The former Whitbread yacht, sailed by an all-female international crew has taken the coveted title after 153d 2h 16m 53s of racing around the world. Virtually none of the crew had previously faced such an epic challenge and only one had sailed in the Southern Ocean before.

Maiden and her crew are no strangers to smashing glass ceilings and sailing into the history books.

In the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Tracy Edwards skippered the 58ft yacht and, with her crew, became the first all-female team to take part in a round the world yacht race.

Maiden crossing the finish line at Southampton, marking the end of the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race. Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker

Maiden crossing the finish line at Southampton, marking the end of the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race. Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker

Maiden came second in class overall, winning two of the three Southern Ocean legs in Division D.

But now the Maiden crew has done one better and become the first all-female crew to win a round the world yacht race, having taken gold in the 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race.

The crew of the yacht Maiden laughing and smiling after crossing the finish line of the Ocean Globe Race

The 2024 Maiden crew are all delighted and believe they have achieved their goal of showcasing what women can do and inspiring the next generation. Credit: Don McIntyre/ OGR2023

The retro race, which sees entrants racing four legs without modern technology on board and using celestial navigation, was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973.

Maiden was the only British yacht in the Ocean Globe Race and was skippered throughout by 27-year-old Heather Thomas, who stated from the start that the team was “in it to win it”; the crew comprised women from Britain, India, South Africa, the USA, France, Antigua, Italy, Puerto Rico and Afghanistan.

Women flying flags on the yacht Maiden

The multinational crew flew their home country flags. Credit: The Maiden Factor-Kaia Bint Savage

After crossing the Leg 4 finish line, Heather Thomas, who started crewing on Maiden in 2021, said: “We had an amazing welcome and had many boats come and join us out in the Solent to help us cross the finish line. It was phenomenal to have all of those boats and people come and see us!

“The first person we saw on a boat was Tracy, of course! That was fantastic and we’ve had a brilliant welcome back here on land too. Thank you everyone for your support!”

Maiden was one of 14 boats to take part in the race, and one of five in the Flyer Class for yachts previously entered in the 1973, 1977 or 1981 Whitbread, or ‘relevant’ historic significance and ‘approved’ production-built, ocean-certified, sail-training yachts generally 55ft to 68ft LOA.

A woman at the helm of a yacht

Heather Thomas has been crewing on Maiden since 2021. At 27, she is the youngest female skipper to have won a round the world yacht race. Credit: The Maiden Factor-Kaia Bint Savage

Throughout the race, Maiden‘s crew pushed hard, always in the top half of the fleet, coming third in line honours and IRC on the Cowes to Cape Town Leg, fourth in line honours and IRC in the Cape Town to Auckland Leg and second in line hours and fourth in IRC on the Auckland to Punta del Este Leg.

Ahead of the start of Leg 4, Maiden was seven days behind the then IRC leader, Triana.

But the French Swan 53’s lead was soon eroded due to the failure of the expected Southeast Trade Winds which led to slow progress for most of the Ocean Globe Race fleet up the Atlantic; further fickle winds slowed Triana‘s progress.

Continues below…

Leg 4 was the longest at sea for the crew of Maiden – 41 days and 6,599 miles in total.

Having found breeze, Maiden made progress up the Atlantic until hitting the Doldrums. By then, the watermaker onboard the Bruce Farr-designed yacht had broken, and the rain was welcomed until the crew fixed it.

The crew also had to make repairs to the yacht’s generator and inverter.

Two women working on a boat

Vuyisile Jacza and First Mate Rachel Burgess make repairs. Credit: OGR2023/Maiden

Many entrants hoped that once in the Northern Hemisphere, the Northeat Trade winds would deliver, but this wasn’t the case and the boats continued to struggle in the light winds caused by a high pressure system, west of Biscay.

Eventually, Maiden found strong winds in the northerlies and crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line, Cowes at 10:52 UTC on 16 April.

Maiden was the fifth boat to cross the finish line, but under the IRC handicap, the team won the 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race overall with a corrected elapsed time of 179 days, 1 hour, 24 minutes and 23 seconds.

“After 28,674 nautical miles and 154 days at sea, our girl Maiden is home with her inspirational all-female crew, including the first women of colour to race around the world and our camerawoman who escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said Tracy Edwards.

A jubilent Tracy Edwards as Maiden crossed the finish line. Credit: The Maiden Factor-Kaia Bint Savage

A jubilant Tracy Edwards as Maiden crossed the finish line. Credit: The Maiden Factor-Kaia Bint Savage

“This truly international crew has changed the face of sailing and they stand for women and girls everywhere. They have made history and we could not be more proud of them!” she added.

Following the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Edwards was forced to sell Maiden. She later rescued the yacht from the Seychelles, where it was discovered, abandoned in 2014.

Edwards decided to refit the boat and use it to promote the importance of education for girls around the world.

Sailing under The Maiden Factor banner, Maiden left the UK on an 18-month world tour to raise awareness of the importance of education for girls and raise money for girls’ education programmes before taking part in the Ocean Globe Race.

IRC results overall in the 2023-2024 Ocean Globe Race

Maiden (UK) – 179d, 1h, 24, 23s
Spirit of Helsinki (Finland) – 179d, 18h, 32m, 45s
Triana (France) –
Pen Duick (France) – 180d, 20h, 33m, 1s
L’Esprit d’Equipe (France) – 185d, 12h, 2m, 3s
Neptune (France) – 186d, 10h, 59m, 22s
Outlaw (Australia) – 187d, 8h, 35m, 8s
Galiana with Secure (Finland) – Still racing
Evrika (France) – Still racing
White Shadow (Spain) – Still racing


Translated 9 (Italy)
Sterna (South Africa)
Explorer (Australia)
Godspeed (USA)

Enjoy reading The crew of Maiden makes history again by becoming the first all-female team to win a round the world yacht race?

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