A Horsham businessman who has helped to boost trade around the world has been rewarded for his efforts with a New Year Honour.
William Ward, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, receives the OBE for services to the economy.
His award also recognises his part in the GREAT campaign - a project set up by former prime minister David Cameron who invited William to become a GREAT Britain ‘ambassador’ in 2014 in recognition of his personal support and contribution to international promotions.
William, who founded the Clipper Race alongside round-the-world sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1995, has played a leading role in international trade but said that much of his work was done ‘behind the scenes’ alongside Clipper Race promotions. “We’re essentially ‘selling’ Britain,” he said.
He said he was “over the moon” on receiving the award. “I’m a staunch royalist and traditionalist but it’s not something I expected to get as a working-class guy made good. But the biggest buzz will be for my 91-year-old mother. She is also a royalist and it will mean more to her than anyone.”
He recalled how he founded the company with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. “It was Robin’s idea. I put up the money for the first fleet of yachts 22 years ago, but it didn’t really work at first. It was a bit of a struggle from a business perspective, but we knew the idea was good because there were always a lot of people wanting to do the race.”
Since then the company has gone from strength to strength and is now on its third fleet of yachts with more than 700 people taking part in this year’s Clipper Race.
William first heard that he was to receive the Queen’s New Year Honour six weeks ago. “It’s a hard secret to keep,” he said. However, he now plans to celebrate with partner Michelle, his son, daughter and five grandchildren.
Meanwhile, in other honours, Mr David Thompson, from Billingshurst, has been awarded a BEM for services to the community in Billingshurst.
Also receiving the BEM is Mrs Mary Sydney Grace for services to the community of Crawley.
And fellow Crawley resident Babs Bower, from Ifield, is awarded an MBE for services to children. Babs works as a foster carer for West Sussex County Council and has fostered 128 children over 37 years.