In 1989, the first-ever all-female team entered the Whitbread Race to sail around the world. Everyone, from the (male) sailors who scoffed at their efforts to the (male) journalists who took bets on how far they’d make it, was convinced that they would never finish. But the Maiden team, led by the indefatigable Tracy Edwards, not only completed the race but won two legs of it.
On paper, the story of the Maiden yacht reads like documentary catnip. On screen, reanimated through old media clips and exclusive on-board footage, salty shots of the ship pummeling the water and a deck full of women the moment when they realize that they’ve taken the lead, it somehow manages to exceed expectations. Alex Holmes’ Maiden is fun to watch on so many different levels, whether it’s witnessing world-class athletes push their bodies past what even they thought possible or listening to a bunch of old men admit, on the record, that they were wrong to ridicule and underestimate them. At 22, Tracy Edwards decided to put together an all-female crew to sail around the world. Thirty years later, she’s a delight as chief narrator, insightfully and humorously ushering viewers along through the stages of that historic journey.
While the bulk of the film focuses on the race, with all of its built-in drama and visual majesty, we start by getting to know Edwards. It takes a special kind of twentysomething to dedicate her entire life to a project that no one thinks she is capable of, and Edwards is certainly that. Rebellious, stubborn, and adventurous, the teenage Edwards took her school expulsion as an opportunity to travel around the world. By chance, she was offered a position working on a charter yacht. As she became increasingly involved in the sailing world, Edwards learned about the Whitbread Round the World Race, and liked the sound of it. She convinced an entrant to take her on as a cook during the 1985-1986 race. Of the 230 crew members taking part in the race, only four were women.
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