by director Alex Holmes
Maiden is one of those inspirational stories that, once heard, you are unlikely to forget. And so it was for me. My first encounter with Tracy Edwards was when she came to give a speech at my daughter’s elementary school. I was struck not only by the power of the story but by Tracy’s passion and commitment. I knew straight away that I wanted to make a film that celebrated her achievement.
The film tells the story of how Tracy, a troubled teenager and high school drop-out, ended up as a cook on charter boats. It was there she discovered a love of navigation and set her heart on competing in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, one of the toughest challenges in sailing.
But as Tracy would soon find out, in the 1980s ocean racing was a male-dominated sport, and the only way for a woman to get a place on a boat was in the galley. And after nine months spent cooking for a boatful of men in the 1984/5 race Tracy realised that to fulfil her dream of competing as a sailor she would have to put together the first all-women crew and enter the race with her own boat.
What followed was a four-year battle against prejudice and chauvinism. Tracy and her crew were told repeatedly that they couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t compete. And yet they refused to give up. They bought a secondhand boat, which the women refitted themselves, teaching themselves plumbing, carpentry and a host of other skills along the way. Four years later they found themselves on the start line of the Whitbread and took the world by storm.
Maiden is a film about guts and the power of determination, about how when we are allowed to believe in ourselves great things are possible. It’s the story of a young girl who dared to dream and of a team that came together to challenge chauvinism and set an example to the world.
Tracy’s story is as relevant today as it was back when she and her crew completed their momentous journey. That first evening at the school, as I watched my eleven-year-old daughter listen to Tracy tell her story I realised that my daughter would face many of the same obstacles that Tracy had faced all those years ago.
I want to shine a light on the fact that while much has changed in the world since Tracy set off on the voyage of a lifetime, deep down much remains the same. Half the world still faces an uphill struggle to realise their full potential and as a result we all are reduced. All humanity benefits when we level the playing field and open up opportunity to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or belief.