NZ’s Queen of Sailing – Penny Whiting

8721 Sailing DVD
8721 Sailing DVD

Book – RRP$30, DVD – RRP$30

This is the new edition of the book by New Zealand’s leading sailing school instructor and popular television yachting commentator. It shows in her own style how to learn to sail a keel boat yacht. Covering every aspect of sailing, from the rig and parts of the boat, hoisting sails, running, gybing, going about, reefing, tying knots, and handling a spinnaker, this is perhaps one of the clearest, most user-friendly books for those going afloat for the first time. Lots of clear sequential photographs throughout.

New to this edition are a short section for Optimist sailors, and the importing of much of her book, The Boat Code. This focuses on rules of the road, buoyage and suchlike.

Penny Celebrates an Extraordinary 45 Years on the Water

Few Kiwis have packed as much in to their lives as Penny Whiting – destined for a life at sea, 2012 marks her 45th anniversary of teaching sailing and at age 62 she is showing no signs of slowing down.

Whiting, best known as a yachtswoman and the owner-operator of the Penny Whiting Sailing School, is recognised as one of New Zealand’s top sailing experts, having been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for services to sailing in 1993. Whiting has also authored several books on how to sail, which feature great advice on sailing – and Whitings secret recipes, ideal for cooking in a galley.

Since her MBE, Whiting has continued to skipper her crew passionately on and off shore with her involvement in the Spirit of Adventure Trust, Auckland Maritime Museum, Young Mariners of NZ, Auckland Zoo and Waterwise, which teaches practical water safety in schools.

Whiting says Kiwis have traditionally been a nation of sailors, and this summer she wants to encourage men and women to rekindle their love of the sea, and ensure they have the right skills to feel confident sailing.

“I believe anyone can learn to sail and everyone should be able to enjoy time out on the water with safety and confidence,” Whiting says. “I’ve taught over 33,000 people to sail and I see people complete my course confident, competent and capable of crewing any yacht,” she says. “My motto is if it’s hard to do, you’re doing it the wrong way!”

For more information about the Penny Whiting school visit:

About Penny Whiting

Penny has led an extraordinary life, and at 62 she is showing no signs of slowing down.

In 1993 the mother of two received an MBE for her services for sailing – but it would appear she was only just getting warmed up…


2012 marks 45 years for Penny of teaching sailing with the Penny Whiting Sailing School. In that time she has taught over 30,000 beginners how to sail and crew a yacht.

Penny is proud to boast that she hasn’t seen a winter for many years – from November through to April, she teaches sailing on the Waitemata Harbour in her 47 foot keeler named ‘Endless Summer’. Once the weather turns cooler, Penny is off to Newport,or Florida to crew yachts, via a brief sojourn to Tahiti where she skippers charters for Sail Connections.

Penny’s “services” to sailing reach far beyond the practical aspect – she has been involved in the Spirit of Adventure Trust, Auckland Maritime Museum, Young Mariners of NZ, and Waterwise, which teaches practical water safety in schools. She also provided commentary with Peter Montgomery and the rest of the TVNZ team for the Whitbread Round The World Race in 1990.

Penny has authored several books on how to sail, which include great advice on sailing – and even recipes ideal for cooking in a galley.

However after all these years of teaching  men and women to sail, Penny still gets a buzz out of people learning the mysteries of sailing a boat.  She still loves each daily challenge with the weather and the new students wanting to learn to sail on the Waitemata Harbour.

Auckland Zoo

Off the water, Penny is just as exuberant – her energy and passion in her role as Chair of the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust was instrumental in raising the $16m needed to create a New Zealand precinct -Te Wao Nui – at the Zoo, which was opened by Auckland mayor Len Brown in September, 2011.

Te Wao Nui offers visitors a unique experience of New Zealand’s animals, plants and culture, celebrating the natural world and showcasing the Zoo's conservation efforts.

Penny also led the charge to raise $4.6 million for the Zoo’s New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine – the world’s first national centre for conservation medicine, a practice that addresses the connections between human health, the health of animals and the environment.  


Prior to her work with Auckland Zoo, Penny spent nine years in local government politics as a local board member and city councillor for Auckland.

Juggling council and community board functions with teaching sailing made for some interesting sights – Penny would sometimes do a quick change at the boat after a sailing class from sailing gear to formal attire, completely transforming from sailor to councillor before her astounded students’ eyes!

Super Mum

It’s fair to say that Penny was a pioneer of the “super mum” figure in the 80s – with her two young children literally in tow, she still headed off to the yacht, harnessing the kids onto it, or putting them on her back, and single-handedly sailing them for four weeks over the Christmas holidays, alongside her father’s yacht Tequila.

When Penny got her first chance to commentate for the famous 1986/87 America’s Cup in Freemantle with then husband broadcaster Doc Williams, the whole family relocated to Western Australia for several weeks.

Then when Penny got the opportunity to commentate on for the Whitbread Round The World Race with Doc, they took the kids to England with them and enrolled them in school for six weeks.

On land, Penny developed a passion for watching her kid’s play rugby, to the point where she became a coach for the Ponsonby Under-7s, and Under-8s, and Under-9s rugby team.