The Little Optimist sail boat has successfully completed the 200km sail from Cape Hangklip to Langebaan Lagoon and has raised more than R250 000 for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust.

The journey took eight sail days to complete in just less than four weeks. Cape Town father, big wave surfer and open heart surgery survivor and skipper Greg Bertish says: “? After many, many hours at sea , many long , hard , cold and scary days I am elated to be in Langebaan, where this Little Optimist dream and idea began.  I literally flew into the lagoon yesterday in 20 knots of wind while being escorted by a whole pod of dolphins. It was amazing and made me realize that raising funds and inspiring kids is what I love to do, and it  all makes sense and feels so good!”

45 year old Bertish set sail on 8 April and crossed False Bay in calm seas only to be tossed about in messy cross currents and big swell as he rounded Cape Point. There we several hair raising launches and landings that saw the Little Optimist tumble and lose safety equipment, personal effects like sunglasses, hat, sailing knife, food and the onboard waterproof microphone.  The rudder mounts were damaged and The main sheet pulley system broke out of the boat as well. Some days presented the Little Optimist with pristine conditions and just the right amount of wind and sometimes it changed within an hour or two to having no wind and leaving the Little Optimist stranded with only his paddles to steer him out of danger. Fortunately ground crew and the NSRI were keeping a close eye on Bertish and with the use of a VHF radio, two cell phones and NSRI’s new Safe Trx cell phone app, the voyage was an overall success.

The reason behind Bertish’s intrepid adventure is to inspire hope in sick children recovering from dread diseases. At the age of 31 and 37, he underwent open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve that was attacked by an undiagnosed tropical bacteria. It took a year of rehabilitation for him to recover from both surgeries, only to have the infection return again for a third time resulting in him having to spend 12 weeks on IV treatment in hospital, which finally ended up destroying the bacteria. The ordeal was life changing for Bertish. He still rides big waves and has been National SUP and Lifesaving Champion as a Heart Surgery survivor.  Now he wants to inspire and give back.

“Too many sick and poor children fight for their lives on a daily basis without believing they can recover and actually go on to living a healthy normal life. I want to give the kids something to believe in. I know me as an adult would have helped me as a kid, to believe in myself sooner, dream bigger and reach for more. I believe I can do this for thousands of sick and needy kids,” says Bertish.

The 200 kilometres are symbolic of the 200 days he spent in hospital between 2001 and 2007. “It’s not about the speed and how fast my Little Optimist gets there, as most say he will fail. It’s about trying and believing in yourself enough to know you can succeed or recover from anything.”

The money is being donated to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust to assist them in building a new Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, saving the lives of thousands of critically ill or injured children.

Thanks to the donations of friends and family and corporate sponsors like Warwick Wealth the journey was made possible. If you wish to contribute to building the Red Cross Hospital’s new PICU through Greg’s campaign you can visit or follow him on Facebook or Twitter @gregbertish.


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