Trio sail for charity

Greg Bertish, founder of the Little Optimist Trust.

Three representatives from water safety and conservation NGOs spent 24 hours in kids’ water dinghies at the Two Oceans Aquarium to raise funds for charities, and are challenging people from all over to do the same.

Greg Bertish, founder of the Little Optimist Trust, NSRI CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation CEO Maryke Musson on Sunday sailed across the I&J Ocean Exhibit in children’s’ Optimist dinghies to raise funds for charity.

The event was held in place of the annual invitation-only Great Optimist Race which had involved experienced sailors, celebrities and medical survivors sailing for charity and the work of the Little Optimist Trust. But the Covid -19 lockdown meant the postponement of Boatica Cape Town 2020, the traditional race host, and the Little Optimist Global challenge was launched.

This year, sailors of any age from across the country and around the world will be able to sign up for The Little Optimist Global Race, and raise funds for charities. Participants will be required to sail their “Opti” for an hour or more – on any body of water, anywhere in the world – during the race window of Friday October 9 to Sunday October 18.

Each boat entered will be able to raise funds for charity, which will be split between the sailor’s chosen cause, and the Little Optimist Trust, which hosts sailing therapy days for marginalised children at their sailing academy in Zeekovlei.

When the CapeTowner visited the aquarium yesterday (Sunday October 4) Mr Bertish, who is also the founder of Shark Spotters, and author of the inspirational childrens’ book The Little Optimist, said the experience was relaxing.

The Hout Bay resident said although the concept was a new one and the race had to be cancelled, they had received a great response, and over 150 000 in over 100 countries were participating in the event, sitting or sailing in their dinghies – “kind of like kids when they have to stay in hospital”.

He said with the global race last year, they managed to raise over R250 000, however, this year they were just aiming to raise as much funds as possible.

He said people were getting creative with the challenge. “There are people sailing in their little boats in hotel pools, canals, or rooftops on buildings. There are even people having little optimist dinghy gatherings and making the charity a fun experience, or in lagoons and vleis.”

He said the funds will mostly be used for the trust’s sailing academy, which gives marginalised, recovering, or disadvantaged children the chance to experience sailing for the first time, and learn about water safety.

And because the trust also supports water safety, they connected with the NSRI, who decided to support the event as well. In another dinghy at the aquarium, Dr Robertson said he, too, was relaxed, even though the weather was hotter than expected.

He said the NSRI decided to go on board as they were raising awareness for water safety, as part of the work of the NSRI, which does outreach work with children from all over the city. “Awareness is a serious part of survival swimming, and we aim to teach 1 million children a year to swim, which is important because it is a survival skill.”

Also part of the experience was Bob the sea turtle, who kept them company. Him and the other turtles in the rehabilitation programme at the aquarium inspired Ms Musson to join the challenge to raise funds for the turtles.

She said with along with the challenge, they, too, wanted to highlight that the rescue attempts of the aquarium’s foundation, the trust and the NSRI goes on for 24 hours each day, hence the 24-hour challenge.

She said they are aiming to get three turtles adopted so that they can be rehabilitated. The three turtles were named Berty- after Mr Bertish; Dr Bob – after Dr Robertson, and Betty Blue. The aquarium currently has around 30 turtles in its care, rescued from the coasts via a “turtle network” of people.

She said they were aiming to provide inspirational childrens’ books to under-resourced schools as well.

“We are ready – we have our sleeping bags, and the cuddly penguins and turtles to keep us warm throughout the challenge”.

Participants pay R150, or a direct donation can be made.

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