Yacht a lot of fun on round world jaunt

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Move over Ellen MacArthur - there’s a new global yachting ace hot on your heels - and what’s more, she hails from Doncaster!

For adventurous couple Heather and Jonathan Howard have just taken part in a gruelling sailing expedition, taking in a host of the globe’s hottest spots as part of a worldwide yachting contest.

The pair took part in a 26,000 mile, 18-month voyage - setting out from the Canary Islands and ending up in the British Virgin Islands aboard their yacht Matilda, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Bentley-born Heather, 52, who now lives in Australia, said: “I think we discussed that we would like to sail around the world pretty much on our first date in 2001.

“We always thought that it would be something in the future but then we thought we needed to do this sort of stuff while we could.”

So in 2011, the couple, signed up for the World ARC Sailing Rally, now in its third sailing, which sees scores of amateur yachting enthusiasts sail across the Atlantic en masse to the Caribbean.

Although the pair are experienced sailiors, she said: “Neither of us had ever spent more than a few days at sea on a boat and we had never crossed an ocean.”

The pair survived exhaustion, electrical storms and stomach churning sea squalls.

Heather, said: “Surprisingly the sailing was not too difficult but we did have our moments.

“Some of the squalls could be a bit terrifying and we were in the middle of several of the most powerful electrical storms in South Africa.”

After setting off from the Canaries and crossing the Atlantic, the couple’s route took in the Panama Canal, with stops including Galapagos, French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji, Australia, Mauritius and South Africa before returing to Caribbean waters.

She added: “At the moment we feel a little like Steve Redgrave, if you see us getting on a boat to do another ocean, shoot us.

“It’s a great feeling casting off and heading out to sea using only the wind to take you anywhere in the world.

“The camaraderie is great and some of the places you can only get to by boat are amazing.

“Now we have to go back to the real world and back to work,” she said.

The boat which took them on a 26,000 mile global trip

Jonathan and Heather bought their yacht, Matilda, a 1990 Hallberg Rassy 42 ft craft, in the Canary Islands in March 2011.

They spent around €250,000 preparing her for the trip.

Facilities on board included a fridge, hand pumped loos and fans instead of air conditioning.

For power, they used a Duogen, which uses the wind and sea to charge batteries for navigational equipment and phones as well as laptops and iPods.

However, as the boat is a ‘blue water’ boat and not suitable as a weekend cruiser or racer, Matilda has been left behind in the British Virgin Islands with a broker with the pair sailing home aboard a friend’s boat.