Grit and hope turn “Maiden” into a winner
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Blu-ray; 2018; PG for profanity and thematic elements; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: “An evening with Maiden”
TOLD PRIMARILY from the perspective of Tracy Edwards, a gray-haired, small-statured, pixie-faced Englishwoman, “Maiden” is the inspiring story of a yacht race. The race, once known as the “Whitbread Round the World,” had always been the domain of men until, against all odds, the 26-year-old Edwards changed history.
Edwards had fallen in love with yacht-racing after a job as a cook on a boat in the 1985-86 Whitbread. After that, when she tried to join a crew for subsequent race, she was universally rebuffed. So, she assembled an all-female crew and managed to scrape the money together (with a little help from Jordan’s King Hussein, whom she’d met by chance) to refit an old yacht and enter 1989-90 Whitbread.
Directed by Alex Holmes, “Maiden,” which is the name of Edwards’ yacht, is made up of lots of archival footage bolstered by recent interviews with the female crew. From Edwards’ discussion of her troubled youth, to the endless onslaught of prejudice and jokes she and her fellow sailors withstood, to the series of little – and huge – successes of the grueling 167-day race around the world, “Maiden” is a real-life adventure story. It’s certain to keep viewers riveted. They’ll be cheering on the bold, impressive young women who changed the culture of competitive sailing.
(1) Archival footage - Start of the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. (2) A recent interview with Tracy Edwards.
This Sony Blu-ray 1080p transfer is extremely satisfying, considering the large amount of amateur archival footage, which Holmes admits he was beyond lucky to have. The recent interviews, of course, are all sharp and look state-of-the-art. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also fine, with the new interviews always intelligible. The vintage recording is much rougher, but still doing the job quite well.
Extras include “Women Making Waves,” a behind-the-scenes featurette, and “An Evening with Maiden,” an onstage Q&A, moderated by Briana Dekeyser and featuring Holmes, Edwards and Victoria Gregory, one of the film’s producers. Holmes explains that, until he learned about all the video Edwards’ childhood friend Jo had shot during the race, he was sure he would need to hire actors to dramatize Edwards’ story. It took two years to gather up all the amateur footage, which was stored in places like Edwards’ mother’s cupboard and her aunt’s home, as well as the TV news video from that time. Edwards says they wanted the journey filmed, “because we hoped we were doing something amazing.” In retrospect, she regrets they didn’t begin filming from the early days of organizing and planning, instead of after they acquired the boat that would become the Maiden.
Holmes jokes that, “back in those days, you didn’t film everything you did” the way we do today on our smartphones. When asked about the lives of the crew members after the race, Tracy confesses that she “didn’t expect to be instantly famous.” Her reaction was to withdraw, have a “breakdown … and become a recluse in Wales for the next two years.” One former Maiden crew member went on to lead the first all-woman Americas Cup team. Another woman’s son sailed in that race.
The woman who had been responsible for the Maiden’s electrical system went back to school and earned a degree in electrical engineering; she is now the head of Vodaphone. Some of the crew members were uncomfortable talking about the negative things that happened during the race, notes Edwards, especially negative things about her. She says she encouraged them to tell Holmes the whole, unvarnished truth, which he adds is “what makes the film interesting and believable.”
Edwards concludes that the race was “so much more than a bunch of women sailing around the world … it was about “making equality happen.”
— Peggy Earle
(1) Newspaper clipping from August 30, 1989. (2) Tracy Edwards became the first female winner of the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.