Documentary filmmaker Alex Holmes brings to the screen the true adventure of the first all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World race. To achieve their goal to enter and be respected in the race, Tracy Edwards and her all-woman crew stood up to the sexism in the 1989 sailing world which was equally as harsh as their 33,000-mile ocean journey.
The main focus of “Maiden” is on Edwards, and rightfully so. Her personal history is of great interest, as we experience her mother’s influence on her drive to overcome misogynistic obstacles and achieve her dreams.
After the sudden death of her father and watching her mother fight a losing battle against a “man’s workplace” and remarry to an abusive husband, Edwards left home to find solace and purpose in the world of boating.
Edwards would become fascinated by the Whitbread Race, which challenges competitors to circumvent the globe in only eight months, attracting the finest and most skilled yachting teams. For the teenaged Edwards, this became a goal and her one dream.
After working her way up from years as a deck hand on charter boats Edwards forms her crew, retooling a broken-down and dangerously unseaworthy craft into a viable contender to complete the dangerous journey from Uruguay to Australia.
“Maiden” is an important and inspiring story about overcoming different kinds of oppressive forces. The media- and male-dominated yachting world ridiculed the all-female crew who were audacious enough to believe they could make the treacherous journey while the sea itself dared them to try. “The ocean is always trying to kill you,” says Edwards and the amazing footage shot by her crew is completely jaw-dropping as we see them battling the elements of the unforgiving seas.
The one problem with the film is its simplistic presentation of it all. There isn’t enough time spent on the emotional and physical might that each crew member had to muster to complete this historic task. Little time is given to the specifics of what each crew member does, I challenge the viewer to explain the role each woman plays on the boat. Edwards explains that all of the women “knew what the other was thinking” but the audience isn’t allowed a better explanation into the sisterhood that made this crew so special. This is a directorial misstep, as the viewer needs to be fully aware of how Edwards brought her crew together and what she saw in each of them that gave her the assurance that these indeed were the pioneering women that could steer them all towards history.
That said, the footage of the final stretch of the journey is cheer-inducing as we see the once outcasts embraced by so many. We are fully aware that the triumphs of Edwards and her crew will inspire many to fight against the odds preventing you from reaching your dream.
If not a great documentary, it is in that message of hope and inspiration that “Maiden” delivers that the film earns its place as essential viewing experience.