by Craig Heydon
Yachting Australia would like to congratulate Australian Sailing Team Patron Simon McKeon on being named the 2011 Australian of the Year.
Simon McKeon and Jessica Watson at the Australian of the Year announcement - photo by Gary Ramage-The Australian
McKeon received the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday evening and has been recognised for his outstanding work in the community over a number of years.
McKeon has been a long time supporter of the Australian Sailing Team, and was one of the founding Patrons for the team in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The accomplished sailor is again supporting the team as the campaign for Gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
'On behalf of the entire sailing community I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Simon on his remarkable achievement,' said Yachting Australia CEO Phil Jones. 'Knowing the tireless contribution which Simon has made and continues to make to the community, and the quiet and unassuming way he goes about it, I cannot think of anyone more appropriate to be named Australian of the Year.'
'Simon has been a firm supporter of the Australian Sailing Team from the moment that we started looking for Patrons. His continued support has been incredibly important to our athletes as they strive for Olympic Gold,' said Jones.
In being named Australia of the Year, McKeon was recognised for his lifelong efforts to support Australian and international charities which has earned him great admiration and respect in the community.
His current work includes being on the board of World Vision Australia, he is Chairman of the CSIRO and Business for Millennium Development and recently retired as Founding Chairman of MS Research Australia and Founding President of the Federal Government’s Takeover Panel.
On the water McKeon has also had great success, setting a world speed sailing record in 1993 with Tim Daddo. In March 2009 he broke the 50 knot barrier ‘piloting’ Macquarie Innovation.
McKeon wasn’t the only sailor to be recognised this year, with Jessica Watson named Young Australian of the Year.
Watson, now 17 years old, sailed solo, unassisted and non-stop around the world and is now a household name in Australia.
The teen adventurer survived multiple knockdowns in her yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, and endured 12-metre seas, 75-knot winds, storms and loneliness throughout the seven month journey.
Watson returned to a hero’s welcome as she sailed into Sydney Harbour in May 2010 and since her voyage has displayed maturity and dignity, becoming a role model for young people all over the world.