A documentary by Alex Holmes. Rated PG
A fascinating tale is sleekly drawn in Maiden, which focuses on a woman who skippered the first-ever all-female crew to sail around the world in the aptly named Whitbread yacht race.
The film has plenty of particulars about that event, which started in 1989—can that really be 30 years ago?—and it also has something to say about the risky idea of firsts in general.
Certainly, it takes a personality as naturally contrarian as that of Tracy Edwards to buck any set system. A quick preface describes her childhood in Southern England—idyllic, until the sudden death of her father, then replaced by an abusive step-parent.
The defiant teenager was drawn to the almost entirely white and male world of boat racing, and she crewed (mostly as a cook) before putting her own team together.
This efficiently made doc from Alex Holmes, who also directed a 2005 doc about the Dunkirk flotilla, includes pithy present-day interviews with Edwards and a number of her then crewmembers. These include French doctor Marie-Claude Heys, with whom she butted heads, and Dutch sailor Tanja Visser, who shot much of the exciting footage of the 33,000-mile journey.
The stubborn Edwards made enemies easily, but also garnered potent support. A chance meeting with Jordan's King Hussein led to his funding the purchase of the beat-up, 38-foot craft she redubbed Maiden. Why the movie is not called Maiden Voyage remains a mystery, but the ship did leave Southampton with a banner proclaiming "Maiden Great Britain".
The Edwards of 1989 proclaims that she is "definitely not a feminist", although events suggest otherwise. The movie doesn't tell us much about what she has done since, or delve much into her personal life, although one can deduce some pretty serious trauma from the fact that she has been involved with several groups devoted to protection of children online.
Whatever is pushing her forward still at age 56, her determination is inspiring to see.