Maiden – A Remarkable & True Story In Overcoming Adversity

In 1989 I was studying for my GCSE’s. I remember it really well even though it was 30 years ago. I was up quite late one night and finishing off my Design and Technology GCSE project ( I had built a sailing dinghy) and recall watching a news article about Tracy Edwards and her all female crew in their preparations for the Whitbread round the world yacht race.


My childhood was spent sailing boats, building boats, designing boats, reading about boats dreaming about boats & planning sailing trips and talking to anyone who would listen to me about boats.  This is why I was not a natural student, apart from learning about boats at which I excelled. I had been a keen follower of the Whitbread race from since I could read and had read most of the books published about the event up until this point.


Bear with me on this, I’m just setting the scene, this article is not about me, but the content really had and still does have a major influence on me.


I was well aware of Tracy Edwards and had massive respect for her, the crew and of course Maiden, the yacht that took them safely around the world.  Since 1989, Tracy Edwards had sometimes been in my mind. I read the book of their 89/90 circumnavigation of course and often used to see Maiden in Poole harbour when she visited in the early 90s. She was impossible to miss with her distinctive colours and pink wheels!  Their achievements were quite remarkable. Breaking all the rules in a male dominated sport and wins on the water and further paving the way for woman generally in sailing – but more of that later.


Maiden and Tracy Edwards went into the history books and many years went by with the occasional news article about Tracy Edwards, her all female crew and Maiden. It was not until more recently that I have again taken stock of her achievements and the next phase of this piece of maritime history continues.


This article was triggered 2 nights ago when my wife (who is as equally into sailing as I am) watched the newly released film about the story of Tracy Edwards and Maiden that marked 30 years since the great event of 1989/90


Let me continue. In 2014, Tracy Edwards found Maiden abandoned and in terrible condition in a Seychelles marina, far away from the UK in the Indian Ocean. A sad demise for a lady with such pedigree. Tracy Edward hatched a plan to bring Maiden home to the UK and having raised funds, Maiden was placed on a ship and brought back to Southampton where a dramatic rebuild started. 2 years later a basically brand-new Maiden was re launched in Southampton


I have followed this story closely, watching the rebuild online and I have to say that there was a lump in my throat when I went to Southampton boat show last year and saw Maiden in the flesh for the first time in nearly 30 years. She looked absolutely stunning in the same colour scheme and of course those pink wheels!


Long story short, The Maiden Factor has been set up as a registered charity, and, with an all-female crew, Maiden is currently 1 year into an around the world trip with the view to raising money for girls education. A school’s programme is being developed and Maiden is a beacon for all that can be achieved by girls if they are believed in and given a chance. The aim is to inspire girls and women and to facilitate education where they may be excluded. The Maiden factor will fund schools in developing countries with a focus on girls aged 5-18.


There is so much to this story and I appreciate that I only have a short time to keep your attention. This article is only a short piece to bring this remarkable and enduring story to your attention.


The film is one of the most inspiring factual stories we have ever watched. It was an emotional rollercoaster and the story of a young woman who’s early life shaped her to achieve something completely extraordinary. For us the raw emotion, sacrifices, passion and fear of failure were palpable, utterly absorbing and slightly nostalgic. 30 years ago seemed like yesterday.


Tracy Edwards and her crew entered the man’s world of ocean yacht racing, endured the sexist doubts and rudeness and general misogyny and not only pulled it off, but broke records that still exist today. Having recruited a 12-woman crew, Maiden finished second in her class, winning two out of six individual legs of the race including the 2nd leg that took them deep into the Southern Ocean.


With the Maiden factor, the story continues as does the focus to support woman all over the world to be the best they can be, to dream big and to confirm what has always been the fact. Woman are equal and must have the same opportunities as men and any attempts to stifle female endeavour or creativity must be addressed.


If you want a dose of inspiration and to learn just what can be achieved in the face of adversity and to see just how far we have come in the last 30 years, you have to watch this film.


Do something great today!


Paul French

WOKC – Women’s Open Keelboat Challenge – Mrs F at the helm!

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