts for sale. And I have to know I can do business with the yacht builder. I have to be as sure as I can be that they will deliver what they promise. I want to know they will listen to the needs of the Australian and Kiwi market.

I want to deal with forward looking companies who are improving their products all the time. And finally, when I step on board and walk inside I have to have an immediate heartbeat moment. A moment when my heart races because I know instinctively that the boat feels right!

Hanse Group yachts were the first you chose – why?

“I realised that Northern Europe were building the best boats. They are passionate sailors building sailor’s boats. For me Hanse came out top of the lot on all counts. For me they handle like big Etchels… good racing yachts which are speedy and responsive. Hanse Group yachts are also well put together with performance rigs and keels and the very latest hull shapes. The keel and mast are designed to carry the self-tacking headsail from day one of the design process.

Maybe the self-tacker was what persuaded my mum and dad to buy the very first boat I imported in 1998, being a Scanyacht 391 carrying Hull number 99! Hanse Group yachts can handle rough seas. Possibly a little over-built… but that’s OK especially for Australian conditions.

They’re designed and built to handle the unforgiving Baltic Sea. Many Hanses have and continue to cross the oceans, taking what nature inevitably throws at them in their stride.”

And how about the Hanse group as a company? Are they moving forwards in terms of yacht design?

‘The Hanse Group listen. They’ve listened to me about bigger fridges, separate showers and more opening hatches. Every year they ask me for my wish list of the 5 things I want to change the most. They move forward all the time, improving and updating yacht designs as they go. And they deliver. They deliver beautifully engineered boats on time. They are a pleasure to work with.”

Can you tell us a little more about a design project you’ve worked on with the Hanse Group?

When the Hanse Group bought Moody I became the first dealer in the world and bought the first Moody 45 Deck Saloon – ‘Cool Change’. We did the world release at Sydney Boat Show. Then I took three months out with the family and sailed up the East Coast of Australia. We created some very precious memories along the way… and my love affair with Deck Saloons was sealed.

After a few years it was clear that the market wanted a bigger model for world cruising with a larger saloon and more dinghy storage. So when the Hanse Group asked me to help design the Moody 54 Deck Saloon… I jumped at the chance!

I worked on the layout with Bill Dixon making the galley upstairs the standard layout and making sure the entertaining space was big enough for today’s market.

We also moved the navigation close to windscreen and created a large lounge area. It’s testament to the quality of the boat that we secured the first 3 orders for the Australasian market. One of our new owners wanted to do the Sydney Hobart with us – so we had a fantastic time completing the race in style in 2014.

Tell us about making a Statement with Solaris

Every time I go to Europe I’m on the look out for new brands that our market will love Downunder. With Solaris it was love a first sight. The Italian styling and cutting edge design are simply fantastic. The clean lines mean that these yachts fit perfectly into Team Windcraft’s portfolio.

You often talk about the Windcraft Family – what does that mean?

Well over the years Windcraft has become a family where like-minded owners come together to share their passion for sailing. This usually starts with our Rallys but quickly extends into friendships where groups of owners go cruising together.

The Windcraft team have also become a family with the service team growing every year. Our experts include a shipwright and marine electrician and they all work together to make sure our owners are out on the water for the maximum possible time.

And what’s next?…

I still get a huge buzz from seeing and helping to create great yacht design. It looks increasingly likely that I’ll be working with Bill Dixon on a new 65+ foot yacht… watch this space…