You Shouldn’t Count Women Out & You Definitely Don’t Want To Count Out Tracy Edwards & Her Crew Of The “Maiden”. Tracy & the Crew Prove It’s No Longer A Man’s World In Alex Holmes Riveting High Stakes & High Seas Documentary. “Maiden” Wins The Race As One Of The Years Best Films!
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Whitbread Around the World Race, which is a yachting competition that lasts more than eight months long as they sail a 32,000 mile journey through potentially treacherous seas. It’s an around the world, open water race made up of sailing teams who are required to be more than sailors, some of them will be trained in medical response, sail-making, diesel engine repair, electronics, nutrition, mathematics, and hydraulics. There is also a dedicated media crew member, called the On Board Reporter (OBR) who does not contribute to the sailing of the boat, but is responsible for sending images and video to race headquarters via satellite from the middle of the ocean.
Because of it’s grueling requirements and conditions, the Whitbread Around The World Race was known to be a male dominated sport. But why is celebrating the 1989 Whitbread Around The World Race, such an important year for the sport? 30 years ago the sport was taken over by a pioneer named Tracy Edwards who introduced the inclusion of the Maiden, the first all-female team to join the event. The Maiden attracted plenty of attention at the time, and now we get a taut, gripping documentary entitled “Maiden”.
Director Alex Holmes (“Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story”) reunites the original Maiden squad for an examination of the experience, the development of the boat team and the determination of its troubled skipper and originator Tracy Edwards. Holmes beautifully presents an overview of physical hardships and psychological weariness, but also injects the biggest obstacle of their journey with endless jabs of sexism, with the male-dominated sport not willing to give Edwards or the crew any respect that they deserved.
“Maiden” is a story of achievement and a message of women empowerment. Director Alex Holmes keeps the suspense of the sport alive and tense in “Maiden,” making the races and the pounding of the waves feel like a thriller as he makes it a major element of the feature.
Holmes brings together the twelve members of the original Maiden team, while keeping the documentary’s concentration is on Tracy Edwards, and using her as the lead character. “Maiden” sails at a tightly paced hour and a half running time as it documents Edwards’ idyllic turned tragic upbringing, and informatively details her inner complexity. She lost her father who would oversee a Hi-Fi business to a heart attack. His sudden death sent the juvenile Tracy spiraling out of control as she watched her mother try to keep up in a male dominated business. Tracy soon abandoned hope as her mother married again, this time to an abusive man. The violence she endured, drove Edwards out of the family home as a teenager, soon taking her to the messiness of youth including being suspended twenty-six times before she was finally expelled at sixteen.
The liberation of the high seas, helped Tracy find inner peace within the world of boating. She was constantly rejected from yacht crews due to her gender, where she finally ended up on a boat, but only to cook and clean, keeping her down below while the men tended to the sailing up top. Edwards was frustrated with the situation and found it difficult to connect with the male crew. She was soon inspired to take her own spot in the Whitbread Race, which not only required meticulous planning, but a crew, a ship, and a sponsor.
The sponsorship had arrived in the form of King Hussein of Jordan, who formed an unlikely friendship with Edwards, supporting her quest to win the Whitbread. With a sponsor in lock, the idea for the Maiden was soon born, but not without tremendous obstacles to overcome, such as media coverage, battles of sexism, life threatening weather conditions, among other obstacles.
Holmes details the obstacles they had faced, including one of Tracy’s dear friends who was part of the team as she broke her wrist during an initial test run, inspiring Tracy to take tighter control of the team. Clashes of personality come into focus as well. “Maiden” does chronicle the race, with four years of labor put to the test as Edwards launches her vessel, embarking on a competition that have the crew dealing with competitors, but primarily themselves, learning to work together as the open waters begin their mission to make life difficult for the Maiden.
Holmes makes the journey clear, with maps surveyed and goals defined, helping those in the audience unfamiliar with yacht racing follow along easily with the Maiden’s voyage. Challenges are common, including time in the Southern Ocean, where churning waters and glaciers threaten their progress. The crew also deals with a major leak, tasked with locating and repairing a potentially disastrous issue without any outside help.
Aside from fighting off the weather conditions, Tracy and the Maiden crew had to overcome their biggest battle….sexism and the attention of the media, forcing Edwards to deal with chauvinistic men and their insistence that “girls” don’t belong in this competition and that they can’t do what men can. Holmes serves up plenty of footage to highlight such condescending remarks, including interviewing the reporter who referred to the women as “a tinful of tarts”.
Made up of amateur footage captured during the voyage, all thanks to the video footage shot on the yacht by Jo Gooding who was also the Maiden’s cook. The on location footage is interspersed with present-day interviews with Edwards and crew members, “Maiden” is wonderfully suspenseful especially if like me, you have no idea who Tracy Edwards was or how the race turned out.
The film delivers real sporting suspense, while staying true and not losing sight of the crews personalities, with the individual members articulating their feelings, about the race and its significance when it comes to breaking gender barriers. Holmes gives us a true underdog story with multiple perspectives and a real defined goal to celebrate the perseverance of one woman and her vision to become number one in an unthinkable competition.
Alex Holmes “Maiden” plays as a high-stakes sports documentary. There are plenty of gorgeous, but stomach-churning shots of the Maiden being tossed around in the high seas. Holmes that the strengths of his subjects are important and lets them speak for themselves. The women are so rich in thoughtful commentary that the race can easily play as a backdrop for what is a moving story of self-discovery and the empowerment of women.
Now retired from sailing but still promoting female empowerment through her Maiden Factor Foundation (which raises funds for girls’ education), Edwards an inspiration, for girls everywhere as she fought for respect, made history for women everywhere and came to play to win. With its can-do spirit and inspirational message, “Maiden” is one of this summer’s surest crowd pleasers and one of the years beat films.
GRADE: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)