Film Review: MAIDEN (UK 2018) ****

Maiden Poster

The story of Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook on charter boats, who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989.


Alex Holmes

The newly refurbished Maiden yacht will dock in Vancouver, July 28-August 2, as part of a two-year world tour to raise funds and awareness for girls’ education and female empowerment.  Why is the Maiden famous and what is it known for?  Alex Holmes’s MAIDEN is an exhilarating documentary that played at TIFF 2018 and Sundance 2019, delighting audiences with its story about 26-year-old Tracy Edwards, who broke the
glass ceiling when she skippered the first all-female crew to enter the world’s biggest sailing event, the Whitbread Round the World Race, in 1989-1990 (renamed Volvo Ocean Race in 2001).  Maiden is name of Edward’s racing yacht.

The film begins with these warning words: “The ocean is out to kill!”   “It does not take a break.” “There is no hope if anything happens.”  Yet, the doc’s subject, Tracey Edwards, at the time of the race at the age of 26, face crashing waters and frigid temperatures – the big setback at sea.  In 1989, the concept of an all-female crew was inconceivable to the manly world of open-ocean yacht racing.  Press bet on their failure.  Sponsors balked, fearing that the crew might perish and bring bad publicity.  After a failure at almost 2 years for sponsorship, Edwards refused to give up – she remortgaged her home and bought a secondhand boat that the crew refurbished themselves. She finally secured sponsorship through Jordan’s King Hussein.

Holmes humanizes the story by telling the story of Tracey from young child to older woman with white hair that she has now.  This was, that the audience can relate to the character, the underdog and root for her.  Tracey had the idyllic childhood till the worse thing imaginable could happen, happened to a child – the loss of one of a parent.  She moved to Wales with her mother and new abusive step-father which resulted in her running away from home.  Other adventures led her to her realization of her love or sailing.  When she realized the difficulty of females getting on a crew for the Whitebread World Race, she formed her own crew.  The doc continues this story.

The film contains interviews with Tracey and her crew as well as a few male sailors who  talk about their admiration and astonishment of the female sailor.  The film has a major part of its running time, the race that the Maiden won.  One wonders how many of the scenes were shot, especially with the waves crashing the boat.  According to the press notes, archival footage were taken on the boat, which explains the authentic ‘fly off the wall’ footage film that would almost get one seasick.

But what is most exhilarating about the doc is the human account of an underdog doing well – showing off those skeptical who claim that it cannot be done.  Edwards hows the triumph of ones human spirit over adversity,  The film also shows that she is not the person you want to be around with either, when she is under pressure – showing both sides to the coin.

MAIDEN is a beautiful documentary celebrating the harshness of nature and the foibles and strength of man – or woman in that respect.


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