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Cruising Camaraderie With A Cause

Cruising Camaraderie With A Cause

Tony Little, who lives aboard the 43ft Fontaine Pajot L’attitudes with his wife Vicki, says you cannot go far by boat without running into a “Shagger” – as members of the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Cub are affectionately known. “There are Shaggers everywhere. It’s a happy family,” he says.

Once a year, that happy family, comprising 5,888 members from 17 nations, converge on the Gloucester Passage at the top of the Whitsundays for an annual rendezvous.

From a gathering that started in August 2009 with 34 people and four boats, the event has consistently grown bigger. The 2017 event saw the greatest attendance yet, attracting 205 boats and a crowd of about 1,000 revellers.

SICYC founder Ken Thackeray attributes these figures to the inclusive nature of an “exclusively non-exclusive club”, where everyone is a “vice commodore” with the membership number 0010. “Every year, I see how important the Rendezvous is to the people who come along – for the friendships they make and how close everybody becomes,” he says. “It’s so festive, but it’s also got an almost spiritual feel about it.”

The spiritual feel undoubtedly comes not just from the camaraderie involved, but also from the purpose of raising money and awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). The 2017 SICYC Rendezvous raised $102,000, bringing the total contribution to over $500,000 to date.

In Australia, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men, claiming 3,000 lives and more victims than breast cancer each year. To highlight this plight, Rendezvous participants have begun holding “Hands Across the Blue”, forming the shape of the PCFA logo with their tenders on the Gloucester Passage.

The powerful image this creates is a symbolic gesture Ken would like to see taken up by the wider boating fraternity and adopted beyond the Whitsundays. “Our ultimate aim is to engender an enthusiasm among boating organisations across Australia to create something similar,” he says. “Being about an 80% male-dominated sport, we feel it’s probably appropriate that the boating community take up the cudgel and start spreading awareness of the need for men to get out there and be tested, and to communicate a little bit more about the disease.”

ken thackeray SICYC shag islet boat gold coast

SICYC Founder Ken Thackeray with tiny Shag Islet in the background (Photo: Sharon Smallwood)

 

Glad Smith, a former nurse from the Clarence River, who has sailed to the Rendezvous for the past two years with her husband Rick, agrees that prostate cancer is a silent killer. “Men don’t talk about their prostate,” she says. “But that is why everybody at the Rendezvous is just so committed to the cause.”

Part of that commitment is about joining in on the many fun opportunities for fundraising the Rendezvous presents. Each year’s event incorporates themed days and nights, with prizes on offer for the best-dressed guys and girls.

The Smiths, who took out the 2017 titles for their interpretation of the Saturday theme, “What were you wearing when the ship went down?”, say that they planned their costumes for the event long before weighing anchor aboard their Clipper 34, Jake. Dressed in outfits incorporating Y-fronts, suspenders, cold cream, 1950’s hair rollers and cucumber eye patches, they were only outdone by their entries to the pirate treasure theme the following day.

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What were you wearing when the ship went down?” theme

Glad and Rick Smith, 2017 best-dressed couple (Photo: Wasp NQ Productions)

 

 

In among the motley – and very merry – band of traditional-looking pirates gathered at Montes Reef Resort, the Smiths were standouts in their turmeric-dyed sheets decorated with hand drawn treasure maps to destinations such as ‘Le Nip Pel’ mountains and ‘Le Shag Islet’.

Peering through a treasure chest headpiece decorated with broken jewellery bought from an Op-shop, Glad summed up the essence of the nine-year-strong event. “We can be kids and get away with it,” she jokes. “And it’s also the camaraderie. We’ve met friends that we want to keep in contact with and we’ve exchanged (cruising) information with (them) as well. And there are no barriers either, like economy – we’re all there for (the same) purpose.”

Tony Little says this was why the Rendezvous has become “a beehive” for all cruisers on the coast. “Liver transplants and loss of brain function aside, it’s just a big, fun week with a whole bunch of like-minded people,” he said.

As part of his contribution to the cause, Tony co-hosts the event’s Coconut Radio alongside fellow “Shagger” Tully Mars. “A few years ago, Ken asked, ‘Can you play some music?’ I’d never done a radio station before in my life. I wouldn’t have a clue, but we gave it a go and it worked,” he recalls.

If all goes to plan, the Coconut Radio will now provide a means for boating folks in other locations to share in the frivolity at Rendezvous time. Depending on the allocation of an appropriate frequency, the plan is to live stream the event so that SICYC members internationally can listen in on Australian Eastern Standard Time.

New for 2018 are plans for an SICYC Season of Sail, allowing members from southern states to cruise up the coast together in stages. Starting with Cruise Lake Macquarie in late April, and incorporating cruising events on the Clarence River, Great Sandy Straits and others still to be negotiated, the SICYC Season of Sail will run all the way through to the Rendezvous.

“The fleet will slowly build and get bigger and bigger as it comes up the coast, so everyone who joins it will have that sense of belonging before they get here,” Ken says. “Of course it’s a sense of belonging that makes it harder for us all to say goodbye when it’s all over each year. By the time you get to the end of each rendezvous you get very close to tears.”

Themes for the 2018 Rendezvous are Parrot Heads for the Saturday night and pirates for the Sunday. Anyone wanting to win the coveted title of “best dressed” will need to get started on their costumes soon to be in with a chance against the Smiths.

“I’ve already got ideas,” Glad warns.

 

For more information or to join the club, visit www.sicyc.com.au or join the organisation’s Facebook page.

 

By Sharon Smallwood

Sharon is an SICYC member and “Vice Commodore” of Kanumera Bay in New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines, and is an editor and multimedia journalist who would rather be sailing.

 

*Main image by Wasp NQ Productions

 

 

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