MAIDEN – The All Female Yacht Crew that Made a Splash

Sailing is a passion of mine, one I cannot afford haha. I sailed in school and eventually joined a couple of crews sailing in Sydney. There is nothing quite like being at the mercy of the elements and the most profound thing about it, it is mostly silent as there is no motor. It can be the most peaceful and beautiful thing you will ever do and can also be one of the single most scary things you can experience in life. In the breath of a wind things can go horribly pear shaped. And i’m just talking about sailing on Pittwater or Sydney Harbour and out around the heads. The ladies of MAIDEN sailed the Whitbread in 1989. A round the world race that took them 167 days and 3hrs.

MAIDEN is the documentary of this historic race, the first female crew who went from laughing stock to serious competitors who more than earned the respect of the world. It is out now from Rialto Distribution on limited release, it is rated M and runs for 97mins. Enjoy Kernel Claire’s wonderful review of an even more wonderful film you need to find and see!! All the best………..JK.

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MAIDEN documents the story of skipper TRACY EDWARDS who helmed an eighteen-metre aluminium ocean-racing yacht in The Whitbread Round The World Race. EDWARDS made waves in the yacht racing community by crewing the yacht entirely with women – the first of its kind in the Whitbread race. In the previous years’ contests there were only four female crew members (all of whom were enlisted as kitchen-hands) amongst the almost two hundred and fifty male sailors.

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In the current times of solo female sailors and women doing kickass things in traditionally male spaces all across the globe, it’s easy to overlook this mammoth achievement from EDWARDS and her crew of skilled sailors as an underwhelming achievement. But The Whitbread Race is nothing to be scoffed at – thirty-two-thousand nautical miles across six sprints spanning 130-200 days of sailing in seas that are constantly trying to kill you. The race is so tough that the journalists documenting the event had bets placed on when MAIDEN would pull out of the race. None of them had EDWARDS and her crew pinned to even complete the first leg. The crew surpassed all expectations by not only finishing all six sprints, but winning and placing in two of them then arriving at the finish line to a hero’s welcome. A memory which still brings the crew the teary warm and fuzzies when recounting the moment.

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EDWARDS had difficulty bankrolling the enormous sailing race. No one wanted to sponsor such an endeavor – the corporations she approached for funding told her it would be bad business to put their name onto a team that would likely die or at the very least wouldn’t be able to finish the race. She was told that women don’t get along well enough to crew a ship for over half a year of sailing together. She was told that women can’t sail and their only use is for the men to be screwing at port. She was denied loans and funds for the project, so the tenacious EDWARDS remortgaged her house to buy a secondhand boat which the crew repaired together to make race-ready.

Watching the interactions with EDWARDS’ crew and the press is an eye-opening view to the treatment of females in this previously male dominated field. Many examples are shown of journalists focussing their questions to the MAIDEN crew on the scandals of women working together at sea. While their male counterparts were being asked questions on tactics or navigation strategies, the all-female crew were being enquired on such questions as “Have there been any big fights?” “Are you all just in a sexual relationship together?” “Do you all get along?” “Who fights the most with who?”

The film deals with this head-on and deftly shows the frustration felt by the ladies being asked to “smile more” or asked once more which ones are screwing each other, or how many arguments they’ve had. Narrated largely by EDWARDS herself, the tiresome queries are evident to how much the press and the world at large underestimated the skills, stamina and potential of the MAIDEN crew. They just weren’t taken seriously.

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The crew onboard MAIDEN were all skilled sailors. EDWARDS made sure they were also hired because they had skills in other areas. One crew member was a nutritionist as well as a sailor, another, a skilled navigator. One crew member was a doctor – her skills were tested on the high seas when a devastating mayday call came over the radio from the closest boat that two sailors had gone overboard. The MAIDEN crew talked their male counterparts through the first aid and resuscitation procedures over the radio but was only able to save one of the competitor’s crew. The sailor’s tragic death and the willingness of the MAIDEN crew to step in and assist started to get the ladies noticed as true competitors in the race and commenced their journey to being respected as genuine sportswomen in the race.

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MAIDEN is told from the mouths of the people who lived it. Journalists, competitors, rival sailors, parents and the crew themselves all recount their version of the events and their reactions. Gorgeous archival footage is underlaid through the narration to provide a tangible, real world account of this visceral and groundbreaking experience. The story is captivating and motivational –  EDWARDS’ tenacity, skills and ambition are inspirational. The use of jaunty 1980’s synth music and the archival footage from the race work exceptionally well to bring a sense of urgency and focus to the story. Whether you’re a keen mariner, a novice seafarer or (like me) know nothing about sailing, MAIDEN is worth a watch. It’s so empowering to see people do the seemingly impossible. Enjoy MAIDEN – it will make your day.


Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.