Sailing a rich person's game? Not for this yacht designer

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Sailing a rich person's game? Not for this yacht designer

Sailing a rich person's game? Not for this yacht designer

The gleaming yachts moored in Vancouver's Coal Harbour are indelibly tied to wealth. 

Ron Holland would appear to fit the bill. The sailor's 33-metre yacht Avalon, which he designed, is valued at a jaw-dropping $10 million.

It boasts sails and an engine, a soundproof interior and a large open deck for sunbathing and outdoor dining.

After swirling your Bordeaux, you can go back to your stock trading inside using the onboard satellite communications, which are on par with most war ships.  

But for Holland, a born-and-bred New Zealander, sailing isn't a rarefied hobby for the affluent. 

"Sailing is a hugely widespread endeavour," Holland told North by Northwest producer Matthew Parsons in the teak-lined living room of his yacht. 

"You can do it from a little canoe or a rubber tire dinghy in our swimming pool to a boat like Avalon." 

Listen to the full segment with Ron Holland.

Designing yachts for a living

Holland has made a storied career out of sailing. 

In his new memoir, All the Oceans: Designing By the Seats of My Pants, Holland recounts his days sailing as a child in a dinghy off the coast of New Zealand and the worldwide sail boat races he conquered. 

He also describes his work as a yacht designer, through which he fashioned ships for the likes of pop group Duran Duran and the Austrian conductor Herbert Von Karajan. 

Holland is entirely self-taught. After failing a crucial high-school exam in New Zealand, he learned the trade by competitive sailing and working as a wooden boat builder.

He eventually landed his first design job in San Francisco.

"If you're going to be a yacht designer now, you would go to university," Holland said. 

"My yacht design lessons were based on my feeling of the boats worked by racing them." 

Holland sailed on smaller dinghies and learned to apply their high-performance traits to larger yachts, an approach that quickly caught the eye of enthusiasts.

Racing at 70 years of age

Holland has reduced his sailing time after surviving a stroke in his 60s.

But his clients continue to fly him out all over the world to board their yachts.

Last year, he was invited to a championship race in Vancouver. 

"I thought that was kind of cool. Seventy years of age, racing in a world championship," he said.

"We didn't win, but we did respectably." 

With files from CBC's Matthew Parsons