Fewer than 20 people have been awarded honorary life membership in the 100-year history of Yachting Victoria(YV), and John Burgess is the latest. Burgess's years of dedication have been rewarded the rare honour. The Sunbury resident's love of the sea led him to working for them as a volunteer for more than 50 years.
He served on the executive board of YV for eight years and has been its president and vice-president.
Mr Burgess, 73 (pictured), says the life membership is a 'tremendous honour' in the 100-year-old organisation, which is the peak body controlling all yachting clubs in the state.
From boyhood, Mr Burgess accompanied his father, a professional fisherman, on expeditions in Western Port Bay and Bass Straight. After marrying in 1961, his involvement in sailing became more serious and he started racing boats.
He bought a VJ (Vaucluse Junior) dinghy and sailed it for many years. 'Sailing's a sport that you can do from 4 to 100. It's a very technical sport and suits my aeronautical background. A sail works the same as the wing of an aeroplane,' said Mr Burgess, a former aeronautical engineer.
Mr Burgess later moved to a single-handed international yacht class, the 'national solo'. He won many championships in this class and sailed at the Solo Worlds in England in 1979, placing 17th in a fleet of 160 boats.
He said the challenging nature of sailing appealed to him as much as being outdoors and getting involved with people.
Sailing has remained a family affair, with Mr Burgess racing with his son, and his wife and daughter also being involved in sailing clubs. In nominating Mr Burgess for the life membership, YV's trailable yacht division chairman, Robert Ballard, hailed his dedication to the group.
'Over the past 50-odd years, John has contributed to sailing in almost every way possible, both as a competitor and administrator.'