Three survivors prepare to set sail for charity
A trio of courageous Capetonians who have all faced serious challenges are preparing for a different kind of test this Saturday: sailing in the Great Optimist Race in conjunction with Boatica at the V&A Waterfront.
Shark attack survivor Caleb Swanepoel, breast cancer warrior Adele Niemand and stroke victim Hilton Swanson are three of 15 hand-picked contestants who will be racing little Optimist dinghies for glory – and charity.
The charity race, which had to take a two-year break because of the Covid pandemic, is the brainchild of big wave surfer and charity campaigner Greg Bertish. Bertish is no stranger to health challenges either, having spent more than 200 days in hospital and undergoing two open heart surgeries after contracting life-threatening bacteria.
Caleb Swanepoel, who participated in and won The Great Optimist Race in 2018 and 2019, lost his right leg seven years ago in a shark attack and bounced back to become South Africa’s adaptive surfing champion. “Greg and his team are doing unbelievable things for children who have life-threatening conditions, are in hospital, and putting smiles on their faces, and if I can be a part of that and make a difference in my own way with my story then I’m 100% on board with that so its just an opportunity to add to what the team is doing and also an opportunity to have fun and spread a beautiful message to the world”, says Swanepoel.
Former champion lifesaver Hilton Swanson’s life came crashing down when he had a stroke in 2002, and subsequently lost his marriage and career. He has since rebuilt his life and his health, and has been a regular participant in previous Great Optimist Races. The 61-year-old says “There are many people a lot worse off than me so I am grateful for what I have. This is all about giving back and helping a good cause in these difficult times. Thank you for all your help and support”.
Adele Niemand is a newcomer to the race, but is hoping she’ll have beginner’s luck. The former Proteas star turned triathlete was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer a year ago and is still undergoing chemotherapy treatment. “It has given me perspective, when faced with your own mortality you realise that you can either let the hardships devour you or you can use them to empower you. I have made it my mission to give cancer a voice”, says Niemand.
The 38–year-old continues, “A cause that involves children is very close to my heart. I have participated in many Ironman events for kids and organisations like the Little Optimist, which gives children voices that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It empowers them to be better and gives them hope to achieve more.”
The other Optimists in the race will be sailed by celebrities – including Cape Talk’s Pippa Hudson and adventurer Riaan Manser – captains of industry and other medical survivors.
“This year is going to be fast and furious and all in the name of raising funds for the Little Optimist Trust and other charities,” says Bertish.
Not only will the race serve as one of the highlights on Boatica’s calendar, but funds raised will be poured back into the ongoing sailing therapy offered by the Little Optimist Trust’s sailing academy at Battery Park. The academy teaches sailing skills to disadvantaged, sick and marginalised children, giving them much-needed confidence and joy.
Members of the public are invited to bring family and friends, young and old, to the Academy’s sailing clinic at Boatica. They will be offering a sailing experience and lessons on 28, 29 and 30 October, in conjunction with South African Sailing.
To sponsor or back a boat for the race for charity donate here: www.backabuddy.co.za/charity/profile/tgor2022
To book a sailing experience or for more information on sponsoring a boat or a sailor, please visit:
FOR FURTHER PRESS DETAILS OR INTERVIEWS:
Amy Mac Iver
082 884 6233
083 291 6190