Living , Modern


van der Wal


Onne van der Wal, a widely published nautical photographer, is uniquely able to capture many of the facets of the world of sailing due to his extensive experience in both racing and cruising.

Key West race week, one of Onne’s favorite locations and events. This was the first start of the day for the Farr 40’s with nice winter light, a solid easterly with a good lumpy swell and the “stirred up” water color that Key West is known for. Perfect shooting conditions and angle at the start.


Racing at elite levels on everything from a laser to a maxi, his racing experience is vast and varied. A veteran of the Whitbread Around the World Race, Swan Worlds, the Maxi Circuit, the Grand Prix Yacht Racing Circuit, and the Fastnet, to name just a few, his comfort and knowledge on a boat allowed him to segue into the world of yacht racing photography seamlessly as he was not only a great photographer, but a sought-after crew member as well. His cruising experience is no less impressive, and he has the photographs to document it. Literally from the Arctic region (Spitzbergen) to the Antarctic (South Georgia), his travels on cruising yachts have taken him to such far-flung locales as the Kingdom of Tonga,the Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Russia, Cape Horn, French Polynesia, the Greek Isles, and the Gulf of Thailand, among others.


A perfect perch to shoot the iceberg from the top of Shaman’s mast, a Bill Tripp designed carbon water-ballasted cruising boat. Onne was up high in the bosuns chair in the Svalbard archipelago (aka Spitsbergen) at 80 degrees North latitude with VHF and camera in hand calling the shots to the helmsman 100 ft below to get the boat in the picture-perfect location.


Following are the sailing and photography resumes of Onne van der Wal:

Onne van der Wal’s career was launched while racing as a crew-member during the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World race on the Dutch entry, Flyer II.  Onne was the engineer and bowman onboard, photographing the experience for his friends and family when he had the opportunity to show his slides to the editor of SAIL magazine while Flyer was anchored in Marblehead during sail trials with Hood before the race.  Keith Taylor, hired Onne on the spot to document the race and Onne’s first cover shot, taken from the boom of the boat hauling down a wave in the gnarly southern ocean, appeared on the cover of SAIL during the second leg of the race.   His images have since graced over 500 national and international nautical magazine covers and hundreds of yacht builders’ promotional brochures. His 34 years as a professional and award winning photographer not only includes editorial and assignment photography but he also owns a gallery in Newport where the public can purchase and hang his fine art photography on the walls of their homes, yachts, hotels and businesses.  He is the author of four coffee table books, (two published by Rizzoli), the creator of several documentaries, a Tedx Newport speaker, and the subject of a Rhode Island PBS documentary (co-produced by This Old House) about his career, trades education, photography and ability to refit his own 36 foot Pearson sailboat. Since 2008, Onne has been a member of Canon’s exclusive Explorer of Light program – one of only 33 selected photographers world-wide.

Sailing Resume:

Onne van der Wal started sailing at age of two on his grandfather’s Dutch flat bottom boat in Holland. After immigrating to South Africa in1959 he continued sailing with his father in dinghies in Cape Town and competed in high school regattas until the keelboats at the Royal Cape Yacht club grabbed him as a foredeck hand, helmsman and skipper.  After an extensive career of notable international offshore and inshore races, Onne reached his “Everest” when he won the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World race on board the Dutch 76’ sloop, “Flyer”. They won the double; First overall on handicap and fasted elapsed time and set a 124 day circumnavigating record, which stood for 4 years.

