Historic Moment: RNZYS Awards First Female Life Member

 In Ladies, Member Interest, News

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is pleased to welcome Penny Whiting MBE as the Squadron’s first female life member. This award recognises Penny’s outstanding contribution to the sport of sailing both here in Auckland and abroad.

Pictured: Penny Whiting recieving her Life Membership from RNZYS Commodore Andrew Aitken.

In every club there are members that ‘go the extra mile’. There are, amongst us, members who have a profound influence on our sport, on our Club and on the lives of our members. Penny Whiting MBE is one of these people. 

Born on the morning of the Auckland Anniversary Day regatta, it seems fitting that Penny has spent a life on the sea.  At the age of 19 Penny founded the Penny Whiting Sailing School.  By the time she was 20, she had won a junior title at the legendary Duke Kahanamoku surfing champs in Hawaii, set up a sailing school – running three classes a day, seven days a week from November through to April – and bought her first boat.

Since her admittance to RNZYS as one of the first two female members on 13th November 1975, Penny has been a trailblazer for women in sailing.

At the time of officially joining the RNZYS Penny owned Avian, a Spencer-designed sistership to Sirius, owned by the Squadron Commodore at the time John McKenzie. Penny was keen to race against Sirius, but to do that she had to be a member. Ray Walker proposed Penny and Ken Butland was the seconder, both prominent Auckland businessmen.

Penny was told that when the matter came up in committee, there was initially silence. Then a member enquired: “Will she use the urinal, or does she expect us to build her a toilet?” Apart from that there wasn’t any opposition

At the time of her admittance, Penny was firmly ensconced in the local sailing scene. She competed frequently in harbour and offshore races, while her eponymous sailing school had been operating for six years.  Her various yachts — particularly Endless Summer — were a familiar presence on the Waitemata Harbour, out in all but the most extreme conditions and logging over 1,000 miles every summer. Over 52 years, the school introduced 33,000 people to the sport, many of them women.  

Penny has been a prominent individual and has been very influential in the development of women’s sailing in Auckland during her time as a member of the RNZYS. She has made a huge contribution to the entire sailing scene, especially for women sailors. For over fifty years she has worked tirelessly to teach many ladies how to really participate in yachting and boating. 

People who until meeting Penny had at best been ‘reluctant passengers’ developed the skills needed to crew, to race & to helm yachts around the world. Next year is 60 years since Penny kicked-off the Whiting Sailing School – so many members and member families have benefited from Penny’s influence and tuition.

Penny has also raced in most of the long international Ocean Races and she has cruised all over the world and in 1993 Penny was recognised by the late Queen Elizabeth with an MBE for her contribution to the sailing world and the City of Auckland. 

Since her MBE, Penny has been involved in the Spirit of Adventure Trust, Auckland Maritime Museum, Young Mariners of NZ, Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust and Waterwise, spearheading fundraising campaigns and supporting these organisations to succeed. 

Today Penny still has a lot to contribute, as recently as the Women’s Day Out hosted by RNZYS earlier this month, Penny was there inspiring attendees and supporting the programme.   

Nominated by Life Member Chris Bouzaid, member Penny Whiting has played an ongoing role at the RNZYS for many years and is now confirmed as a Life Membership of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and the first ever female to be awarded this honour. 

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