It was 33,000 miles. It was a great source of patriotic pride and a chance to prove your weight in the sailing world.
Back then, it was called the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. Now, it is simply the Ocean Race, and it took its competitors on a journey very reflective of its title, submitting them to arduous, dangerous conditions.
In 1989, 23 crews set out from Southampton, England, for the nine-month haul. One of those teams was Tracy Edwards’ crew, sailing Maiden (or, with a wink and a nudge, “Maiden Great Britain”), the titular focus of director Alex Holmes’ new documentary.
Edwards, enamored by life at sea since she worked as a stewardess on a yacht, submitted the first all-female challenge. She was laughed at when she first proposed the idea in 1986—sailing was seen as a “men’s sport.” The film catches us up to speed, quickly relaying the three years it took for Edwards to build her crew, raise funding for the challenge, and, at age 27, bring that dream to fruition.
Holmes recreates Maiden’s journey, combining found footage from Tracy’s childhood, TV footage from the event itself, and interviews from each of the crew members years later, reflecting on the race.
Apart from the ocean itself, there were plenty of obstacles throughout their journey. No one believed that they could even pull off such a feat. They were, after all, women, and it was a men’s competition. Edwards had to convince the women she gathered to crew the ship that it was a battle worth fighting, herself taking the role of skipper—though by the end of the trip, she had picked up more responsibilities.
Not only does the film pull the nostalgia card, capturing the emotions of the crewmembers as they look back on that legendary trip, but the TV footage places you right in the midst of the action. We get to see Edwards hunched over the nautical map, drafting the route. We get to see the intensity of the waves, the crewmembers hoisting the sails and scaling the ropes to do their jobs. It is an incredible combination of mid- and post-experiential reflection.
Also included in the film’s narrative is the retrospect of Maiden’s competition, and various media outlets, such as Bob Fisher from The Guardian. It is fascinating to see the men discussing the sexist predispositions they’d had in 1989 and perhaps glimpse the lasting effects of those ruffled feathers. Despite Edwards stating in old footage that she hated the word “feminist,” we see Maiden’s valiant attempt to shake the societal structures set in place—to remind the world that, “Anything you can do, we can do.”
“Maiden” will play in July at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.
at Midtown Cinema
Central PA Open Screen
Thursday, July 11, 7 p.m.
National Theatre Live
Monday, July 15, 7 p.m.
3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Wrath of Khan”
Friday, July 19, 9:30 p.m.
“The Juniper Tree” (4K restoration)
Sunday, July 21, 7 p.m.
Down in Front! presents
“Ben & Arthur” (Pride edition)
Sunday, July 28, 7 p.m.
“Labyrinth,” July 12
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990), July 26
“Coco,” Aug. 9
“Paddington 2,” Aug. 30
All outdoor films begin at dusk.