Adaptive Sailing Team a First for Charity Boat Race

The Great Optimist Race will be boasting an inspiring adaptive sailing team for the first time this year and they are all excited to take on this popular boat race.

Cape Town, South Africa (17 October 2023) – Three novice sailors will demonstrate that being “differently abled” isn’t a limitation when they take turns to sail an Optimist boat designed for children as part of the Great Optimist Race later this month.

The race is the charity centrepiece of the annual boatica exhibition, which is held at the V&A Waterfront from 27-29 October this year.

Previous race winner Caleb Swanepoel, who lost his leg in a shark attack, will be joined by amputee Antoinelle Hartze and paraplegic Darren Thomas in the race’s first all-adaptive team, sponsored by Yoyo.

“It’s amazing to have a team that’s inclusive and diverse. It’s motivating when you see people who have overcome physical challenges step into a boat that is designed for kids; it shows everyone what is possible,” said Swanepoel.

“We’re just differently abled,” said Hartze, who lost her leg in a train accident when she was in her 20s. “Participating in this race is about trying new things, not being scared and thinking that we can’t do things that able-bodied people can do.”

The race has become one of the highlights for regular visitors to boatica, as non-professional sailors from diverse backgrounds – including musicians, sports stars, celebrities and business professionals – grapple with the intricacies of wind direction, sails and rudders as they race across harbour waters. All the participants raise funds for the Little Optimist Trust and a cause of their choice.

This year the event takes on a slightly different format, with teams participating in relays rather than individual races.

“This is all about supporting the Little Optimist Trust, having fun and competing. I’m super-pumped to be part of a team this year, rather than racing individually. I think we’ll work well together, and be able to hold space for each other because we understand the challenges we might face,” added Swanepoel.

Founded by well-known philanthropist and waterman Greg Bertish, The Little Optimist Trust promotes optimism and resilience among children facing health challenges. It also conducts various charitable initiatives, including sailing experiences, educational programmes and adventure therapy activities – all designed to empower children to overcome adversity.

“We wanted the race to be more inclusive ­– both in terms of the participants’ backgrounds and the number of people you can race. A relay format will allow us to include more people, which is a win-win for everyone as we’ll be able to raise more money for charity while having fun,” says Bertish.

There will be 25 teams racing, with three people on a team. These will include an all-woman team and a development team made up of sailing instructors who have been trained by The Little Optimist Trust. In addition to the race, The Little Optimist Trust will also host 50 children who will be shown the ropes on the boats, and given a tour of the Cape Town Aquarium.

If you’d like to participate in the Great Optimist Race by forming a team for the race and raising money for charity, please contact (boats are provided).

From left to right: Antoinelle Hartze, Darren Thomas and Caleb Swanepoel – Photo Credit: Supplied