Megan Rapinoe became a household name this year and along with her teammates, an inspiration to young women as the USWNT won another World Cup.
Thirty years ago, Tracy Edwards and the all-female crew of the racing yacht Maiden struck a similar chord with young women as they became role models after overcoming odds and grueling setbacks to become the first female team to compete in the coveted Whitbread Round the World Race.
Alex Homes’ wonderful documentary features remarkable footage and new interviews with Edwards and the crew as they recount their story for the next generation of hopefuls.
For Tracy Edwards sailing meant freedom. In 1989, the 26-year-old left everything behind to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a 32,000 nautical mile competition known as the longest and most challenging on earth. Her story, however, begins at the age of 10 with the death of her father.
Growing up, Edwards was faced with an alcoholic stepfather who drove her away at the age of 16. She took a job working as a cook and stewardess for a “tribe of boat crew gypsies” which eventually led to a cooking gig on board a British vessel competing in the 1985 Whitbread Race. She quickly learned it was a male-dominated sport without a woman in sight which gave Tracy the motivation she needed to put together an all-female crew to compete in the next Whitbread three years later.
“Maiden” is an empowering film that proves you can accomplish anything with hard work and determination. Edwards first obstacle was hurdling past the sexist mindset surrounding the competition, the second was finding a boat.
Looking like a young Judi Dench, the now 56-year-old Edwards explains how she spent her life savings and mortgaged her house to purchase a battered old racing yacht that didn’t look like much. As she puts it, the 58-foot aluminum monohull which competed in two earlier Whitbread races was “a wreck with a pedigree.”
Once the word spread that a 26-year old female skipper was putting together a crew, other women sailors came forward to join Edwards, many of whom had more experience.
One of the first to sign up was Edwards’ childhood friend Joanna Gooding who became Maiden’s cook and the film’s cinematographer as much of her SVHS footage shot on board the yacht is featured prominently through the film. It reveals an intimate bond these women shared as they worked together to prove to their male colleagues that they came to win, many of the other teams doubted the women would even finish the race.
It’s great to see many of the Maiden’s crew members in the documentary doing one-on-one interviews to discuss their experiences thirty years ago. Their personal accounts are edited together with footage from the Whitbread Race’s archives and video from news outlets around the world by Katie Bryer resulting in a vibrant documentary that captures the spirit of these inspirational ladies.
These days Edwards continues to inspire young girls and women through her Maiden Factor Foundation which funds girls’ education. One evening, while Edwards was delivering a motivational speech at an elementary school in South West London, director Alex Holmes was in attendance accompanying his young daughter who couldn’t stop talking about Edwards after the event. That fateful night resulted in the documentary which continues to empower and inspire audiences around the world.
(3 ½ stars)
Opens Friday July 26 in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills, and Violet Crown Cinema. Now showing in Houston at Landmark’s River Oaks Theater.