Yorkshire skipper Heather Thomas sets off on Ocean Globe Race using retro tech to 'sail like it's 1973'
Under retro rules she's packed a Walkman - and a Tina Turner mix tape - for her eight months at sea.
The 26-year-old, from Otley, is leading a team in the Ocean Globe Race (OGR) which set off last Sunday. The catch is crews have to "sail like it's 1973", reading the skies using celestial navigation.
"We are hoping to become the first all-female team to win an around-the-world race," said Ms Thomas. "Growing up, I don't think it was ever something I thought about, that it might be possible to do something like this.
"We want to inspire as many young women as we can to dream big. It goes to show what a girl from Otley can achieve."
Back in 1973 the Whitbread Round The World Race began, but as time went on and it drew more attention, yachting teams also began to spend many millions in funding. Soon 'ordinary' sailors were left far behind, and the intention of the OGR, some 50 years later, is to take it "back to basics, to the glory days of yacht racing".
Ms Thomas leads a team of 12 aboard the legendary Maiden, which sailed with the first all-women crew in a Whitbread in 1989 under Tracy Edwards MBE. Since 2021 Maiden has been sharing messages of empowerment with charities and schools, while raising funds for girls' education. Now it is some way into its 27,000 mile race, on the first stint from Southampton to Cape Town. Next will be Auckland, then Uruguay, before the race home.
There's no GPS, no iPhones, no modern technology. The hope is to reach Auckland for Christmas Day, but if a mishap might happen, "it's just another day".
Ms Thomas said: "Last Christmas we were offshore on Maiden, but we were able to WhatsApp call home. That won't be happening this year. Your crew onboard becomes your family, in a situation like this. We are very close, a crazy bunch, we have to be. But united in what we are doing."
Teams have their own snack bags, filled with chocolate, ramen and crisps. Ms Thomas has also brought an old Walkman.
"I really struggle without music, so I've made my own mix tapes," she said. "We are allowed cassettes. We have some Tina Turner. One 'girl power' tape, with some Rihanna and a bit of Beyoncé."
Ms Thomas, a former pupil at Prince Henry's Grammar School, grew up sailing at Otley Sailing Club where her father Matt is chief instructor. The town is about as far from the sea as is possible but she learned at the club's lake, before youth sessions with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
"One of my old instructors used to say 'if you can sail at Otley you can sail anywhere'," she said. "That really is being tested right now. I just love being offshore. It's the first time I've really felt free.”
To track see oceangloberace.com.