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Rio Ups The Ante for SICYC Rendezvous

Rio Ups The Ante for SICYC Rendezvous

Ken Thackeray has often said that the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club is an entity he could not have written a business plan for.

Born from a casual conversation on a Whitsunday beach in 2009, his idea for a low-key cruising network has morphed into a global organisation of 6,820 members from 17 countries. The club’s annual Rendezvous on the last weekend of August is one of the most social weekends on the Australian boating calendar.

Over the past decade, hundreds of boats and thousands of people have migrated to tiny Shag Islet and the Whitsundays’ Gloucester Passage to celebrate where and how the SICYC began.

‘CARNIVALE’ WITH A CAUSE – Recognising from the onset that the SICYC could also be a great vehicle for fundraising, Ken and his wife Rhonda sought out a worthy cause. Drawing a correlation between prostate cancer and the demographics of the cruising fleet, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia became the charity of choice. By 2018 the SICYC had raised roughly $610,000 for the PCFA.

The figures for this year’s fundraiser, themed ‘Rio Carnivale’, came out at $51,238, bringing the total for 11 years to about $665,000. Speaking to the crowds from the 125 boats gathered for the 2019 Rendezvous, chairwoman of the PCFA Queensland Board, Distinguished Professor Judith Clements, said the money was making a huge difference.

“Over these years the money that you’ve raised has gone towards prostate cancer support nurses around the country,” Distinguished Professor Clements said. “We now have nearly 50 nurses helping men who are going through treatment for prostate cancer, and we hope over the next couple of years, with the federal government’s support, to have at least 150, so there won’t be any area in Australia that doesn’t have that kind of support.

“Your funds have also gone towards very important clinical trials for new drugs and treatments for prostate cancer. As the people in the laboratories around the country work towards finding new drugs, they then have to be trialled so it’s a very important aspect of what you do.”

AN ARMADA OF AWARENESS – In keeping with the old adage that prevention is better than cure, the awareness raised by the SICYC and its annual Rendezvous is equally as important as the funds. “There are over 200,000 men living with prostate cancer in Australia,” Clements declared. “More than 3,500 die each year from prostate cancer and over 20,000 are newly diagnosed each year. More men die of prostate cancer than women do of breast cancer – perhaps a little-known fact.”

These sentiments were echoed by Dr Michael Gillman, who addressed the 2019 SICYC Rendezvous at a special breakfast. “The demographics of this group is exactly the men who are likely to experience prostate cancer, so we need them to be aware that it exists and that it can be tested for,” he said.

HOLDING HANDS ACROSS THE BLUE – One of the ways the SICYC has sought to raise awareness is through its ‘Hands Across the Blue’ initiative. Held on the Saturday morning of each year’s Rendezvous, the event sees cruisers forming the shape of the PCFA logo in their tenders

For the past two years strong winds have prohibited the formation from holding together but the ritual has been maintained and grown in other ways.

Coral Sea Marina owner, Paul Darrouzet, has transformed his motor-yacht the MV Norseman from a VIP vessel to the ‘Hands Across the Blue’ mothership. A proud sponsor of the SICYC for six years, his interest is deeply personal. “A friend of mine’s suffering from prostate cancer and he’s doing it pretty tough at the moment, so we need to support him and all the other people who are suffering,” he told the crowd.

Once the speeches were done and, for the second consecutive year, Paul invited the entire SICYC fleet aboard his boat for hosted drinks and canapés. His generosity was publicly applauded, not least by Ken and Rhonda, whose philosophy of all SICYC members being equal ‘vice commodores’ it replicates.

PERFECT PARTNERSHIPS – Also on board the MV Norseman for a second year were Trent Gay and Luke McCaul from the Gold Coast City Marina. “We joined the family of ‘Shaggers’ three years ago and we love being involved,” Trent said. “Gold Coast City Marina operates as a big family business, and when I come up here and see this group of people, it reminds me of that.” Helping to serve the canapés on Norseman and catering for the second SICYC fundraising ‘Blanc Sur Blanc’ beach dinner, was Fish D’Vine owner Kevin Collins.

Another return sponsor, Kevin described his delight in being able to give the club not just a financial contribution but also create a signature experience for the event. “We’re renowned for doing ‘white on white’ dinners so this was a way we could do more than just make a sizeable donation to the SICYC,” he said. “You give someone a cheque and so what, but you do something like this and people are talking about it for 12 months. The fact ‘Blanc Sur Blanc’ was sold out in about two and-a-half seconds is indicative of how good it was last year. We went from 50 seats in 2018, to 100 in 2019, and I’d like to get to 150 in 2020.”

FUN AND FRIVOLITY – From ‘Blanc Sur Blanc’ to the Shag Islet party, to the ‘Rio Carnivale’, the 2019 SICYC Rendezvous was a riot of colour and friendly competition. There were best-dressed boats by day and night, and best dressed men and women at the Saturday and Sunday events. Stewart Scarborough took the crown for his homemade Carnivale costume in the male stakes, with Heather James winning the female outfit of the year.

Tully Mars was crowned Pirate King on the Sunday, receiving honourable mentions for his efforts on the Saturday night, and alongside Tony Little as the tireless broadcasters of the SICYC’s ‘Coconut Radio’.

For Ken and Rhonda, Rio Carnivale was one of the best themes in the Rendezvous’ 11 years to date. “There’ll be some photos to show the grandkids,” Ken joked. “It was absolutely fabulous,” Rhonda added.

A MESSAGE FROM ‘MA AND PA’ – Affectionately known as the ‘Ma and Pa’ of the SICYC, Ken and Rhonda have started to take a step back. In the past 12 months a committee has formed, with Ken in a mentor role and Rhonda still on the go, non- stop, throughout the four-day Rendezvous event. The aim is for the new committee to invigorate the Rendezvous now and into the future so that it continues to evolve and grow. “It was time to get some fresh ideas,” Rhonda said.

THE SICYC SEASON OF SAIL – One of the ways in which the SICYC is expected to broaden its reach is through the Season of Sail.

This year, SICYC members sailed in company from as far south as Tasmania, with Justin and Judy Arundell from Hurtle Turtle as the lead boat. There were places where cruising as a flotilla was easier than others, and places where the fleet dispersed while individuals attended to family matters or boat repairs.

Ultimately however, friendships were formed and fundraising for the PCFA conducted along the way. In the Clarence River $10,000 was raised at a number of events, and significant funds injected into the local economy. “If we can keep growing the SICYC Season of Sail, it’ll have huge outcomes for economic development and local businesses in areas up and down the east Australia coast,” Justin Arundell said.

“If you’re going north, let’s make it a big flotilla and really help it grow over the next five years,” Ken added. “For now, though, we wish you a very safe journey to your home ports and we’ll see you again next year.”

To join the SICYC or for more information on the club, visit


By Sharon Smallwood



(Published in the Oct-Dec 2019 edition)