Tracy Edwards, John Chittenden, Bruno Dubois
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A thrilling documentary about dreams and equality…
Maiden looks at the Whitbread Round the World Race (now named the Volvo Race) – a grueling male-dominated 9-month regatta. The documentary pays particular attention to the historic 1989-90 competition, notable for having the inclusion of the first all-female team.
The ‘Maiden’ in the title refers to the name of the 58-foot ocean racing yacht, skippered at the time by the valiant 26-year old British sailor Tracy Edwards. Through an array of Super-8 home videos we learn of her troubled childhood, including an abusive stepfather, disappointed mother and eventual migration/escape to Greece, where Tracy meets a group of like-minded fellow expats and talks her way into jobs on charter boats and yachts.
It is during this period of her life that Tracy learns of the Whitbread race but is met with rampant sexism and misogynistic remarks such as “Girls are for screwing when we get into port” when making enquiries to get involved. Her persistence eventually leads to a job as a cook on one of the 15 competing boats in the 1985-86 race and despite being treated like a servant, Tracy uses the experience to gain invaluable insights into sailing and the ocean. Returning to dry land, she sets out to form her own female crew and break into the old boys’ competition.
But the road is not an easy one – over several years, Tracy is met with numerus challenges and obstacles such as anxiety, financial detriments and sponsorship issues; eventually garnering the help of the King of Jordan. A flawed character by her own admission, Tracy has spent the majority of her life running away from something, be it her own responsibilities and failures.
The Maiden team are also met with biased press and patronising men who believe the women are doomed to fail, given the physical and emotional demands of the race – “The ocean’s always trying to kill you. It doesn’t take a break,” reiterates Tracy.
Directed by Alex Holmes (Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story), the documentary effectively captures all 33,000 nautical miles of the journey – juxtaposing nostalgic archival footage with present-day articulate interviews. Tracy’s teammates and rivals (male journalists and yachtsmen) are all interesting characters who bring individualised and passionate context to what is effectively a rousing story about an indomitable woman.
Near-mutiny and near-death experiences abound, while we also learn of Tracy’s (often laborious) leadership and persistence throughout the different legs of the race, which take the ladies from Southampton to Uruguay, New Zealand and beyond.
A thrilling documentary about dreams and equality, Maiden also serves as an inspiring portrait of a remarkable woman (and group of women) that went against the tide and pioneered the sport of ocean racing.