  • 1979 – Cape to Rio Race on 72‘ ketch Kwa Heri as starting helmsman and watch captain. Took line honors on the 23-day crossing.
  • 1979 – Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race on board Sleuth, a Frers 54 as sail trimmer and helmsman. Class winner.
  • 1979 – Delivered the 72’ yacht Kwa Heri from Buenos Aires via the Southern Ocean to Cape Town as skipper and later that year from Cape Town to Antigua.
  • 1980 – SORC on board Sleuth as bowman and helmsman.
  • 1980 – Newport – Bermuda race on 77’ S&S ketch Amazon as bowman, helmsman and first mate and later that year became skipper.
  • 1981 – Raced on Dutch yacht Flyer, a Frers 76’ sloop in training for 81/82 Whitbread race. Competed in the following events that year:
  • Cowes Maxi series, Fastnet race
  • Transatlantic training trip from Portugal to Newport, RI.  
  • Annapolis – Newport race. 
  • Transatlantic record attempt and training trip from Sandy Hook to The Lizard, UK. 
  • 1981-82 – Whitbread Round the World Race on Dutch entry Flyer as bowman, helmsman, engineer and photographer. First overall on handicap and fasted elapsed time. 124 day circumnavigating record stood for 4 years.
  • 1982 – Newport – Bermuda Race on The Cat Came Back, a 45’ Peterson sloop as watch captain and helmsman
  • 1982 – Tanspac Race (LA to Honolulu) on Frers 50 Tomahawk, as sail trimmer and helmsman.
  • 1983 – Skipper 50’ cruising sloop Wai Aniwa. Sailed through the Caribbean, the Bahamas and on to New England.
  • 1983 – 8 Metre World Championship as sail trimmer on Iroqois in Norway. Won the event.
  • 1983-1985 – Raced professionally on the Maxi circuit on 80 footers Kialoa, Nirvana, Matador and Midnight Sun as sail trimmer in both the US and Europe
  • 1986 – Antigua race week, BVI Spring regatta and Swan Worlds in Sardinia on Zoom, a Swan 65, as starting and racing helmsman.
  • 1987 – Retired from the professional Grand Prix yacht racing circuit. 
  • 1987 – Laser racing – various national and midwinter regattas in the US and Canada and Newport Laser frost biting fleet 
  • 1987 – Started Onne van der Wal Photography business (see contributor resume)
  • 1990 – Cruised from Grenada to Galapagos Islands via the Panama Canal on Wai Aniwa, a Little Harbor 50 as watch captain, navigator and photographer.
  • 1992 – Delivered Acadia from Bermuda to Newport as watch captain.
  • 1994 – Cruised the Exumas in the Bahamas on a 44’ sloop with family.
  • 1995 – Cruised the Greek isles on a charter yacht as photographer.
  • 1996 – Cruised in the islands of French Polynesia (Moorea, Marqueses and Tuamotus) on a French charter catamaran as photographer and crewmember
  • 1998 – Bermuda Race on 60’ sloop Rima as trimmer, helmsman and photographer.
  • 1998 – Expedition in the Arctic Archipelago of Spitsbergen on 88’ sailboat Shaman as photographer and watch captain.
  • 1999 – Cruised the Kingdom of Tonga on 88’ sloop Shaman as photographer and watch captain.
  • 2001 – Cruised Kodiak Island in Alaska on 88’ yacht Shaman as photographer and watch captain.
  • 2002 – Cruised on a 42ft Moorings catamaran with family in the Abacos as skipper.
  • 2002 – Expedition on 88’ Shaman from Ushuaia/Cape Horn to South Georgia, a 900-mile voyage by way of the Southern Ocean. Spent 4 weeks sailing and exploring/filming the remote sub Antarctic islands. Sailed the 1400-mile trip back to Montevideo, Uruguay in typical Southern Ocean conditions.
  • 2003  – Expedition on the 88’ Shaman of the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula on as photographer and watch captain.
  • 2004 – Cruised the Dominican Republic and the Silver Banks on 88’ Shaman as photographer and watch captain.
  • 2005 – Cruised the islands of the Seychelles with family on a bareboat 46’ charter catamaran as skipper
  • 2006 – Cruised the Sea of Cortez with family on a bareboat 46’ charter boat as skipper
  • 2006 – Newport Bermuda Race on 98’ NZ entry Maximus as crew member and photographer
  • 2007 – Cruised the BVI with friends and family on a 44’ catamaran.
  • 2008 – Cruised the Gulf of Thailand with family on a bareboat 44’ charter boat as skipper.
  • 2010 – Cruised St. Vincent to Grenada with family on a 43’ charter boat as skipper.
  • 2015/16 – Bought and completely restored Snoek, a 1972 Pearson 36 which we cruise in New England with family.



