Little optimists take sail in new boat by V&A Waterfront

Cape Town – The Little Optimist Sailing Academy based at Battery Park at the V&A Waterfront received a massive boost, following the sponsorship of a sailing boat by the V&A Waterfront.

The boat, worth R50 000, would further assist the academy to provide therapy, education and skills through learning to sail for children from marginalised communities or those with compromised health.

V&A Waterfront head of communications and public relations Donald Kau said: “We’ve been involved with the sailing school for some time and a year ago we offered them the opportunity to locate their premises at the Waterfront.

“We’ve got the canal here in Battery Park. Besides the corporate offices, we’ve got the skate park, the basketball court, a place for young people to enjoy themselves.”

With the Two Oceans Aquarium just a few metres away, the educational opportunities provided for the children were numerous, Kau said.

The V&A Waterfront is also the berthing place for the country’s Arctic research vessel, the SA Agulhas, as well as deep-sea fishing vessels, offshore fishing craft and fish factories.

The V&A Waterfront is one of the oldest working harbours in the southern hemisphere.

Little Optimist Sailing Academy and Trust founder Greg Bertish said the Little Optimist was founded in 2017 to inspire children in desperate situations to survive and thrive.

At 30, Bertish spent 200 days in hospital after being diagnosed with endocarditis and had to undergo two open-heart surgeries. It was the children he encountered at the hospitals across the Western Cape that inspired the Little Optimist.

Over 500 children aged 8 to 15 have since completed the one-day Sailing Thru Life Programme launched in April 2022. Children are taught ocean conservation, water safety and the harms of pollution.

“Within three hours of being here, they learn to sail their own boat, which is unheard of in the world. And that creates so much self confidence and so much camaraderie and self-worth. They take that away with them into their lives and into everything they do,” Bertish said.

The academy works with non-profit organisations, school groups, churches, homes for abused children and orphanages for the programme.

“And that’s where we’re unique, because in one day, we allow a kid to fall in love with the ocean and if a kid falls in love with the ocean, they want to learn more and they want to protect it.”

An eight-week course has been designed to allow the children to learn a great deal more about the boat industry and related professions, such as sailing instructors and assistant sailing instructors.

   “We are trying to create a pathway right into the employment level and that’s what we’re looking for funding for now.”