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The Great Optimist Race

Oct 30, 2018

The Great Optimist Race

Shark attack survivor amputee and adaptive surfing champion Caleb Swanepoel won the inaugural Great Optimist Race on Sunday 21 October 2018 in Cape Town, following the forced postponement of the event a day earlier due to severe winds. 42 sailors, many of them complete novices, set off on a tricky three-lap course through the V & A Waterfront, in front of thousands of spectators.

With the magnificent Table Mountain as a backdrop, competitors – who ranged from celebrities to captains of industry, and medical survivors – raced for glory in the children’s sailboats.

Three separate starts (beginner, intermediate and pro), allowed for an even handicap and gave those who had only learned to sail days before a fair chance.

The unique event was all about overcoming the odds. Big wave surfer, charity campaigner and double heart surgery survivor Greg Bertish, who hosted the event, says “This whole project is about inspiring kids. Teaching them a skill, and finding them a passion. Something to live for!”

As with daily life, the race had a few curveballs and obstacles for the sailors to overcome.

Not only did the wind squalls and gusts in the second basin cause havoc, but so did the pedestrian bridge that opened and closed at will, along with local celebrities Kieno Kammies and Tanya Nefdt, who were “armed and dangerous” with water pistols on their own bigger yacht.

Coming into the home stretch 22-year old Swanepoel in the Primi boat was neck and neck with liver transplant survivor Jasper Eales, but in the end the amputee says luck favoured him. “What an incredible experience and event! A huge thank you to everyone who organised it. I had so much fun learning to sail and taking to the water. So stoked to be out there today with other survivors and skippers”, says Swanepoel.

The first boat to sink was sailed by Ian Klopper of NSRi.  Klopper’s son Adam underwent three heart surgeries before the age of three, and now 17, sailed alongside his dad in the race.

Jumping the start was rock star Arno Carstens in the Cape Town International Boat show boat.

Aside from the main event which was organised primarily to raise funds for sick and needy children across the Western Cape, the Little Optimist Trust also hosted sailing experiences and academies for children from less fortunate circumstances over the course of the three day boating event.

A group of boys from The Reach for a Dream Foundation were treated to a Dads and Lads morning of sailing, a captain courage ceremony, a tour of the Two Oceans Aquarium and lunch at a restaurant.

Lawhill Academy kids and 9 Mile Project kids were also treated to a day at the Cape Town international boat show, which included all of the above. Their letters of gratitude afterwards were testament to just how grateful they were, and how much the day had meant to them.

All Optimists will be used in the new Little Optimist Sailing Academy being set up to teach sick and needy kids how to sail, and give many children who have lost all hope something to live for.

To pledge support for the project, visit


For further press details:

Amy Mac Iver

082 884 6233


Bridget Pringle

083 291 6190

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