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Key People

It takes a good crew to make the festival happen...

David Irvin

Commodore, Black Ball Yacht Club

Chairman, Black Ball Maritime Society


David Irvin, the commodore of the Black Ball Yacht Club, left Maine (USA) in 2011 and arrived in NZ in 2014 aboard his classic 20m ketch Rewa. He has spent most of his adult life in the boat business. At the age of 17, he worked at Hobie Cat where he learned about making 14’ fiberglass boats. This led to a job in the fibreglass shop at the Hinckley Company building 35’–50’ semi-custom yachts.  He then went into partnership with Bob Hinckley and a couple of others to develop Bass Harbor Marine into a major service yard and charter fleet on Mount Desert Island in Downeast Maine. 


Taking a break from the world of boats, David thought about business models opposite to the boating world and started one of the early internet ISPs in Northern New England while developing his 300-acre property on the island. After selling the ISP, he returned to the world of boats as a Marine Surveyor specialising in thermal imaging.  


David, now 71, has sailed up and down the US east coast and around the Caribbean more times than he can remember, has cruised from Newfoundland to South America, California to Alaska and twice across the Pacific. David and his partner Charmayne, now call Whangārei home when they are not cruising aboard Rewa.

Mark Bennett
Festival organiser, waterfront activities 

Although learning to sail as a young man, I really came to sailing later in life after years of climbing and flying. After a few years of summer chartering, and one ocean passage as crew, we bought a yacht (Mintaka, an Ingrid 38) and set off. Several seasons cruising in Mexico – which confirmed the lifestyle for us – was not enough, so we launched out into the Pacific. Two years later, we fetched up in New Zealand. Circumstances led me to sail Mintaka back to the U.S. for a while, which set us up for another season in Mexico, and another Pacific crossing. We've been based in Whangārei ever since, sailing the northeast coast of New Zealand, and up to Vanuatu and down to Stewart Island as well.

Robyn Rogin
Festival organiser, movies & lectures 
Robyn on R Tucker Thompson.jpeg

My husband, Mark Bennett, and I first sailed our Ingrid 38 yacht Mintaka into New Zealand in 2004. My path to cruising started with a learn-to-sail class as an adult. After getting my feet wet with yearly boat charters, we bought our own yacht. In 2002 we moved aboard with our young son, and set off! Starting from America we spent several seasons sailing in Mexico, then across the Pacific to NZ, visiting islands along the way.  Since then, I’ve sailed across the Pacific a second time, back up to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and as far south as Stewart Island. Mark and I live aboard in the Town Basin, and enjoy cruising up and down the NZ coast.

Charmayne Dobbs
Festival organiser, kids activities

Charmayne grew up sailing around the Hauraki Gulf with her parents aboard their classic yachts Lady Wilma (1895) and Makora (1933). She sailed to the Islands as a teenager later returning to New Zealand to become a recognised potter and jeweller. She later became the cook on the first Bluebridge ferries. In addition to other trips to Tonga, she has done several deliveries including a trip to the Antipodes aboard the famous NZ yacht, Lion. Now retired, she and her partner David Irvin cruise aboard their classic ketch Rewa.

Bruce Dunlop
Festival Organiser, Entertainment

Born in Auckland, I learned to sail on small centreboard yachts. Lured by the adventure of sailing to unknown lands, at 19 I crewed on a yacht bound for New Caledonia and the islands. I was hooked and after working in the Northern Territories in Australia for two years, I bought my first ocean-going 34-foot Woolacott wooden yacht in Auckland.


I left New Zealand again as captain and sailed and adventured through the Pacific, Asia, India and the Red Sea arriving on the south coast of France 8 years later with a French partner and daughter.


I worked on charter boats, mainly out of Antibes, and learned more about the art of a mariner. Ten years later, after selling Gesture the Woolacott, we returned to Auckland with a son. Selling boats as a broker for 4 years led to a 23-year job maintaining and skippering the Alden Schooner Arcturus.  Also during the off seasons, I have ventured to the USA and purchased several classic vessels that I sailed back and restored. 

Wooden classic yachts are a big part of my life and passion.

Kara Gribble
Festival Marketing, Whangārei Marina

Kara’s love for the sea started at a young age fishing with her dad. Moving to the seaside suburb of Maraetai age 30 joined the Coastguard where she spent 10 years volunteering as a rescue crew racking up over 1400 hours of sea time and countless rescues. In 2019 she did her first Pacific crossing from Fiji to NZ which changed her life. She packed up her job in fashion and moved north to live on a yacht eventually settling in Whangārei where she now works in the marina.

Sharron Beck
Festival Support, Whangār
ei Marina

Sharron began her nautical journey as a sailmaker in Sweden having travelled from her family's farm in Southland to see the world. Sailmaking led her to One America’s Cup campaign in San Diego, where she sewed spinnakers for the Swedish racing team.

She returned to New Zealand to continue her nautical adventure managing the Whangārei Marina. She has been recently appointed to the board of the NZ Marina Operators Association.

Sharron enjoys small boat racing in Parua Bay most weekends.

Kylie Springford
Event Manager, Cheers Wedding and Events

Meet Kylie Springford, the owner of Cheers Weddings and Events. With an impressive track record of orchestrating inside events catering to a diverse range of attendees, from intimate gatherings of 10 to grand affairs hosting up to 1000 people, Kylie is a seasoned expert in event management and wedding planning. Boasting two decades of experience in project management, Kylie and her dedicated team possess the expertise to turn your event dreams into a spectacular reality. Their commitment to precision, creativity, and flawless execution ensures that every occasion is a resounding success. At Cheers Weddings and Events, Kylie's passion for curating memorable experiences shines through. With a wealth of expertise in both event management and wedding planning, Kylie is the driving force behind the creation of seamless, enchanting, and unforgettable moments. Embrace the opportunity to collaborate with Kylie and her team, and witness their unparalleled professionalism and unwavering dedication transform your event into an extraordinary celebration.

Viivi Ronkko
Design & Brand, Subzero Group

After immigrating from Finland, Viivi learned to sail in windy Wellington and ended up racing keelboats in Wellington harbour and coastal races around New Zealand. This led to boat deliveries from Fiji, Australia and Noumea. For the past 15 years, she has been cruising with her family aboard their 50-foot sailing yacht Solo in the Hauraki Gulf and the northern coast of New Zealand.

In her professional life, Viivi is a brand specialist and designer with a soft spot for marine and environmental projects. Her marine clients have included organisations such as Yachting New Zealand, Auckland Anniversary Regatta, NZ Optimist Association, Whangarei Marina, NZ Marina Operators Association, Clean Below? Good to Go Campaign and many more. With her partner Viivi launched Project Kahurangi in 2021 – a marine conservation photo and video library that is now used by many non-profit organisations and government agencies in New Zealand.

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