Maiden is truly a voyage of firsts
Alex Holmes’ newest documentary feature, Maiden, tells the story of the first all-female sailing crew to enter the Whitbread Around the World Challenge. I have a vague memory of hearing about this challenge, but none of Tracy Edwards, the woman who did the seemingly impossible by gathering together a crew of experienced (some more than others) sailors, cobbling together enough money to enter the race (knowing foreign royalty helped), and managing to find a second-hand boat to spruce up.
All these tribulations, at first, seem like formidable red flags, but in Holmes’ film we learn that this story is dependent upon such trials. In the end, the women know their boat better than anyone, and through their journey together, they will discover more than they could ever know about themselves and each other, all the while showing the world that women kick ass.
As I said, I knew nothing of this story before watching this film, which saddens me greatly. However, I would advise if you, too, are new to this story to not look up any information before watching the film, most especially how the team finishes in the Whitbread race. Like any great sports film, Maiden is incredibly suspenseful, and is worth keeping yourself on the edge waiting to see what happens next. This race is truly one of the last epic ways to court adventure in this world, and by the film’s end, if you’re not thinking about ways to fund your own ill-advised boat, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Aside from the archival footage of the race, Maiden features interviews with Tracy, and other members of her crew, including childhood best friend, Jo Gooding. They speak about this adventure with such reverence for the impact it made on their lives, their recollections are deeply insightful, funny, sad, and joyous. Tracy, especially as the leader, is a character unto herself in this film, as Holmes’ manages to turn much of the film into a study on her.
The film also features interviews with rival crew teams of the era, most of whom have the ability to comment honestly about their sexist views of the “Maiden” crew at the time, and respectfully on how the women’s presence was impactful to future generations of sailors. Most irksome perhaps are the interviews with a couple journalists who reported on the story at the time. Their retelling of a bar wager on how long the women’s team would last in the race is sure to put a fire in some viewers’ bellies.
And that’s it, that’s all I will say about this incredibly uplifting, and joyful documentary. The more you don’t know going in, the more you are sure to get out of it. How appropriate a title is “Maiden?” A maiden is untouched, untested, the first. A maiden is a woman named Tracy Edwards who saw an opportunity and turned it into a movement. If only we all could be so bold.