World’s “Most Inclusive” Race Raises R250,000 for Charity

By Staff Writer @GOODTHINGSGUY | 2 November, 2023

The 4th annual Great Optimist Race saw 70 skippers help raise R250,000 for charities, including A New Breath, Project Flamingo, CANSA and Jumping Kids to name a few.

Cape Town, South Africa (02 November 2023) – Saturday saw the 4th annual Great Optimist Race take place at Boatica at the V&A Waterfront. Billed the “world’s most inclusive” sailing event, the 70 skippers participating included celebrities, children, disabled men and women, development sailors, cancer patients and transplant survivors.

The South Easter was pumping down on the docks as the sailors set out, but so was the adrenaline and the ‘gees’. For the first time since its inception in 2018, the race was held in a relay format, with three skippers per team each needing to complete a solo lap of the course in very tough conditions. (2020’s race was virtual due to Covid and 2021’s event was cancelled).

Founder of the Little Optimist Trust and Great Optimist Race, Greg Bertish, says, “What an awesome day! We ticked all the boxes in crazy conditions. So much support, so much inspiration, so much fun! For the first time in sailing, a race was fully represented by different groups of people from all walks of life. Differently abled, at-risk youth, previously disadvantaged, CEOs, celebrities, doctors and medical survivors all sailed for charity and to inspire the world.“

In the end it was the Italtile boat crewed by development sailors Amir Yaghya, Shane Joseph and Josh September, that took top honours and the Great Optimist trophy for their skilful navigation of the choppy waters and high winds. Yaghya, from Grassy Park, began sailing when he was still at school and has gone on to become the National Champion in his class and category. He now works for The Little Optimist Sailing Academy, where he spends his days sharing the joy of sailing with children growing up in difficult circumstances like his own.

Yaghya’s teammate – and fellow development sailor – Shane Joseph, says, “I would like to thank the Little Optimist Trust Academy for everything they have done for myself and my best friend Amir Yaghya. Upskilling us on instructor courses and super yacht courses has had a massive impact on our lives. We are now able to inspire kids and serve as role models for others from heavy and difficult backgrounds where drugs and gangsterism is involved. It was just the best feeling winning the race on Saturday and I would like to thank Greg and his team and sponsors from the bottom of my heart”.

In second place was the Ullman Sails team (Hamilton Slater, Megan Robertson, Wesley Daniels) and third, was the Southern Wind team (Elisa Falcon, Stefan Falcon, Ashley Rudolph)

Also putting on a noteworthy performance was the Yoyo team made up of differently-abled sailors Caleb Swanepoel (who lost his leg in a shark attack), Darren Thomas (shot at point-blank range in a robbery leaving him in a wheelchair), and Antoinelle Hartze (lost her leg in a train accident). The trio finished in fifth place overall but led the way in courage and crowd-pleasing.

Swanepoel says, “It was an unbelievable experience racing alongside side such awesome humans. A huge thank you to Yoyo for sponsoring our boat and to everyone who helped us raise funds and awareness”.
His teammate Hartze agrees, “I think what stood out to me was the inclusiveness, the kindness, the joy and the fact that the organizers, sponsors and staff put out so much of themselves to help others in need. I salute you for doing so much for others because it inspired me”.

In addition to fundraising, the event was focussed on bringing hope and happiness to children in need, and 50 Cape Town children (in four groups) were invited to attend a sailing lesson, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, and have lunch at Bootleggers over the course of the weekend.

The charities that will benefit from funds raised include A New Breath, Project Flamingo, CANSA and Jumping Kids, among others.

Additional international donations and funds raised by The Little Optimist Trust off the back of this weekend’s event will be used to:

  • Build and renovate the bathrooms at Astra Special School
  • Upgrade the Youth Centre at Heideveld Baptist Church
  • Send development youth on Training Courses
  • Start running a multi-week Sailing through Life Program for at-risk youth

For more information or to get involved in any way please visit