Woman, 89, fulfils Atlantic ambition

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The Independent Online

An 89-year-old woman completed a round trip of the Atlantic in a 26ft gaff-rigged cutter yesterday, motivated by her father's refusal to let her join him on a similar trip in 1934.

Helen Tew's father, Commander Robert Graham, went on to enter the record books for the fastest solo crossing of the Atlantic. His daughter, thought to be the oldest woman to have made the trip in a small boat, could also take her place there after completing the 8,000-mile journey.

"I think my father would be glad – he knew I was very angry when he went off on his own in 1934 so I think he would have said 'Well done Helen'," said Mrs Tew at the end of her voyage at the Beaulieu River Sailing Club in Hampshire.

"If you want to do something you generally will try hard to do it. I hope I pulled my weight – I would not want to be let off because of my age."

Mrs Tew, who has 11 grandchildren, made the journey in the Mary Helen, a boat designed by her late husband.

She was accompanied on the 11-month trip by her 60-year-old son Donald and on the return leg by her youngest son, 46-year-old James, as well.

The support of her family was crucial, she said. "They never tried to talk me out of it. They are all sailors and I think when we first started talking about it they said 'Good luck – go for it'."