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Spotlight on: Aevril Hibbard

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It’s hard to imagine anyone more passionate about sailing than Aevril Hibbard.

Whether it’s coaching at or leading a yacht club, chances are you’ll find the Yachting New Zealand coach developer near a boat – with a big smile and an even bigger emphasis on having fun.

And it’s an approach that has brought the Far North mum-of-two some remarkable success.

In the latest of our regular feature shining the spotlight on the country’s yachting community and the people at its heart, we talk to Hibbard about dedicating much of her life to coaching others, the challenges facing the sport in a post-Covid-19 New Zealand, and how her big plans for a tiny club on the southern side of Doubtless Bay left a mark long after she had moved on.

You were the commodore at Taipa Sailing Club for two years from 2018. How did that come about?

I had just moved back to the Far North from Canada and ran the learn to sail programme at the club. I felt the club had room to grow, so I put my hand up to lead the charge.

I was in the role for two years and stepped down when I had my first child. I felt it was time to let others pick it up and carry it forward.

These days I am based in Whangaroa Harbour and am affiliated with the Bay of Islands Yacht Club and Taipa Sailing Club. I met my husband sailing 16 years ago and he now coaches in between his building projects.

I am a mum to a busy 1-year-old and 3-year-old and I co-ordinate and coach the LTS programmes and school sailing programmes at BOIYC. I am also the coach at TSC and I operate the Kerikeri High School International Sailing Academy.

You are credited with making a big impact at Taipa Sailing Club, seeing impressive growth of its learn to sail programme and securing national regattas during your time.

I made sure it was a fun place to sail for the young sailors coming through, and along with the help of some key members there we ran sailing sessions nearly year-round, and the retention rate of the sailors grew.

The aim was to make sailing accessible for everyone and the focus was to support sailors in their choices to sail competitively or just for the enjoyment of being in a boat on the water. With the nationals that have been run there, the club has a great committee that supports these events.


Aevril Hibbard is a former commodore at Taipa Sailing Club. 

What are some of your fondest memories from your time as commodore?

Seeing the growth in the club was fantastic and there was a real buzz around the place. I think one of the best club days we had saw 28 boats out on the water for a destination sail to one of our local beaches - an incredible turnout for a small, rural sailing club.

Being able to offer sailing experiences in the local schools was amazing, as well as the support for the regattas that the club ran. We also ran holiday programmes which had a great community response.

How did you get into coaching and how long have you been doing it?

I started my coaching journey after attending a coaching course with Derry Godbert at Lake Manuwai - and over 20 years later I am still going.

I can honestly say that coaching has never been something I regard as a job, as it is such a passion of mine.

I absolutely love connecting with people and being able to give back to a sport that gave me so much along with instilling lifelong skills and teachings to all ages and levels. 

It is encouraging to see so many of the youth sailors stepping up to become coaches as they bring an enormous amount of energy and new initiatives to coaching roles.

How did you get into sailing and what do you love most about it?

I come from a non-sailing background and grew up on a farm riding horses. I learnt to sail in the estuary at Taipa Sailing Club when I was 13 and eventually bought a boat instead of a horse.

I was fortunate to have a great group of sailors to come through with, which made it fun to go sailing and with whom I am still friends today.

I sailed at a competitive level as a youth - primarily in the Optimist, Splash and Laser Radial classes - before becoming involved in the superyacht industry. 

Northland has some of the best sailing waters in New Zealand. It’s hard to pick a favourite between Doubtless Bay, the Bay of Islands and Tutukaka - especially when the nor'easters are blowing.


Hibbard has been coaching for over 20 years.

How has the sailing landscape changed since you started out?

It’s very different in the way of pathways and opportunities like foiling and Yachting New Zealand’s Aon clinics. Foiling has opened a whole new area of sailing which is so popular with a lot of the youth sailors. Also, the various opportunities that are now there for female sailors is exciting to see.

And since Covid?

I was no longer leading the Taipa Sailing Club during the Covid period, however I was still involved with coaching. My experience is that we saw a huge decrease in our sailing programme with sailors who would have completed and participated in learn to sail and junior sailing programmes. It was difficult to grow or even maintain club memberships and the number of volunteers and supporters within the clubs were deeply impacted.

I feel like many clubs are still finding it difficult to find people to step up and fill roles that are needed to keep the clubs moving forward. I think the best way to overcome this challenge is to focus on rebuilding the grassroots level and tapping into new streams of supporters to help.