Monday 8 July 2019

Yachts, women and change: Maiden and Tracy Edwards

Maiden crew in 1989

This week in the US there’s much publicity about the new initiatives by pioneering yachtswoman Tracy Edwards MBE. 
In 1989, age 24, she skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race on the 58-foot yacht Maiden
Maiden, the documentary film about her and the crew, was screened in New York last week, It is just opening in Washington this week.
Tracy's original boat has been rescued. Since 2018 it is on a promotional voyage with a new crew, to enable greater opportunities for young women via the Anything is Possible program. 
And guess what? No-one is calling the boat 'she'.No-one is wondering if the women can cut the mustard.
But Edwards finds her new crew are part of generation who still face horrifying levels of sexism. And today it's more insidious, harder to tackle.

Maiden's new crew at Hawiai Yacht Club July 2019.
Picture from Maiden Factor blog


Maiden, the documentary about the original voyage, was made by Alex Holmes using much of the footage shot by women on board 30 years ago. 

++ When Maiden came out in the UK in March 2019 the Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw gave it 3 stars, commented on the sexism in articles of the time and added:
 “There is something that the film doesn’t address as clearly it could have done. In 1989, Edwards was asked if she was a feminist and she said no – and that she hated the word. ‘It’s probably clear enough what she meant: she just wanted an equal shot at yachting success, just as the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher once wanted an equal shot at political success. 
But, given that the present-day Edwards is interviewed at length, Holmes could perhaps have given her another chance to consider that question.’ See Maiden review – raging seas and sexist squalls, and some interesting comments by readers:

++ Yesterday's Independent, headlines its article 'Setting sail for feminism',

++ In current video interviews Edwards still refers to her colleagues as 'girls', not 'women'. But she does critique the sexists who 30 years ago asked her about packing waterproof mascara, handling female quarrels, and keeping one's lips soft with salve. 
There's also the men who said Edwards and her all-female crew 'would' - not 'might' - die in the process of competing. 
At the time Maiden's crew wanted to be seen as girly-girls when they arrived in port. They succeeded. But their impeccably-braided hair and makeup meant some people imagined their feat had been minor. It was, in fact, perilous,

++A Daily Telegraph article last year found 'Edwards is impressed by the voice of her daughter’s generation – ‘even boys her age are in MeToo T-shirts’ – and is amazed at the number of female applicants to crew the boat' on this new voyage.

The Maiden crew get together again in 2018.
Film-maker Jo is fifth from left. Tracy is first on the right.
 Picture is from Michael Chester and Maiden

Camera woman/cook

Many videos can be seen on YouTube including
It includes comments by Holmes but also Edwards' explanation of how Jo Gooding, their cook, had become the film-maker too. 
They had two cameras, not one (as on most boats), on board. 

Tracy and Mack at St Katherine's dock. Image courtesy of Mack and WP.

Moving on -- to help young women

Current online publicity heavily features Tracy’s daughter Mack Edwards-Mair, who, after seeing the film and the way her mother was acclaimed all over again, re-saw the situation.
‘Edwards and her daughter have teamed up to fight for gender equality in education,’ says the Washington Post. 
Maiden is at sea on its latest world tour, during which it is making 28 stops. 
‘The tour is led by a new generation of female sailors from around the world and is designed to help raise funds for the Maiden Factor’s affiliate charities.’
Mack Edwards-Mair, says the Washington Post, ‘will participate in a leg of Maiden’s journey as the ship sails from Vancouver to Seattle.
'While she admits she is actually “terrified” of the ocean and does not have a seafaring proclivity like her mother, Edwards-Mair said she is looking forward to participating in the journey. [She will take photos].
‘For her, it will be an opportunity to glimpse into the world of a woman she says has inspired her her whole life.
"She [Tracy] has made me believe that whatever I wanted to do, I could do it,” she said.’

The official blog is at

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