Learners from across the Western Cape are conquering their fear of the ocean, while improving their quality of life through exposure to the sport of sailing.
The Little Optimist Sailing Academy, located at the V & Waterfront’s Battery Park with direct access to its water canal, aims to help children who have either health or socio-economic challenges to overcome physical and mental health hardships, enhancing wellbeing and quality of life though exposure to the sport of sailing.
The V&A Waterfront has sponsored the addition of a sailing boat for The Little Optimist Sailing Academy, worth R50 000, empowering underserved children aged 8-15 with critical life skills and technical sailing skills. The sponsorship demonstrates the Waterfront’s commitment towards supporting underprivileged communities and generating awareness around the importance of ocean conservation. The Little Optimist Sailing Academy has supported 463 children via the “Sailing Thru Life Programme”, since opening in April 2022.
Donald Kau, V&A Waterfront Head of Communications and Spokesperson, said: “We are proud to have partnered with the Little Optimist Sailing Academy, giving the children a safe space tackle exciting and new challenges that are also fun experiences, right in the heart of the city. The Academy instils hope and helps the children deal with their emotions as they tackle the ebb and flow of the waves. The sponsorship expands the program to more communities to experience sailing on the waterfront canals safely.”
Through the programme, the children will learn about the importance of protecting the ocean, as well as team work, said The Little Optimist Sailing Academy & Trust founder Greg Bertish. “The sport of sailing is perceived as elitist; and for many of these children, it’s the first time that 80% have been out on a boat, let alone a sailboat. Most are fearful of the ocean when they arrive. They leave inspired, full of hope, with a love for the ocean and as little sailors.
“We teach them the basics of sailing on the canals and they get to sail their own Optimist dinghies on the first day that they have ever been in the water. They learn about ocean health, ocean safety sail boats and hopefully they find a passion which makes them inquisitive about the world. We want to open doors for them to find work in the sailing and marine industry one day.”
Studies have shown that similar types of activity have resulted in the improvement in motor skills and coordination, self-confidence, independence, identity formation, focus, and pride through accomplishment.
Kau said programmes such as these played a crucial role in driving a thriving marine economy, while empowering South Africa’s next generation of leaders.