Queen hails 'brilliant' all-female yacht crew after round-the-world race victory

The Queen has praised the endeavours of a "brilliant" all-female yachting crew after they won a global race in a world first.

The Maiden team from the UK crossed the finish line at Cowes, Isle of Wight, earlier this month having sailed for 153 days in the Ocean Globe Race.

They had passed through South Africa, New Zealand and finally Punta del Este, Uruguay, before making a beeline back to British shores.

Camilla welcomed the crew to Clarence House, saying: "You're doing a brilliant job, keep on doing it - that's really important."

Captain Heather Thomas, one of the five Brits on board, said: "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 women from South Africa, Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

As well as the triumph, the women are part of a project promoting the education of women and girls in countries where access is difficult.

Najiba Noori, who admitted to having no experience of sailing, told Sky News's Mark Austin one of the main reasons she joined Maiden was because she could give "a voice" to the women of her country, Afghanistan, as she also captured the voyage on camera for a documentary.

Ms Thomas told Sky News of the Maiden relying on traditional sailing methods of celestial navigation instead of using GPS, as modern technology is banned according to the race's rules.

She added: "The biggest thing for the crew is that we didn't have any digital music so we had to use cassettes instead," confessing ABBA's greatest hits album was their go-to.

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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.

The 58-foot yacht had been abandoned in the Indian Ocean until Ms Edwards launched a campaign to resurrect it as part of the Maiden Factor Foundation, which was completed in 2018.

Ms Edwards 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.

"And when Whoopi Goldberg became our patron, she looked me square in the eye, and when she went 'change it'. I went 'okay' 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, marks the 50th anniversary of the first edition of the Whitbread round-the-world race, and featured 14 boats representing eight countries.