Camilla hails ‘brilliant’ all-female yacht crew who won round-the-world race

Camilla hails ‘brilliant’ all-female yacht crew who won round-the-world race
Queen Camilla speaks to crew members (Chris Jackson/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Chris Jackson

The Queen has praised a group of yachtswomen for their “brilliant” win in a global race that broke diversity barriers.

Camilla welcomed to her Clarence House home the crew of the Maiden, who became the first all-female outfit to triumph in a round-the-world yacht challenge when they won the Ocean Globe Race earlier this month.

“You’re doing a brilliant job, keep on doing it – that’s really important,” the Queen told the women, who are part of a project promoting the education of women and girls.

Royal reception for Maiden yachting crewCamilla with past and present members of the Maiden crew (Chris Jackson/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Chris Jackson

Heather Thomas, from Otley, West Yorkshire, captained Maiden to victory as the vessel raced for 153 days and crossed the finish line on April 16 at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

She said after the champagne reception: “It was incredible after we’d found out we’d won.

“It’s a pretty historic moment for women’s sailing, I’m really happy with the result, the girls all worked really hard for it – so we’re proud of ourselves.”

The winning yacht was sailed by an international crew that included African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern women alongside others from the UK and Costa Rica.

Royal reception for Maiden yachting crewCamilla with members of the original crew (Chris Jackson/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Chris Jackson

Maiden was the brainchild of veteran yachtswoman Tracy Edwards, who skippered the boat during the 1989-90 Whitbread global yacht race with an all-female crew, before resurrecting the vessel as part of the Maiden Factor Foundation.

Ms Edwards, the founder and director of the foundation dedicated to the education of women and girls, said the organisation’s patron Whoopi Goldberg had challenged her to find a diverse crew.

She said: “For me this is the end of a 45-year fight for the equality of women within sailing and sport generally and actually women’s empowerment.

“Sailing is described as male, pale and stale. So with Maiden in 1989 we dealt with male and the stale bit, we didn’t deal with the pale bit.

Ocean Globe RaceHeather Thomas and Tracy Edwards with the Maiden (Kaia Bint Savage/The Maiden Factor/PA)PA Media - Kaia Bint Savage/The Maiden Factor

“And when Whoopi Goldberg became our patron, she looked me square in the eye, and when she went ‘change it’. I went ‘OK’ so we did. So we put this incredible crew together because we want to change the face of sailing.”

The 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race, which marked the 50th anniversary of the first edition of the Whitbread round-the-world race, featured 14 boats representing eight countries.

The yachts raced over four legs, travelling from Cowes to Cape Town, Auckland and Punta del Este, Uruguay, before returning to the UK.

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