You can never say that Australians don't love their sailors. Both the new Australian of the Year and the Young Australian of the Year have achieved extraordinary sailing feats. Jessica Watson hit mainstream world headlines when she sailed solo around the world in the Southern Ocean in her S&S 34, and she has now won Young Australian of the Year, and Simon McKeon, Australian of the Year, is also a world-record breaking yachtsman.
Both awards are announced every year on 'Australia Day', the anniversary of the arrival on 26th January 1788 of the first British troops with their convicts to settle. But even though Simon McKeon, a prominent investment banker, has won his award for his philanthropic works, he is also an amazing sailor.
Together with Tim Daddo, he made history in 1993 with the Lindsay Cunningham designed craft Yellow Pages when they set a 500-metre world sailing speed record of 46.52 knots that lasted eleven years.
In 1994 they started on the build of the boat called Macquarie Innovation. It took them a long time, but in November 2008 they did a 500-metre run at 48.14 knots, claiming a class 'C' world speed record.
Then in March 2009, they lifted their own 'C' class record to 50.43, achieving it in the same waters as their previous record, at the Sandy Point speed course near Wilson's Promontory on the south eastern tip of Australia. This was just a whisker outside the outright speed record of 50.57 knots, held by kite boarder Alexandre Caizerques.
At the time, Tim Daddo commented, '‘It is the culmination of over 15 years of work by the team and their loyal group of supporters...It’s been a long road.'
About Simon McKeon and why he won:
Simon McKeon - .. .
While enjoying a successful corporate career, Simon decided that he didn’t want to put off the idea of serious engagement with the community sector until his most productive years were behind him.
So he joined the board of World Vision Australia in 1994 and subsequently transitioned into a part time role with Macquarie Group as Executive Chairman of its Melbourne office.
Simon is Chairman of CSIRO as well as Business for Millennium Development, which encourages business to engage with the developing world.
He recently retired as Founding Chairman of MS Research Australia and the Founding President of the Federal Government’s Takeover Panel.
His association with World Vision International continues and he is also involved with the Global Poverty Project and Red Dust Role Models, which works with remote Indigenous communities.
As a leading social entrepreneur, Simon demonstrates how business and philanthropy go hand in hand, giving tremendously of his time and energy to many organisations.
...AND he has time to set sailing records!