Whitbread History Comes Full Circle with Maiden’s Triumphant Return Home to UK!
Hours Seperate Maiden UK and Triana FR for IRC Gold.

  • Emotions run high at the Cowes Yacht Haven pontoon as Maiden UK (03) makes a triumphant return to home waters in strong winds and choppy waters.
  • The former Whitbread Yacht crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line at 10:52 UTC, 16th April after 41 days at sea.
  • Skipper Heather Thomas and her all-female crew in with a chance to take the McIntyre Ocean Globe Overall handicap IRC title who is then declared the winner of the OGR.
  • Ecstatic Maiden fans gather in sunny Cowes to welcome the UK entrant home on the completion of her final circumnavigation after 218 days racing around the world.

Whitbread history was reinvented today in Cowes, UK as Maiden UK (03) crossed the finish line of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race in suitable style. The sun came out, Abba tunes blared, the beers and food were shared around the excited crowds as a carnival festival took over the windy Yacht Haven marina.

Don’t miss watching the historic moment of Team Maiden’s arrival.

At 10:52 UTC, Maiden crossed the line, returning to UK home waters once again having sailed 6599 nm from Punta del Este on leg 4 of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race. Fifth in line honours and provisional 5th in IRC for Leg 4 those waiting on the pontoon and watching around the world were celebrating a determined crew of women from all corners of the globe.

There was not a dry eye on the pontoon as beaming friends, family and fans welcomed in the legendary yacht. After 41 days at sea, skipper Heather Thomas, first mate Rachel Burgess and ten crew beamed with pride as they crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron, where they left from 218 days ago.

Ecstatic Maiden fans gather in sunny Cowes to welcome the UK entrant home on the completion of her final circumnavigation after 218 days racing around the world. Credit: Don McIntyre / OGR2023

While this was not the easiest leg of the race for Maiden, ranking 5th in line honours and a provisional 5th in IRC for Leg 4, all eyes are now turning to the IRC Overall leaderboard combining all four legs with MAIDEN now holding second place with a corrected elapsed time of 179d 1h 24m. Maiden’s closest rival is Triana FR (66) who has been top of the leaderboard for months and No1 in ranking. At the time of writing, the French yacht Triana needs to cross the finish line around 0500hrs UTC APRIL 22nd to hold onto their current first place and take the prize. They are currently 800 miles from the finish and need to maintain around 5.8kts average seed all the way to the finish line to achieve this – otherwise Maiden may take the title. The IRC handicap overall leader is considered the winner of the OGR.

The Maiden crew demonstrates that “Anything is Possible.” Credit: Tim Bishop/PPL / OGR2023

Heather has said from race start they were “in it to win it” and she was not wrong – always ranking in the top half of the fleet. Leg 1 they came in third in line honours and IRC. Leg 2, fourth in line honours and IRC and Leg 3, Auckland to Punta del Este second in line honours and 4th in IRC. The crew, hailing from the UK, Antigua, USA, South Africa, France and Afghanistan have raced hard from day one, despite broken watermakers, generators and inverters. They are nothing if not resourceful.

The Maiden crew, hailing from the UK, Antigua, the USA, South Africa, France, and Afghanistan, proudly flew their country flags at the finish line.Credit: Tim Bishop/PPL / OGR2023

Speaking about the race, Skipper Heather, who has impressed so many within the OGR fleet with her generosity sharing weather information on daily ‘buddy chats’ on the radio, is naturally delighted with what they have achieved.

I have very mixed emotions at the moment, but what an amazing welcome we’ve had coming into Cowes. We’re all really happy and think we achieved our goal of showcasing what women can do and inspire the next generation. With the amazing role models we have on the boat I think we achieved that. The leg itself didn’t go so well but overall, we are very, very happy.

Heather Thomas, skipper of Maiden.

Visit our YouTube channel to listen to the full interview.

It was extra poignant for Maiden to arrive back in UK waters, in a race celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread Round the World race. Maiden made headlines in the 1989 Whitbread when Tracy Edwards MBE, skippered the iconic yacht around the world with an all-female crew. She defied doubters and cynics, winning two leg victories in Division D and going on to become the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.

Tracy was undeniably bursting with pride as we watched her yacht and crew arrive back safely.

I was delighted for the girls, they looked great coming in. It’s been a tough last leg with that wind, but that’s climate change for you, the new normal. I’m unspeakably proud of them, when they crossed the finishing line, they all had their national flags. I’ve cried about six times already today and they haven’t even got in yet. Of course, it brings back memories as I knew how they were feeling. That stretch of water from The Needles to the finish line is like the longest stretch of water in the world. You’ve just done 33,000 miles around the world, but you think about that stretch and go when is this going to end. But it’s all just amazing.

Tracy Edwards MBE

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

Heather’s father Matt was one of the many who went out onto the choppy Solent to welcome them home. He too was finding the day emotional.

I found it difficult to drive the rib through tears.

Laughed Matt, Heather’s father.

Meanwhile the rest of the fleet continue the long slow slog North to Cowes. Outlaw AU (08) a Balic 55 and previous Whitbread veteran Equity and Law have today reported a broken backstay and they are now sailing under jury rig. At the time of writing, they were still making 8 knots with an ETA of 18h April the next yacht to arrive.


Finish Line:
Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, UK
Once crossing the line, the yachts will be berthed at Trinity Landing or Cowes Yacht Haven in West Cowes for 48 hours.

Related posts