Tracy Edwards didn't grow up wanting to sail; she wanted to be a ballerina like her mother. But when she was 10 years old her father died. Her mother quickly remarried and moved with her new husband to Wales. Tracy fell in with bad companions, was suspended from school 26 times and was finally expelled for good after being caught drinking and smoking while on a school trip. She was 15 years old.
Her mother thought some time spent backpacking around the continent would be good for her, so she took off. She was working in a bar in a Greek port when the skipper of a luxury yacht walked in looking to hire a stewardess. Despite a tendency to seasickness, Edwards signed on.
88 Cast: Documentary, with Tracy Edwards, Mikaela Von Koskull, Jeni Mundy
Director: Alex Holmes
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
It didn't take long before she worked her way up to first mate and was hooked on the idea of sailing "as freedom."
She decided to circumnavigate the globe. Her best chance to do this involved signing on as a crew member in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race, a nine-month journey that covers 32,000 miles. But time and time again she was turned down -- some crews told her having a woman on board was "bad luck." Eventually, she managed to join the crew of the Atlantic Pride, not as a sailor, but as a cook.
After that frustrating experience, she decided to put together an all-female crew for the 1989 race. At considerable personal expense (and some help of Jordan's King Hussein), she arranged to buy and refurbish a 10-year-old 58-foot yacht. She re-named it Maiden and began recruiting a crew to race in the Whitbread. She was 24 years old.
Many were skeptical. In Maiden, documentarian Alex Holmes' (Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story) stirring retelling of the story, one member of Edwards' crew, Jeni Mundy, remembers being told: "You're not strong enough. You're not skilled enough. Girls don't get on. You'll die."
Did they? It's not that big a spoiler to report that they did not, although Edwards is realistic enough to concede: "The ocean is always trying to kill you."
Employing archival footage -- much of it captured by the ship's cook and official videographer Jo Gooding -- but finding its heart in some bracingly direct new interviews with characters central and peripheral to the story (Holmes tracks down a journalist -- Bob Fisher of The Guardian -- who called Edwards and her crew "a tinful of tarts"), Maiden transcends the rousing underdog sports story genre and offers an intriguing look at a stubbornly persistent sporting culture; one characterized by mindsets as outdated as its technology.
MovieStyle on 08/09/2019
Print Headline: Maiden