Four years in the making, filmmaker Alex Homes celebrates a very unique 1989, sailing achievement of Tracy Edwards in his latest documentary MAIDEN. Under the leadership of a bold, young 26-year-old, Tracy Edwards, she hand-picks and then skippers the first all-female sailing crew to ever enter the open-ocean yacht race in the Whitbread Round the World Race.
The race began in 1973 and happens globally every three years. Whitbread Round the World Race was named after the original British sponsor, Whitbread brewery that later became a hotel and hospitality chain. In 2001, the Swedish automobile manufacturers Volvo Cars took the reigns under the Volvo Group. In 2019, the race is renamed as, The Ocean Race, now owned by Atlant Sports Group.
Beating all odds that a finish was in their future, the 26-year-old skipper, her second-hand racing yacht, called the Maiden, and her experienced all-female crew proved to be the darlings of the sea in 1989. They shocked Great Britain and the world, as qualified competitors in the demanding and somewhat treacherous race, beating-out male crews in their yacht-class. After 32,000 nautical miles of racing around the world, the Maiden's crew amazed the sailing world with a second place finish. The excitement of the captive audience on land and sea of the Maiden's performance was so overwhelming that it was as if they had won first prize, not second.
Tracy Edwards was awarded the 1990 Yachtsman of the Year Award being the first woman to receive the special award, as well as, being named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. One of the highest honors deemed a sailor of the sea.
The glory and glamour for this 1989-90 sailing accomplishment does not begin pretty. Holmes eloquently captures Edwards, each crew member and their incredible journey of their highs and lows. The hours of original archival film footage, interviews, news reports and still photography collectively bring together a captivating narrative that has its audience on-the-edge of their seat. By far, it's better than any feature-film thriller. Holmes draws out the emotional impact of such a feat and documents a crew of unlikely heroines along with their 58-foot boat which Edwards describes as "a wreck with a pedigree."
Holmes notes, "Most remarkable is the very raw and real footage filmed onboard Maiden." Edwards explains, "We had two cameras, a fixed camera mounted on the back of the board, and a hand-held camera. When you see the video lunching around the heavy seas, that's the fixed camera. there was an emergency button by the hatch, so if it's 'all hands on deck' the last person up would hit that button, and that's where we got the images of surfing giant waves." Edwards continues, "Then there was Jo with her camera"--Joanna Gooding, who was Tracy's girlhood friend. She was the cook and documentarian. "She was everywhere with her camera! You'd be doing something, you'd turn around and it was 'Jo, Jo, go away!' But, she never gave up. Alex said it was her tiny little vignettes that make the film."
There is so much of this story to be realized but one must first have a look at Holmes amazing documentary celebrating impossible dreams made possible. Every captive audience member will have a take-away from Edwards' story. Holmes makes mention that it was luck that brought the two together upon listening to Edwards speech years later advocating for women's and girl's education and empowerment by sharing her story of the Maiden, while attending a function at his daughters elementary school in South West London. Their four year journey documenting Edwards and her mates challenging story has gained world-wide recognition. Each member has gone on to accomplished careers. Edwards' accomplishment continues with her life's passion that Holmes counts a privilege to be a participant. He adds, "Currently, the racing yacht Maiden has been resurrected with a determined new life carrying forward Tracy Edwards' Maiden Factor Foundation supporting girls' education. And, surely it’s empowering women for generations to come.