Maiden: How sisters sailed it for themselves

Review: This nautical racing documentary is a real crowd-pleaser with a strong finish

Maiden: the story of an all-female crew who entered the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.

Film Title: Maiden

Director: Alex Holmes

Starring: Tracy Edwards, Sally Creaser, Angela Farrell, Jo Gooding, Nancy Hill, Jeni Mundy, Michelle Paret, Claire Russell, Dawn Riley, Tanja Visser, Mikaela von Koskull, Mandi Swan, Marie-Claude Heys

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 97 min

Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 05:00


Back in the 1980s, nobody wanted a “girl” on their yacht. Well, at least not as part of the crew. Runaway teenager Tracy Edwards had other ideas. She was persistent enough to gain employment as a cook and a cleaner on various boats before she hit upon the idea that would land her in the history books.

Having raised enough money to buy a second hand vessel, she put together an all-female crew and entered the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. The press were bemused or outright dismissive: yachting journalist Bob Fisher called the team “a tin full of tarts”. Other sailors and members of the public jeered and suggested they wouldn’t last a month at sea.

The 1989 Fastnet race, a warm-up event, didn’t bode well: an jury forced Maiden to pull out of the race almost as soon as they had started. You don’t have to like sailing to enjoy Alex Holmes’s warm underdog documentary. Working alongside editor Katie Bryer, the director of Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story, crafts a ticking thriller from carefully selected archive and talking heads testimony.

Maiden trailer

Maiden has no interest the subsequent lives of the crew members, preferring to stay focussed on day-to-day hardships and small victories. We never really know how Edwards learned the navigational skills that allowed her to sail past more experienced seafarers. But she did. Maiden win two out of six legs of the global race. Not bad, as the crew notes, for “a tin full of tarts”.

The systemic and vicious misogyny that the women faced may still be evident online or in “locker room talk”, as Melania Trump has it, but it’s difficult to imagine Bob Fisher’s words appearing in a contemporary establishment newspaper, let alone the Guardian. The crew themselves now cringe at the moment they stripped down to swimsuits as they sailed into Florida.

Knowing the outcome of the race does nothing to diminish the closing, punch-the-air scenes. In common with its subject matter, this is a real crowd-pleaser with a strong finish.