Sometimes the word “heroine” just won’t do. The documentary Maiden tells the inspirational story of Tracy Edwards, a true feminist hero who, at the age of 24, willed herself into becoming the skipper of the first all-women yacht crew to race around the world in 1989. Her only real sea-faring experience was as a cook and cleaner on charter boats. But with King Hussein of Jordan as her unlikely benefactor, she and her 12-women team managed collect enough money to renovate an aluminum vessel that they dubbed Maiden and made unexpected history.
Director Alex Holmes gracefully cuts back and forth from stirring archival footage of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race as cameras get up close and personal with the female crew. They had to deal with the misogynistic male-dominated media – one of whom called their yacht “a tin full of tarts.” But while current-day Edwards fully admits on camera to having character flaws, she and her teammates did their jobs, always had each other’s backs, didn’t argue and actually exceeded their expectations and that of the chauvinistic competitors about what they could achieve.
Holmes rightfully wallows in footage of huge waves crashing into the Maiden. When we hear Edwards speaking in a voiceover as thunderous waves threaten, “The ocean is always trying to kill you,” it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration. After a less than perfect performance on one leg of the race, Tracy decides to have the women shave their legs and put on their body-hugging swimsuits to distract the press from noticing. But she regretted stooping to such a stunt.
No fair spoiling the ending but let’s just say it doesn’t matter if the women won or lost. That they cleared at least one hurdle for female kind was enough to make them the public cheer their success.