“Maiden” is a documentary of the yacht racing event that happened 30 years ago — an event that rocked the previously ‘boys only club’ of yachting. The Whitbread Round-the-World-Race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race) had an entry with the first all-female crew. This was a dream of the skipper, Tracy Edwards, who only had experience being a charter yacht cook. Her determination pushed her to be the leader of a group of women that sailed in that 1989 race. The course was a brutal endurance test for a team of green-around-the-gills women sailors. They had little experience, but they also had a desire to compete with the ‘big boys’. Only tiny percentage of ‘girls’ were currently on-board those racing yachts, these women saw the open seas as a new frontier for equality.
Tracy Edwards grew up in England with a very happy childhood. Ben her father died, and her mother remarried, and it went downhill. Tracy ran away and wound up by the docks. She found odd jobs as a cook or as a hostess on some charter boats. She also happened to meet one of the passengers on the yacht – King Hussain of Jordan. He was impressed with her and they remained in touch over the years. But she found her real joy was being out on a yacht, sailing the ocean. She hung around as much as she could to learn all the jobs on a sailing ship.
Tracy decided to get a boat and find enough like-minded women to create a yachting crew. They would have a couple of years to prepare for the 1989 Whitbread. The race happened every four years, and the glass ceiling of yacht racing was about to be broken. Tracy mortgaged her house and started fund-raising. But it took that extra effort to contact King Hussain and ask him for support. He gladly gave her enough funding to get a boat in the race. She found a used yacht and a willing crew. They all worked tirelessly to get it ready in time. All of the sports commentators who covered yacht racing had no love for the “Maiden”. It was a bunch of ‘girls’ invading the boys club, and they knew the women were doomed to fail.
The 1989 Around-the-World-Race started, with the Maiden as one of the entries. Nobody gave them very big odds at finishing the entire race. Even smaller odds were for winning any of the six legs of the race – or reaching the top five. These women had to compete with many of the best yacht skippers out there. The other skippers were experienced and had a long background in trans-oceanic sailing. The women were led by a newbie, and none of them had done anything quite this difficult. But they all agreed that just because a bunch of ‘good old boys’ thought that the ‘girls’ were out of their league – that would not stop them from putting their best efforts into getting it completed. Being out for nine months at sea was a grueling challenge, regardless of gender.
That was a big risk that Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew were taking. Not because it was going against the norms of the time. But because it was a treacherous undertaking, sailing a ship around the world, and taking a southern route for a large chunk of that trip. There are rough seas and bad weather to face, let alone the attempt to get to the next port before any of the other yachts. This will be a major endurance test, and women had little time to get prepared for a major undertaking. They all did their best, and in fact – the “Maiden” did come in first in two legs of the trip. That boosted the confidence of all the ladies on board. They were able to make a huge dent into the ‘boys only club’ mentality. But there was still a lot of race yet to come. Tracy had a few times when she made a bone-headed decision, and the “Maiden’ lost quite a bit of time. She had the will, but she still lacked the experience to make the correct decision.
On the crew’s final leg that got them back to the English port, they were completely surprised. The “Maiden” was met out a few miles from shore by a couple of small boats. Tracy and the crew thought these little ships would pass by and go on. These ships turned around and joined the “Maiden”. Then, they were joined by more ships, and they even more. By the time they pulled into the pier, they were surrounded by hundreds of boat and thousands of people on land. All of them were there to cheer on the “Maiden” and her crew. This was a proud moment to see all of the people out yelling and cheering and supporting the ‘girls’. The first all-female crew for the Around-the-World-Race was a success. Tracy and her crew members were seeing their dreams come true. This showed the world that the ‘girls’ could compete in the ‘boys only club’. Tracy Edwards did such a great job with being the skipper that she became the first female winner of the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.
“Maiden” is a hard-charging look at the first all-female boating crew that sailed 30 years ago. Be sure to bring your Dramamine!
In the Phoenix area, it will play exclusively at the Scottsdale Camelview Theater.
Directed by: Alex Holmes
Edited by: Katie Bryer
Starring: Tracy Edwards (and the crew of the “Maiden”)
Length: 106 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images
Length: 97 minutes