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Maiden: A rousing doco on the first all-female crew in the Whitbread race

directed by Alex Holmes

British sailor Tracy Edwards and her crew may not have been victorious in the Whitbread Round the World Race, but they won the battle of the sexes.

The 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race might be remembered here as the battle of the moustaches, the one in which Sir Peter Blake’s maxi Steinlager 2 won every leg ahead of Grant Dalton’s Fisher & Paykel NZ. Maiden, a rousing documentary about the race’s first all-female crew, captained by Tracy Edwards, remembers it differently. The real race was down in division D, where the second-hand Bruce Farr-designed boat that young Englishwoman Edwards remortgaged her house to buy and refit won two legs – Uruguay to Fremantle and Fremantle to Auckland – only to fall behind in the stages back to Southampton.

But Edwards and her international crew won the battle of the sexes, defying the yachting fraternity, who thought women weren’t suited to the rigours of blue-water racing, and a sailing media that took bets on how far off the English coast Maiden would get. The film focuses mainly on Edwards, whose love of sailing gave her an escape from her troubled teen years, and whose work as a chef on Mediterranean gin palaces got her a job in an earlier Whitbread and the motivation to never again sail around the world in a tub full of blokes. Half a dozen of her smart, funny crew also feature among the interviewees.

The low-definition VHS footage and an intrusive soundtrack don’t do the film any favours. Otherwise, it’s edited tautly and tells a terrific story that even avowed landlubbers should find gripping.



Video: Rialto Distribution

This article was first published in the October 5, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.