Film Review: “Maiden”

Take a break this week and see a movie that’s not related to politics in any way, and isn’t controversial. It’s about the first all-female crew to successfully sail around the world in 1989-90. The film version, “Maiden” (titled after the name of their boat) begins with the sad story of a ten-year girl named Tracy Edwards, whose happy childhood crashed to an end when her father died. The man her mother later married was alcoholic and abusive. Tracy was suspended from secondary school many times before she was finally expelled at sixteen.  She ran away from home, became a nomad and worked on boats as the cook.

During one of her odd jobs, she met King Hussein of Jordan, who became a close friend and would later fund the boat and historic voyage. Edwards faced intense sexism and plenty of skeptics who said it couldn’t be done, including a Guardian writer who called them “a tinful of tarts.”

But the international crew of fourteen women won two legs, including the most treacherous through Antarctica, of the Whitbread Round the World Race, 32,000 nautical miles from England to Uruguay to Australia to New Zealand and back, with a stop in America. In the worst sections, temperatures fell to 20 below 0, and another ship lost two men overboard. Edwards had wisely brought a doctor on her crew, who coached their competitors via radio on how to resuscitate.

Edwards became the first woman in Whitbread history to be named Yachtsman of the Year. When the yacht came into Fremantle, Edwards recalled, “the collective jaws around the world just dropped.” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/how-tracy-edwards-and-the-sailing-crew-of-maiden-made-nautical-history  In characteristically dry British style, some of their male competitors and critics simply commented, “Blimey!”

To the director Alex Holmes’ delight, archival footage of the 1989 race existed: Whitbread organizers had asked for volunteers to film themselves during the race. Edwards agreed, recalling: “If we triumph, this is a record for any woman who comes after us.” The unseen epilogue, after the highs and lows of the film crashing like waves, was Edwards’ struggle with depression, her mother’s illness, her own most human difficulties.

The mature woman speaks now of her commitment to “creating visibility—about what women are capable of, about mental health, about what’s possible when you put together the right team.” https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/06/maiden-documentary-tracy-edwards-sailing-interview Thirty years later, her daughter Mack Edwards-Mair participated in a refurbished “Maiden’s” round-the-world excursion, a promotion to raise funds for the education of girls. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/07/04/her-mom-broke-barriers-with-an-all-female-crew-shes-about-set-sail-same-yacht/

You go, girls!

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