Meet the new generation of Gold Coast Yachties

The word ‘sailor’ often conjures visions of a salty old fella with a silver beard and a beanie (or Popeye). But there is a whole new generation of Gold Coast yachties out there who are young, funky and ready to destroy stereotypes. We got to know just a few of them a little better.

Jess and Issy Schoonenberg, Sisters

What’s so great about sailing?

Jess: That’s a tough one, there’s honestly so much… I guess I love being on the water because we grew up on the water as kids – boating, surfing, swimming and camping by the beach. When you’re sailing you’re just so in the moment and not thinking about work or anything else really. It’s also such a personal achievement finishing a hardcore race or beating out a boat you’ve been neck and neck with for the last few hours. And I’m slightly competitive so that comes in handy with the racing and regattas.

Fun times at your club?

Issy: Yea the Twilight races at Southport Yacht Club are pretty great – especially in winter with the incredible sunsets! Sail Paradise, a 5-day regatta in summer, is also a lot of fun and super competitive. In my first year at Sail Paradise I foolishly forgot to reapply sunscreen and ended up strawberry red at the end of the first day only to get back to SYC and be dragged into a ‘fashion show’ by our now Commodore of Sail Ray McMahon. Pretty embarrassing!

How did you get into it, and do you have any memorable moments?

Issy: We both got into sailing in the same way – our dad had a mid-life crisis and spent all the savings on a sailboat. No, but honestly, it was always our parents’ dream to buy a sailboat and learn to sail and about 3 years ago they found a boat they loved and bought it. At first, we thought it would just be about cruising and living the good life, taking the boat to the Whitsundays and further abroad. We ended up getting to know the previous owners of our boat and learning how to sail from them and ended up joining the Southport Yacht Club. It’s actually pretty cool that, at quite a late stage in life, our whole family got into a new hobby that we all really enjoy and are good at!

A memorable moment I’ve had was skippering my first inshore race earlier this year and winning the race – that was pretty cool! Also, Hamilton Island Race Week, which we’ve been to three years in a row now, is such an epic week where there’s over 200 boats and we spend the week racing around the Whitsunday islands and then spending the afternoons with the crew or by the pool.

Advice for newbies?

Jess: Definitely! If you want to get involved, just rock up to Southport Yacht Club on a Thursday afternoon before 3.00pm and let them know you really want to get involved – it’s pretty likely they’ll find you a boat to sail on. Get involved more than once as well because it takes a while to pick it up but it’s worth it once you’ve got the hang of it.


Nicole West

What’s so great about sailing?

I love getting out on the water, leaving all your troubles, worries and stress behind on land and feeling the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Its my escape. I also love the competitive nature of racing, you could be arch rivals on the water, but step back on land or at the bar after the race is totally different. You can meet some very interesting and often fascinating people at Yacht Club bars and at regattas. There is this misconception that you have to be rich to get into sailing, but you don’t (unless you want to own your own boat – that’s a totally different story!). Most yachts that race for fun are always looking for crew, and many will take the time to teach you and reward you with experience (and rum!), especially if you show you’re interested, committed and willing to learn. Twilight racing is usually a great place to start, because (most of) the crews aren’t racing for sheeps stations, it friendly, social, slower-paced with less yelling, and usually all done with a drink in your hand watching the sun set.

What would you like people to know about sailing on the GC?

Seeing the iconic Gold Coast skyline from the ocean, with the sun setting behind the buildings, really is a beautiful an amazing experience everyone should have. And do it under sail power, with no loud engine noises, and not being in a hurry, really is a peaceful, almost spiritual thing – and you might even see a whale or two!

Any memorable moments?

It was pretty special for me to complete the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with my Dad last year. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, but was something on my bucket list which I am so proud to have crossed off, and to do it with my Dad was an experience I’ll never forget – but I’m not exactly rushing back to do it again.


Peter Hendra

What’s so great about sailing?

How do you explain the feeling of the wind in your hair, sea spray riding over the bow, and the raw energy of thrust behind something we cannot see? The thought of being able to literally travel the world on the wind still astonishes me.

How did you get into it?

I think the first time I watched ‘Waterworld’ starring Kevin Costner is the moment I fell in love with it. Watching his Trimaran fly through the water outrunning jet skis (the smokers) was just something that filled me with excitement and the need for the adrenalin hit.

Any memorable moments?

My most memorable moment dates back about 10 years ago. Dad had recently bought a 58ft ketch and we decided to take a trip from Gold Coast to Tangalooma for the long weekend. Taking her out in the open ocean sailing the coastline watching whales as close as 50m leaping from the water. And having a pod of dolphins ride the bow was incredible. But sailing is also about adventure, and having run aground 3 times, running out of fuel, and spending the night on the wall and in a shipping lane all add to the experience.


Danielle Hutcheson, Skipper Onyx

What’s so great about sailing?

There is something very special about being on the water which you have to experience. It can be peaceful and brutal, beautiful and challenging all at the same time. When you put yourself, your crew and your boat against nature you experience the absolute best and worst of each other and the ocean.

Fun times at your club?

The Southport Yacht Club has become like family, particularly the other offshore skippers and crew who we race against regularly. Many of the other skippers took us under their wing and kept an eye out for us as we were one of the smallest boats and still learning, over the years and with many learning curves, building on our experiences, consistently trying our best and the support, encouragement and comradery of the club makes sailing at Southport such a pleasure and why we all go back there post racing for a celebratory pizza, garlic bread and cold drinks!

Advice for newbies?

Just give it a go, you can do it! We can teach you anything if you want to learn and fit in – becoming part of a crew can be challenging but it also incredibly rewarding. To fit in, ask questions to more experienced crew (I’ve never met a sailor who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell, if you listen), help any chance you get and remember to laugh – sailing is supposed to be FUN!

If you’re curious about sailing or just feel like booking in some pizza and cold drinks overlooking the water, visit

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