The Documentary Maiden Is a Must-See for Sailors

SpinSheet’s Maiden Documentary Interview and Review

The documentary Maiden—just released June 28—about the first all-female Whitbread Round the Ocean Race team is a film for sailors, racers, and anyone who has ever struggled against the odds. SpinSheet contributor Cindy Wallach attended the Annapolis Film Festival preview and shared what she learned by watching the film and interviewing the star:

In the first moments of the film Maiden, a young Tracy Edwards introduces herself to a news camera as the skipper of a Whitbread Round The World Race team, and then she’s immediately told that she needs to smile. 

This moment perfectly sums up what it’s like to be a woman in any professional setting, and shows in a few seconds that director Alex Holmes understands this struggle. 

Edwards was the skipper of Maiden and the force behind the first all-female Whitbread Round The World race team in 1989. She didn’t come from a wealthy family. She didn’t come from a sailing pedigree. She was a girl with a dream who was told again and again that her dream was out of reach precisely because she was a girl.

Without connections or money she recruited a team, bought a secondhand boat when nobody would sponsor a new one, worked tirelessly in the boatyard with her team to bring the boat up to spec, and managed to find last-minute funding. The press mocked and insulted them, the other all-male teams disregarded and looked down on them, and the sailing world held their collective breath waiting for them to fail. 

The film Maiden uses archival footage combined with fresh, first-person narratives to build a story that speaks to more than just racers and sailors. The film is relatable to anyone who has struggled against the odds, to anyone whose dreams have ever been laughed at, to anyone who was told they can’t do something that they knew in their heart they could do. The beautifully documented race weaves together drama, heart, humor, and a classic underdog saga that sailors and landlubbers can both savor. 

This is a film with many antagonists. The ocean that, as Edwards says in the film, is always trying to kill you. The sailing press that called the team “a tin of tarts” and placed bets on whether they’d even finish the first leg. The sexism of the sailing world and the world in general who wouldn’t give capable women a fair shake. And the self doubt that plagued Edwards despite her courageous drive and work ethic.

It’s a film for anyone, and it’s a film for every female sailor. It’s for the time I was washing my own boat and a man asked what my rates were for cleaning because that “can’t possibly be your boat.” It’s for the afternoon I spent fixing a seized winch with a baby on my back and a male sailor laughed and told me I should wait for my husband to come home to handle it. It’s for my daughter who spent a week at sailing camp and got three minutes at the helm of an Opti before the little boy sailing with her slapped her hand off the tiller and told her she didn’t know how to steer, something she still repeats today every time I take her out on the water. It’s for the more than 15-thousand members of Women Who Sail, and any woman or girl out on the water who wants to experience the freedom and thrill of sailing without being told how to look or act. 

This is a film for anyone who loves the ocean, because the ocean may be trying to kill you, and may challenge you and reward you equally, but the ocean will never tell you to smile.

By Cindy Wallach

New York Times Review

Outside Magazine Review

NPR Review