The bowman on the 12M Courageous watches for the approaching lay line to get the gear set for the upcoming spinnaker run as seen from Onne’s perspective in the sewer looking up through the foredeck hatch. Onne spent the summer of 2019 on assignment for Courageous to shoot imagery from all angles and perspectives for an upcoming book. He shot from onboard Courageous, from the helicopter and from the deck of his chase boat, ONNEsignment.


Photography Resume:

Doris Colgate, co-founder of Offshore Sailing School, where more than 130,000 people have learned to sail, believes Onne’s extensive experience, which includes 10 Atlantic Ocean crossings, gives him the ability to see things that other photographers do not. She said, “His composition and lighting are phenomenal. Onne takes a lot of risks getting his photos, but because of his sailing experience, he knows how to manage that risk. He captures the essence of sailing really, really well.”

Peter Wilson, a project manager for MCM, who was also a crew member aboard Sleuth during the infamous 1979 Fastnet race said, “I think what makes Onne’s photography stand out is that he has been at sea in all sorts of different circumstances: flat seas with no wind, in storms in the teeth of a tempest and that is what separates him from his colleagues. They don’t have saltwater in their veins as Onne does.”

In addition to extensive editorial work, Onne, who is based out of Newport, Rhode Island, has shot for blue chip commercial clients, including the likes of Hinckley Yachts, J Boats, Sperry, Patagonia, North Sails, and Harken.  Kate Geskos, a professional art buyer, said, “Even when Onne captures his action shots, they are shot in a very painterly fashion. He shoots the neutral tones and the amazing skies so you can envision them as a 20th Century painting.  Onne’s work is so graphic, all of his images present the sport in a majestic manner.”

  • 1987 – Started full time professional nautical photography career in Newport, RI 
  • A regular contributor to all the major sailing publications worldwide with in excess of 300 covers plus hundreds of racing and cruising features in the publications listed below:
    • Sail
    • Cruising World
    • Sailing World 
    • Sailing 
    • Yachting
    • Yachting World 
    • German Yacht.
    • Japanese Kazi
    • English Sea Horse
    • Dutch Waterkampion
    • French Voile et Voiliers
    • Spain Vela
  • Non-Sailing publications:
    • New York Times
    • Boston Globe
    • Travel & Leisure 
    • LA Times
    • Popular Photography
    • Outdoor Photography
    • London Times
  • 1994 – Started Stock Newport as a nautical image library selling his own vast archive of images plus the work of several notable U.S. and international photographers.
  • 1987 – Today:  Assignment photographer for magazines worldwide plus the US and international boat building industry.  A few of the more notable clients are listed below:
    • Boat builders:
      • J Boats
      • Alerion
      • Beneteau
      • Tartan
      • Catalina
      • Jeanneau
      • Holland Jachtbauw
      • Royal Huisman
      • Pendennis Shipyard
      • Hinckley
      • Morris Yachts
      • Sabre
      • Perini Navi
      • Vitters 
  • Commercial Clients:
    • Red Bull
    • Rolex
    • Bacardi
    • Ziploc
    • Raymarine
    • Akzo Nobel
    • Pioneer Bank
    • Sebago Shoes
    • Sperry Shoes
    • Patagonia Clothing
    • Gill
    • Panarai
    • Melges
    • North Sails
    • Volvo
    • Dockwise Shipping
  • 2001- Opened Onne van der Wal Photography Gallery on Bannnister’s Wharf selling limited edition fine art photography to the public


  • Canon as a Canon Explorer of Light
  • Lexar Media
  • ThinkTank bags
  • Aquatech underwater housings
  • Synology NAS raid system
  • Patagonia

Photography Awards:

  • 1981-82 – Whitbread’s Best Photo Award on legs 2 and 3 of the race.
  • 1987–2015 – Photo District News – Winner of best sports calendar for numerous years
  • 2013 – Sportel Monaco, Prix du Livre Sportel – “Sailing” won best sports book of the year
  • 2013 – Photographic Society of America  – Featured speaker award 


  • “Wind and Water – Boating Photographs from Around the World” Little Brown,  May 14, 2004
  • “Nautical Newport”, Onne van der Wal Gallery, January 1, 2013
  • “Sailing” Rizzoli, October 29, 2013
  • “Sailing America” Rizzoli, October 22, 2019

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