Every edition of Ocean tells a story ...

28 March 2022


And together, they represent snapshots of the industry over the past 18 years, lending an insight into the endless drive and dedication, the exacting eye for excellence and the singular focus of Hillary Buckman, Founder and Editor in Chief.

One hundred issues of Ocean, a publishing tour de force, has been tempered by Hillary’s innate Kiwi groundedness and sense of fun, and punctuated by out-of-this-world experiences including lunching on board the Maltese Falcon in Monaco, testing the new Volvo Penta engines in Sweden and paragliding from a 960-foot clifftop into Zighy Bay Resort, Oman, to check out the new marina.

Imparting editorial integrity and a touch of glamour, Hillary has led the magazine from just another boating magazine to the pre-eminent luxury boating lifestyle title esteemed worldwide that it is today.

Though Hillary jokes she is ready to hand over the reins to someone who can lead Ocean magazine and the Ocean Media brand into the future, the truth is that hers are exceptionally large shoes to fill. No less, her quip tells more about her commitment to ensuring the legacy of the magazine and company – and her deep love for what has truly been her life’s work.


Hillary and her then-to-be business partner met at a superyacht luncheon during the 2004 Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (SCIBS) and from this meeting, Ocean was conceived and launched exactly one year later at the 2005 show. 

Since then, she has been hands-on, curating and overseeing every issue and the many spin-offs – websites and the Ocean Club Concierge, Sails magazine and the Great Southern Route Superyacht Cruising Guide and, of course, many local and international partnerships, including SailGP, the Monaco Yacht Show and the Cannes Yachting Festival.

One of her favourite parts of the job is visiting the yards. “I love the smell of boat resin!” she laughs characteristically. “I love seeing how these stunning vessels are created from nothing to become exquisite floating homes.”   

Hillary loves what she does and those she works with. An icon in the industry, she has its best interests at heart, always working hard to bring together a community of like-minded individuals and companies.

No less, she is committed to her in-house team, including longstanding Advertising Director Michele McCamley, the Ocean stable of international journalists, contributors and photographers, and the brands and yards that make up the industry.

“I’ve been blessed,” she says, “to be part of such an incredible industry for so long, dipping my toe into the world of yachting, with such exceptional people, many of whom I count as personal friends.” 

“I have relied on their trust, and they mine, and it has provided stability in an industry that has seen its share of highs and lows.”

It’s true. The life of an editor-at-large and head of a small media company is not all 100-foot boats, soirees and exotic locations. As anyone who has built a business from the ground up will tell you, there’s a lot of hard work involved. A lot.

Take 2019, for example. Hillary says, “I was away 120 days that year,” though she seems energised rather than defeated by it, and is champing at the bit for the world to right itself so she can get back out there.

The elan and commitment required to sustain a business for such a long time goes without saying, but there’s no small amount of sacrifice, either. “I have a very understanding husband!” she offers, and again there’s that laugh – but underneath there is no doubting the deep respect for and acknowledgement of his unwavering support for her to pursue her passion to its full.

There are Hillary’s daughters too, who will undoubtedly come to appreciate her skill and tenacity in the fullness of time, and reflect on her influence as a true role model for their own empires or enterprises one day.

Indeed, the girls and the company have grown together – they were both very young when Hillary took over the company reins, singlehandedly buying out her ex-business partner in full.

Of that period, Hillary remembers, “Two years of negotiation was challenging. It was the start of the Sydney International Boat Show in 2016 when I signed the last documents. It was a difficult time, but absolutely worth it.”

With her gutsy can-do attitude New Zealanders are so well-known for and her distinctive desire to prove the naysayers wrong, she set to and didn’t waste any time rebranding both the magazines and websites, venturing into more events and undertaking the fourth edition of the highly regarded Great Southern Route publication.

There were some tough years, though. “The global financial crisis shattered many in the industry, and there were a few arduous years managing the buy-out of the business, not to mention raising two children. It was not a time for the faint-hearted!

“Then there was the pandemic, which has been a challenge, like for many businesses. But, you just get on with it.

Ultimately, as a business and a print publication, we’ve thrived,” she notes, firmly knocking on the head the idea that print may be dead. “Print is alive and well in niche publishing!” she confirms, acknowledging her loyal readers, advertisers and team.

“I wanted to be the best and have surrounded myself with a team who are better than me; specialists in their own right, ” explains Hillary.

She acknowledges the many hands that contribute to each edition and the business in general. There’s no doubt she expects the best of herself and others, but she brings out the best in all.

Then there are the yachts, of course. Indeed, the story of Ocean magazine wouldn’t be what it is today without them – it is as much their story as the rise of the industry in Australasia and the hard work and dedication of many to ensure we are a world-class boatbuilding, refit and charter destination.

“Putting White Rabbit on our first cover in 2005 proved a symbolic move,” she says proudly. “At the time, it signified the growth and strength of the boatbuilding industry in Australia that came off the back of those influential people who cut their teeth at the famous  Oceanfast yard many years earlier.”

Hillary says boatbuilding in Australasia has come full circle to be rightly at the forefront of the world stage now.

Multi-million-dollar boats, a booming industry and a little black book of the most influential names around – it sure is a long way from the small town of Kaukapakapa, New Zealand, where she’s from, though these experiences, which often involve the water, have clearly shaped her too.

There were fishing trips out on the Kaipara Harbour with her grandfather (Dida) on the boats he built, including one made of concrete. Years later, there was deep-sea fishing with her parents on their old Salthouse boat around Tutukaka, astounding everyone including herself when she caught a 125-kilogram blue marlin. Hillary is full of surprises and tells her story with a glint in her eye of a life well-lived.

An affinity with sailing started early. She remembers being dragged out of bed by her Nana late one night to watch Sir Peter Blake sail into Auckland Harbour during the 1985–1986 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, and in the 1989–1990 Race, watched one of the most exciting leg finishes between Blake and Grant Dalton in their epic battle into Auckland.

Other highlights include her big OE (overseas experience) in 1993, working at the Camper and Nicholson yard in Gosport, England, as a shy young woman in her twenties. “The 1993–1994 Whitbread Round the World Race was about to start, and New Zealand Endeavour was based at the yard,” she recalls.

“I got to meet Grant and the crew, which was a real thrill. It was the race that Grant finally won it on the maxi.”

There are tales of a year working in Dallas, USA, for the world drag boat champion, and years sailing out of the Freshwater Yacht Club in Perth.

After a return to New Zealand, where she relished the buzz of the 2000 America’s Cup and the transformation it made on the Viaduct and the city of Auckland, Hillary finally arrived on Australia’s shores in 2003, representing the New Zealand boating magazine SeaSpray. It was only supposed to be for two years, but the detours don’t seem to bother her, either, merely adding richness to her life.

The one common thread throughout, however, is Hillary’s love for the ocean.

Readers will note her regular commission in the magazine, Ocean Keepers, where she keeps an eye on the protection of our playground from plastic and pollution, and champions those doing groundbreaking research, finding innovative solutions and making the world a better place.

Hillary may have acquired nerves of steel, a thick skin and a capacity for very little sleep, but below it all is a softness and a heart of gold for those who share her passions.

You’ll have to keep reading Ocean to see where this journey next takes its turn, and be prepared to be astonished – much like those at the Heesen yard in the Netherlands during one of her favourite yearly stints touring all the superyacht builders, who watched on in awe as she claimed the title of best welder.

Big shoes indeed.



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