About Penny

About Penny Whiting MBE

Penny is best known as a yachtswoman and the owner-operator of the Penny Whiting Sailing School, and is recognised as one of New Zealand’s top sailing experts. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for services to sailing in 1993.

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

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.

Sailing School

2017 marked 53 years of 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 named her boat wisely, having not seen a winter for many a year, she taught from November through to April on the Waitemata Harbour in her 47 foot keeler named ‘Endless Summer’. 

Charity & Conservation

Penny's passion in her role as Chair of the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust drove fundraising 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 managed the campaign 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.

Changing from sailor to councillor attire was a quick transformation on the boat much to the amusement of the sailing school attendees, whilst Penny balanced council and community board functions with teaching sailing.


Even as a mother, Penny is a powerhouse – bringing her two young children onto the yacht for sailing classes, as well as single-handedly sailing them for four weeks over the Christmas holidays.

On land, Penny so enjoyed watching her kid’s play rugby, she became a coach for the Ponsonby Under-7s, and Under-8s, and Under-9s rugby team. 

Her Grandchildren can be seen sailing with Penny in this image.

Inspiring Speaker 

Penny Whiting was award an MBE in 1993 for her Services to Sailing, she has worked as a councillor for Auckland City, authored many books and is Chair of the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust, as well as many other achievements.   Book Penny for an engaging and entertaining speaker.

Contact Us

Berth E 10 Westhaven Marina Auckland New Zealand
+64 (0)274 810 498