'Shaggers' unite for a cause
WHEN Ken Thackeray started the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club little did he know what a phenomenon it would become.
Today about 800 "Shaggers" as the club members are affectionately known, have converged on the Gloucester Passage in the northern Whitsundays for what is arguably the region's biggest party of the year.
"It's astounding that this has evolved this way," Mr Thackeray said.
"We thought we'd get about 50 friends but they've told other people and on it's gone.
"Obviously there was a need for a cruising yacht club that embraced an international community and we've just happened on it."
But the SICYC annual Rendezvous, now in its seventh year, is not just about cruising yachties and the Whitsunday community having fun.
This morning, 156 dinghies from the 200-plus boats anchored in the passage, formed the shape of the ribbon used as a logo for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
When Mr Thackeray and all the "vice commodores" in the club realised they were "in danger of making money" each year, it was decided the event would donate to a worthy cause.
Last year over $80,000 was raised for the PCFA, represented at this year's event by dstinguished Professor Judith Clements.
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox, himself an SICYC member and vice commodore of Inermika Rock, said it was fantastic to see so many people getting together for such a good cause.
"Cancer becomes invovled in a lot of people's lives so I think if we can raise awareness and encourage early detection we can treat the symptoms while marvellous people like Professor Judith Clements are developing a cure," he said.
The other aspect of the event to strike a chord with the mayor was its benefits to the Whitsunday economy.
"Everybody's heard of the grey nomads making the trek up the coast but this is about people who are a little bit more adventurous, battling the high seas... and while they're here they're contributing to our restaurants, our bars, they buy groceries, chandlery, and more," he said.
"I've got friends from New Zealand who come over every year to attend this event but they build a holiday around it and that's the type of benefit we have for the region."
Rum Bar owner Kevin Collins who has donated $5000 to this year's event, said it reminded him of the Great Whitsunday Fun Race "25 to 30 years ago".
"On Shag Islet yesterday, we had guys with multi-million dollar boats and $10,000 dinghies and they were all eating a sausage in a piece of white bread and all dressed the same and all listening to the same music," he said.
"It's the equality - and of course you do it all for a good cause - a bit like a Variety club but on the water."