December 8, 2019 – This is an amazing story of a woman, a boat and a crew that did something that was thought by many to be impossible. This documentary film tells an inspirational story that shows how this woman, Tracy Edwards, with the aid of a king, overcame daunting obstacles to fulfill her dream of competing in a famous round-the-world yacht race.
An extremely unlikely hero of the yachting world, Edwards was expelled from school in England, ran away from home and backpacked around Europe, starting at age 16. She wound up on a yacht as a stewardess in Greece. Later, she met King Hussein of Jordan, who had chartered the yacht in Massachusetts. He encouraged her to follow her dream of sailing on a yacht in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.
Edwards had managed to sign on as a cook on a yacht in a Whitbread race, and was hooked. Years later, she entered a Whitebread race with her own boat. This was all but impossible because she could not get sponsorship to buy a boat or pay the expenses that come with a 33,000-mile voyage. She mortgaged her home to get started on the project and recruited an all-female crew of sailors. Without the money for a new boat, she bought a 10-year-old boat and the crew fixed it up themselves. Eventually, she did find a sponsor, her old friend, King Hussein.
Sailing experts made fun of the all-female crew of Maiden, and the mockery seemed justified when differences between Edwards and her first mate, Marie-Claude Kieffer (the crew's most experienced sailor) led to her firing the first mate before the race had begun. Edwards ended up taking over as both skipper and navigator. It was hardly an auspicious start to the race in 1989. There was a betting pool amongst the press. Nobody thought Maiden would finish the race. Most thought they would not finish the first leg of the race (the shortest leg of the race was 3,000 miles). One newspaper writer called them, “a tinful of tarts.”
Not only did Maiden finish the race, the boat, and its crew were competitive, winning two legs of the race. Edwards, the crew and the boat became the toast of all England. This was a great surprise to Edwards and her crew. They were disappointed they didn't win the race and did not expect much of a reception, other than family and friends, when they returned home to England.
This movie features some great footage from this adventure, filmed on board during the race by Edwards' oldest friend, and ship's cook, Jo Gooding. Filming the voyage was Gooding's idea, and it was almost an afterthought when it came to the hectic race preparations. Of course the film turned out to be invaluable to director Alex Holmes, enabling him to better illustrate this story.
Sailing in the wild southern seas at night at speed amongst iceburgs, the pounding of waves on the boat, causing a leak, stalling at sea with no wind, fierce storms and dangerous waves, are all part of this race. When a sailor dies on one of the other boats in the race, it highlights the dangers of ocean racing. A sailor who falls overboard has little chance of being rescued. If the boat is damaged far from land, there is often no way to repair it. Edward admits in the film that one has to be a little bit crazy to enter this race.
This is dangerous high adventure, but it is also inspirational. The director, Holmes does a good job of bringing out the personalities of the crew and detailing the obstacles overcome in this project to enter, and complete, the Whitebread Race. This film rates a B+. I saw a DVD of this movie, and the special features on it are certainly worth a look, particularly if you are interested in what became of Edwards and Maiden crew after the race.
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