Heather Thomas and her all-women crew aboard Tracy Edwards’ famous 58ft yacht Maiden have won the 2023-4 Ocean Globe Race!

Maiden has beaten 14 teams to win the Ocean Globe Race on IRC handicap, becoming the first ever all-women crew to win an around-the-world yacht race, it was confirmed early on Monday 22 April 2024.

The international all-female crew crossed the finish line at the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 1052 UTC on 16 April, having sailed 6599 miles from Punta del Este on Leg 4 of the Ocean Globe Race.

Their only rival for IRC handicap honours, the French Swan 53 Triana skippered by Jean d’Arthuys, failed to meet their 0500 deadline to cross the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes.

Frustratingly for the French crew, Triana was becalmed off Lands End at 0400 today, still with 183 miles to run to the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line off Cowes.

Maiden sweeps up the Solent to victory

‘It’s very exciting to be the first all-female crew to win an around the world race. It’s a historic moment,’ said Maiden skipper Heather Thomas. ‘The girls have worked really hard for it and we’re very proud of our achievement. We have the best crew and the best boat so what can I say!’

Ocean Globe Race founder Don McIntyre added: ‘What an absolutely stunning victory for skipper Heather and this eclectic mix of international girls and skills onboard Maiden. Wow!

‘They have embraced this OGR adventure at every level, performing on the water, facing completely unknown Southern Ocean challenges with courage and determination and representing their cause like real champions.’

Thomas and her crew enjoyed sleigh-ride conditions all the way from the Azores to the finish on Tuesday, completing the 27,000 mile race via the three great capes in 153 days.

Triana still in the running

At that time, Triana still had a chance to pip Maiden to the trophy. Still some 850 miles behind, the French had to average more than 6 knots over this final stage – they were then speeding along at 6.8 knots before a southwesterly gale.

But then the winds changed completely, leaving Triana becalmed south of Lands End.

It means that Thomas and her crew have finished one up even on Tracy Edwards MBE, whose all-women crew returned as national heroes 34 years ago aboard the same yacht.

Tracy Edwards took 2nd in class aboard Maiden in the 1989-90 Whitbread after winning two legs of the notoriously difficult round-the-world race. She was awarded Yachtsman of the Year for her part in the race, the first woman to be awarded the title.

The Ocean Globe Race race marks the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread Race back in 1973-4.

Tracy Edwards (5th from right) introducing Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Haya bint Al Hussein of Jordan and her children Jalila and Zayed to Heather Thomas and the Maiden crew

Royal reception for Ocean Globe Race winners

Heather Thomas and the Maiden crew led a parade of sail from Cowes to Southampton to Ocean Village on Saturday where they were greeted by Sarah, Duchess of York, who christened Maiden in 1988.

Princess Haya bint Al Hussein of Jordan and her children Jalila and Zayed were also on the pontoon to greet the Maiden crew. Tracy Edwards was supported by King Hussein of Jordan and Royal Jordanian Airways in her 1989 Whitbread campaign.

Heather Thomas, aged 27 and the youngest skipper by 13 years, and her crew have put up a remarkable performance, always ranking in the top half of this 16-strong fleet. They finished 3rd on Leg 1 from Cowes to Cape Town, 4th on Leg 2 to Auckland and 2nd around Cape Horn to Punta del Este.

This last 6,700 mile leg back to Cowes  proved to be their toughest test. Maiden’s engine failed soon after the start, then their water maker broke down – needed to re-hydrate all their freeze dried food – and then their inverter burned out.

Mercifully, the weather came to their aid providing plenty of rain showers for them to collect water in buckets.

Tracey Edwards, skipper of Maiden in the 1990 Whitbread race, greets 2024 skipper Heather Thomas in an emotional welcome

Tracy Edwards welcomes Maiden

Tracy Edwards was there at the finish to meet Maiden. Wiping away tears of joy, she enthused, ‘I’m delighted for the girls. It’s been a tough last leg with these winds. Of course it brings back memories. I know how they are feeling and I’m so proud of what they have achieved.’

For Tracy at least, Saturday’s return to Ocean Village was a public opportunity to thank Sarah Duchess of York who had been ‘Godmother’ to the Maiden team during the 1989-90 Whitbread Race for her continued support.

Sailing with a mission

There were memories too for the support the late King Hussein of Jordan. Princess Haya, who was 12 at the time and sponsored Maiden’s refit for this race, was able to explain to her children the importance of this project in raising funds that have empowered so many girls’ education projects around the world.

Several yachts are still racing. Triana, Galiana With Secure, Evrika and White Shadow have yet to cross the line at Cowes. They are expected to finish line in the next few days.

Follow the race on: https://oceangloberace.com/livetracker/


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