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A helping hand: Sailing academy opens in Cape Town

Cape Town children from disadvantaged backgrounds will now be able to experience the joy of sailing with the opening of the Little Optimist Sailing Academy at the Zeekoe Vlei Yacht Club.


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The sailing academy will host youngsters – most of whom have never been on a boat. They are attending ‘sailing therapy’ days during which they will be shown the ropes of an Optimist (a child’s dingy) and given basic sailing knowledge by experienced instructors.

The children will also be given the opportunity to sail on the water on a variety of boats and will be taught valuable life lessons about water safety, the environment, sustainability and conservation.

The benefits of sailing therapy

“We call these sailing therapy days because our young guests who attend, face either health or socio-economic challenges, learn about the basics of sailing and have a fantastic day on the water. This makes them feel incredibly special and empowered,” says Greg Bertish, the founder of the Little Optimist Trust and the brains behind the academy.

Children from St Joseph’s Home attended the inaugural sailing therapy day yesterday.

“The children who are here begged to be part of it. This activity is a great opportunity for them to get outdoors, and it really boosts their self-esteem,” says the home’s Felicity Mbambani.


Funding for the academy

The academy has been partly funded by money raised at The Great Optimist Race – a unique charity event that has been held for the last two years at the Cape Town International Boat Show in collaboration with Messe Frankfurt. Many of the boats that were used in the race have found a permanent home at the sailing academy, which is based at the Zeekoevlei Yacht Club.

Other academy funders include individual donors, as well as the METS Trade Show in Amsterdam, where the Little Optimist Trust won joint first place at the 2019 international DAME Awards for charities.

The academy is home to approximately 32 Optimists, which have been revamped and kitted out by the trust’s main sponsors, Two Oceans Marine and Ullman Sails, with assistance from Italtile and the Excellence Group.