‘Maiden’ is a must-see voyage
Directed by: Alex Holmes
Starring: Tracy Edwards, Dr. Claire Russell Warren, Angela Heath, and Jeni Mundy
“Maiden” – Some people reach for the stars. Tracy Edwards reached for the ocean.
Growing up in a loving household, Tracy’s sunny trajectory in the UK took a sharp and painful detour, and before one could say “troublemaker”, high school administrators suspended her 26 times. This frustrated teenager left home, and her unlikely, winding path led her to, of all things, sailing. In approximately eight years – and fueled by a motivated, adventurous spirit – Tracy hired a crew and captained a yacht in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race – a 33,000-mile nautical journey - at the age of 24.
“It was something I had to do,” Edwards says.
Director Alex Holmes (“Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story” (2014)) sits down with Edwards, her crew members and competitors, as they look back at this historic race. Certainly, anyone who possesses the courage to sail around the world deserves thunderous accolades, but her story offers a groundbreaking twist, because she captained her ship, the Maiden, with an all-female crew.
Needless to say, up until that time, yachting was a male-dominated sport. In fact, out of 230 sailors in the previous Whitbread Race, only a handful of women (four or five) – including Edwards who worked as a cook - participated. Edwards desired to race again but rather than be - literally - relegated back to the kitchen, she wanted to navigate a ship and decided that the only way to ensure this dream is to form an all-female team. This, of course, changed the reality of the sport, and since the media and her competitors deemed her efforts as a sideshow, a stunt or exercise in futility, she and her crew changed perceptions as well.
“Maiden” not only works as an empowering tale but also as a harrowing one. In addition to forming a team with 12 other women, taking on a dual role of skipper and navigator, and fighting through unforgiving, unpredictable weather, Edwards had two cameras on board to capture their victories and hardships.
Very quickly, we realize that a round-the-world sailing voyage is a life-and-death struggle, because, Mother Nature can show no forgiveness.
As Edwards explains, “The ocean is always trying to kill you. It doesn’t take a break.”
Holmes weaves the miraculous 30-year footage of the Maiden team and their trials on the high seas, while Edwards, and some of her crew members – like Dr. Claire Russell Warren, Angela Heath and Jeni Mundy – reminisce about their thought processes leading up to the race and their experiences during the half-year expedition.
While the women, as their youthful 1989-1990-selves, adjust to constantly changing winds and conditions, keep keen eyes on the competing yachts and push towards a hopeful triumph, their 2019-counterparts offer calming, confident vibes for the camera. Every woman carries a self-assuredness that may be difficult to quantify, but so easy to see and embrace with joy and admiration. Tracy Edwards and the Maiden crew may or may not steer you towards the ocean, but these women will leave you inspired to reach for the stars.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008, graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and is a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.