In the late 1980s, being a stewardess on a charter boat was the only way a woman could get work onboard a boat full of men, but Tracy Edwards loved sailing the ocean and had bigger ambitions. When she and her first-ever all-female crew decided to compete in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race, their male competitors doubted they had what it took to compete in the world’s toughest yacht race, let alone finish. However, these highly skilled women proved them wrong.
Alex Holmes’ inspiring and thoroughly engaging documentary is a must see. Noteworthy are the contributions of editor Katie Bryer who keeps the proceedings exciting, suspenseful, and tautly paced. Through voiceover narration by Edwards, interviews with her crew, male competitors and journalists, old media clips, and exclusive archival footage, Maiden reveals how Edwards and her crew persevered against all odds, made history, and broke barriers to become the first all-female crew to take on the grueling 33,000-mile yacht race.
Thirty years later, many of the men who doubted these courageous female sailors’ abilities, admit on camera that they were wrong and that they were no “tinful of tarts,” as one journalist condescendingly referred to them at the time.
The film documents the challenges Edwards faced over a three-year period assembling her crew, securing funding from a surprising sponsor in King Hussein I of Jordan who believed in her dream, mortgaging her home to acquire and refurbish a dilapidated boat to compete in the race, and contending with male journalists whose questions betrayed their sexism and a general perception that they were a high risk crew. These professional women sailors set aside self-doubt and put everything on the line in order to make it happen. They succeeded in sailing around the world, did it competitively, and despite the gender bias, proved that women could do things as well as men. Indeed, Edwards, who began the race as a 27-year old English skipper learning on the job, became the first woman ever to receive the prestigious Yachtsman of the Year Trophy. Not only did the Maiden skipper and crew achieve something they were told they couldn’t do, but equally important, they opened the door to other women to dream big and believe in themselves.