The Little Optimist Global Challenge | A Huge Success – Sail+Leisure
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The Little Optimist Global Challenge | A Huge Success

by Ingrid Hale
Little Optimist Global Challenge - Siya Kalisi

From ages two to 82, South Africans of all ages, shapes and sizes took to the water in the Little Optimist Global Challenge.

Dams, swimming pools and even fish tanks hosted the tiny boats and their over-sized occupants. The challenge, which ran over 10 days and involved people from across the country spending time in Optimists (boats designed for children), was all in aid of a good cause. And not just one good cause, but many.

In all, more than 220 people entered the challenge to raise funds for 13 different charity organisations.

A huge success

Founder of the Little Optimist Trust and the brains behind the unique event, Greg Bertish says, “Over the last 10 days we’ve taught 20 disadvantaged children – many of whom are not used to being in the water – to sail competently and confidently. We’re also giving 50 children from Maitland Cottage Children’s Hospital a sailing experience. And we’ve raised over R200 000 to be split between our Trust and the others that participated.”

As part of the 10-day event, Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi and his children joined teammate Scarra Ntubeni sailing a Newborns Trust-branded boat in the I&J tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium to raise awareness ahead of World Prematurity Day on November 17th.

Little Optimist Global Challenge -Little Optimist Global Challenge - Siya KalisiLittle Optimidst Global Challenge Siya KalisiLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Siya Kalisi


Great support

With October being marine month, and the holiday season just around the corner, The Radisson chose to use the opportunity to celebrate tourism in Cape Town, and the promote City’s drive to revive the industry over the next few months.

Little Optimist Global Challenge - Liezel van der Westhuizen, Alderman James Vos and Greg Bertish

Little Optimist Global Challenge – Liezel van der Westhuizen, Alderman James Vos and Greg Bertish

Key players in the tourism sector such as Mayoral Committee Member for Business and Economic Opportunities James Vos jumped into the tiny boat and enjoyed a drink in the hotel’s infinity pool while taking in the breath-taking views of the Mother City’s coastline. The who’s who of Cape Town gathered at the Radisson Blu in Granger Bay to float in an Optimist in the hotel pool, and to highlight the bounce back of tourism after the devastation of months of lockdown.

Vos was in good company. Tv and radio personality Liezel Van Der Westhuizen showed she knows what she’s doing when it comes to sailing. Ice swimmer and motivational speaker Ryan Stramrood took a turn to sail too, wearing nothing but a speedo. And Deon Bing joined the fun after making sure there was room for both him and his skateboard in the two metre-long vessel.

Big wave surfer Matt Bromley took the children from the 9 Miles organisation for a sail in the tidal pool at Strandfontein.  Another home-grown global superstar on the surfing circuit, Michael February, hosted a 24-hour sail-a-thon in the family’s swimming pool in Kommetjie.

Little Optimist Global Challenge - Matt BromleyLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Matt BromleyLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Matt BromleyLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Matt BromleyLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Matt BromleyLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Matt Bromley

Bertish, says, “The challenge has been unbelievable. We’ve had collaboration from people all over the country. We had people even sailing in Witbank. We had a person doing a 24-hour vigil on top of a building in Cape Town, we had sailing in swimming pools and canals. All sorts of charities coming together. It’s been amazing.”

The event in a snapshot

13 activations were held over a period of 10 days. In the strangest of places, with a variety of well known and celebrity guests.

3 -4 October: Aquarium 24 hour vigil

Greg Bertish from The Little Optimist Trust, Maryke Musson from The Aquarium Education Foundation and Dr Cleeve Robertson CEO of NSRI – did a 24 hour vigil in the I&J tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium in aid of raising funds for at risk youth, turtles and ocean safety.

12 October: 9 Miles Project

20 kids from 9 Mile Project got to experience sailing (most for the first time) in the Strandfontein tidal pool.

14 October: Rocking the fish at the Aquarium

Musicians, comedians and sports celebrities joined us at The Two Oceans Aquarium for an afternoon of Optimist sailing in the I&J tank.

14 October: Radisson Blue, Bounce Back Tourism event

Joined by local media personalities as well as Alderman Vos, Radisson Blu – V&A hosted a beautiful evening to celebrate the Bounce Back Tourism initiative.

15 October: Radisson BLU Residence & Project 18 – 24 hour vigil

Blake Pittaway from Project 18 did a 24 hour vigil in the Radisson Blu residence pool in aid of his charity Project 18 which raises funds for animals in need.

15 October: A New Breath & 15 on Orange Hotel, the Autograph Collection

In 2019 Spear Reit sponsored Tanya Bothma, double lung transplant recipient, for The Great Optimist Race – where they raised the most funds for a charity. This year Spear continued their support by putting their Optimist in the pool at 15 on Orange, a Spear Reit hotel. Money raised will once again be donated to the lung transplant unit at Groote Schuur Hospital.

15 October: Tintswalo Atlantic

Sentinel Ocean Alliance, a NPO focused on creating ocean based opportunities for the youth of Hout Bay, hosted their optimist dinghy at Tintswalo Atlantic. The glorious setting enticed many Hout Bay residents to pop in and support them.

16 October: Radisson RED

Friday nights are always busy at Radisson RED at the V & A Waterfront SILO precinct. They raised money for their official charity, the SOS Children’s Villages.

16 – 17 October: Webtickets & African Blue 24 hour vigil

16 – 17 October: Sharkspotters & February family 24 hour vigil

18 October: Hilton Swanson sails from Camps Bay to Clifton for Clifton Lifesaving

See full story here.

24 October: NSRI PE

See the full story here.

For the duration of the challenge Rory Heard had his boat in the Suikerbossie pool in aid of South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Read the full story here.

Check out our gallery of a few of the key moments in the challenge

Little Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Nick RabinowitzLittle Optimist Global Challenge - Tintswalo AtlanticLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global ChallengeLittle Optimist Global Challenge

The Global Challenge in numbers

13 activations/ events hosted in 10 days

2 sailing locations offered sailing lessons in Optimists for free over the 10 days – Zeekoevlei and V&A Waterfront canals

Over 260 sailors/ people entered the challenge and climbed into Optimists for charity over the 10 days

Over R200 000 has been raised to date for charity

13 collaborative charities were involved, which directly benefited from the event and funds raised

20 at risk youth kids were taught to sail and were offered sailing therapy at Strandfontein Tidal pool

50 kids at Maitland Childrens hospital were sponsored to receive sailing therapy (which they will do when they are able to partake due to Covid)

The crazy places that an Optimist was ‘sailed’

In the pool on top of The Radisson Hotel and Residence building in the city                                                         Aquarium Exhibit – Ocean Tank  at the Two Oceans Aquarium – a 24 hr vigil where kids and celebs got to ‘sail’/float with the turtles                                                                                                                                                                                Strandfontein tidal pool – (this is the biggest tidal pool in southern Africa) – a sailing therapy day was carried out for 20 local at risk kids in collaboration with the 9 Miles Project                                                                                                                                                                            8 Optimists sailed by adults – for 12 nautical Miles down the east coast –  raised R30 000 for LOT and NSRI PE.

The who’s who of celebs took part

Lending their support for a good cause were Speingbok Captain and Rugby World Cup leader Siya Kolisi, Nik Rabinowitz, Majozi, Scara Ntubeni, Alderman James Vos, Liezl van der Westerhuisen, Tanya Neft, Ryan Stramrood, Deon Bing, Dr Cleeve Robertson and Maryke Musson. 83 year old John Lazarus was the oldest sailor to compete.

Read about the 2019 event held at the V&A Waterfront Cape Town


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