Ahoy, little sailors! Cape Town sailing academy gets almost R500 000 from Paris 2024 Olympics

  • The Little Optimist Sailing Academy in Cape Town recently received close to R500 000 from the Paris 2024 Olympics.
  • The charity is the only one worldwide that offers sailing therapy to underprivileged children.
  • Many of the children have experienced medical hardships.  

The Little Optimist Sailing Academy in Cape Town which recently opened at the V&A Waterfront, has received R500 000 from the Paris 2024 Olympics, in association with the French Development Association, for its work with underprivileged children.

Not only is the public benefit organisation (PBO) the first in the world to offer sailing therapy to children who’ve never had an opportunity to sail, it is the first South African beneficiary of the Paris Olympics.

Speaking to News24, South African lifesaving champion and founder of the PBO, Greg Bertish, said the donation was “a big thing for our academy” because it’s tough for South African charities to get recognised and pass all the due diligence checks and balances required by big international groups.

According to Bertish, more than 250 charities worldwide applied for the funding.

He added:
“We had to come up with some funding of our own to show the association that we had other sponsors donating to the charity. With the help of our local sponsors, Two Oceans Marine, Italtile and Southern Wind Shipyard, we managed to provide the proof of funding which I am so thankful for.”

Through sailing, the academy sets out to teach the children the importance of the environment, ocean health, water safety and the science of sailing where they experience all this for the first time.

“The aim is to give vulnerable, disadvantaged and disabled children the opportunity to grow and learn through ocean experiences, the growth mindset and sailing.”

“Many of the kids come from backgrounds that are not conducive to their mindset. Some kids have had medical hardship at a young age and need positive activities to keep their minds off the daily struggles and trauma.

Bertish recalled many instances involving children who got on a boat for the first time, not knowing how to sail. But by the time the lessons concluded, they could sail with ease and didn’t want to get out of the water.

“The look on these kids’ faces is priceless. To see how they grapple and then master the newfound water activity gives them hope for a brighter future. It’s truly a sight to behold,” added Bertish.

After every lesson, children received medals and certificates, and each of them get a toy for their efforts.