In 1989 Tracy Edwards leads the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a grueling yachting competition that covers 33,000 miles and lasts nine months.
If you want to get an idea of how women, their lives and their contributions get written out of history, consider the Wikipedia entry on “The 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race,” which includes the following two simple, factually correct sentences:
“This race featured the first all-woman crew on Tracy Edwards’ Maiden. Although in a much smaller boat than many of their male counterparts the women fared well — claiming two leg victories in Division D.”
These lines are dutifully informative. They’re also a maddeningly incomplete record of how Edwards, who turned 27 during the race, and her young team became headline news across the world. If you want the fuller, richer story of the women’s journey — their struggles at sea and on land, including virulent sexism — the place to turn is “Maiden,” a sleek, exhilarating documentary look back at their race into history. Because while the Wikipedia entry on the 1989-90 competition includes basic information about the event, it neglects the fight for gender parity that Edwards and her crew represent.
The around-the-world race — now called the Ocean Race — is grueling (and terrifying sounding). Established in 1973, it takes place every three years and lasts up to nine months. The race starts in the fall in Europe; the 2017-18 event, which began in Alicante, Spain, included 11 legs and chewed through 45,000 miles. Given that this is yachting, it’s an elite competition, of course, though not merely because it has also been a historically male one. Boats cost around $1 million to make, and the competition can cost far more. In the 2017-18 race only seven boats participated; in 1989-90 — when Edwards skippered the Maiden — 23 competed in four divisions.
I begin with the NYT review. This story is about feminism and the brave women who look at the detractors’ straight on. It’s also about the journalists who are clearly misogynist and see no value on what these women accomplished. It’s a necessary reminder. What these women did and what this one race revealed about individual struggles and institutionalized power is galvanizing while the rest of the story is being told.
Maiden is the story of how Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook in charter boats, became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World in 1989. Tracy’s inspirational dream was opposed on all sides: her male competitors thought an all-women crew would never make it, the chauvinistic yachting press took bets on her failure, and potential sponsors rejected her, fearing they would die at sea and generate bad publicity. But Tracy refused to give up: she remortgaged her home and bought a secondhand boat, putting everything on the line to ensure the team made it to the start line.
Throughout the story, Tracy is filled with self-doubts and it is her crew that lifts her up with their own imitable desires to succeed. With the help of her crew, she went on to shock the sport world and prove that women are very much the equal of men.
I suspect this documentary will get many awards. We need to bring these stories to the forefront of today’s movement towards true equality. “Time’s up” and women demand better! Every single post is about women rising above their “stations” in life to bring awareness to the struggles they still face. Whatever their motives, the desire to be their best is what brought them their glory.
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