Directed by Alex Holmes, Maiden tells the story of Tracy Edwards who, in 1989, became the first female skipper to captain the first ever all women crew. Together, they sailed the seas in the Whitbread Round the World Race and made quite a splash.
Maiden captures the spirit of what it was like for these women to compete in a race that had been dominated by men, as well as the trials and tribulations that befall them once Tracy Edwards decides this is what she’s going to do. The film documents her time as a cook on a yacht during the previous competition, but after being undermined, decides to captain to buy her own ship and invited only women to join her. The road getting there is obviously rough and captain and crew struggle for three years to get sponsorship. When it comes to success, we all see the outcome, the end of the race and not the hardships, stress, and the feeling of wanting to give in and give up on your dream before finally making it. There’s a lot of disappointment that comes hand-in-hand with that upward climb and a whole lot of roadblocks at every turn and Maiden documents all this.
Edwards gave up everything and focused all of her energy on getting her ship to compete and, though it paid off in the end–not because she and the crew won, but because they’d accomplished something previously thought to be impossible–the film makes sure to showcase how hard, lonely, and emotionally draining it can be when you’re not just focused on the race, but also on proving every naysayer wrong. It’s a lot of pressure that women still constantly face, women of color more so. After all, the double standard still exists and patriarchy rears its head in every facet of our lives. However, Maiden balances the hardships with the accomplishments and it brings to life that journey in a very realistic way. Without realizing it, Edwards’ decision to join a yachting competition became a stepping stone for any woman who might and will follow in her footsteps.
Maiden doesn’t skip over the unpleasant aspects of the journey either. There’s a consistent and underlying “they can’t do it” attitude that comes from almost everyone who isn’t a part of the all female crew. Edwards and company are patronized and scoffed at constantly. However, it’s Edwards’ perseverance that shines through when the going gets rough and it makes all of the hard-earned recognition and success that much more worth it in the end. Tears of joy, of incredulity at the positive response Maiden received when it finally reached that long-awaited finish line will make you feel just as thrilled and satisfied as it did Edwards and her team.
The film is focused primarily on the Maiden’s voyage, seamlessly interspersed with commentary from those involved in the race in any capacity, including a couple of the journalists who wrote scathing things about Maiden and the women aboard. Holmes’ choices to include actual video footage and pictures from before and during the race, including the scary few hours the yacht was taking on water and the crew thought they wouldn’t make it the rest of the race, made the viewing experience that much more raw and powerful. “The harder it became, the more I wanted to do it,” Edwards says at one point, the challenge apparent in her voice. And it’s exactly that kind of defiant energy that carries the film and, like Edwards and her all-female crew prove, women are capable of anything.