Three Reasons to Watch: Maiden
Every week, we pick a key film from the Curzon Home Cinema collection. This week, we look at an inspiring documentary about a group of women who fought against prejudice to prove themselves a world-class yachting crew.
You don’t have to have much knowledge of sailing to enjoy Maiden. You don’t even need to be a fan of yacht racing to find yourself caught up in this story of the first all-women team to enter the round the world challenge. At its heart, Alex Holmes’ film is about someone who is told they can’t, they couldn’t, or they shouldn’t, but who presses on, determined to prove everyone who doubted her wrong.
Having had years of experience as a crew member, but finding it increasingly difficult to be taken seriously because of her gender, in the late 1980s Tracy Edwards decided to chart her own course and enter a female team into the Whitbread Round the World Race, which was to take place in 1989. Once she’d done that she needed to find a financier and, most importantly, a yacht.
The film opens with a brief chapter surveying Edwards’ life, her peripatetic youth after leaving school and her realisation that she wanted to be her own skipper. From there, Maiden documents Edwards’ journey to the starting point of the race, detailing the pressure of refitting an ageing yacht to ensure it was ocean-worthy and, most importantly, could take a bettering in the southern seas. As the race nears, the intensity of the sexism levelled at Edwards and her team, by both women and men, is astonishing. Any slight mishap that would have been ignored with a male crew was used as ammunition to support the argument that Edwards’ mission was a flight of fancy, and a dangerous one at that. There was even a general belief that the crew wouldn’t complete the first stage. But then the race begins and Edwards’ team show what mettle they’re made of.
Holmes’ film is essentially a simple linear record of what happened. If you don’t know the story, it’s a thrilling journey. If you do, revisiting the past might just surprise you in terms of how antiquated ideas about the sexes still were in the late 1980s. But Maiden also details, in ways that the media couldn’t – or couldn’t be bothered – at the time, the number of obstacles the team had to face.
With increasing acceptance of the importance of women playing in sporting arenas that for too long have been considered the provenance of men, Maiden shows just how far our society has come since that round the world race. But in detailing the Edwards fight for her to be seen in the same light as her male colleagues, the film highlights the cost for those who choose to wage that battle.
Three reasons to watch Maiden
• Maiden is assembled as a white-knuckle thriller, so whether you’re familiar with the story, the film plays out like a 90-minute adrenaline rush.
• The southern stretch. Aside of maintaining a yacht in the most precarious conditions, members of the crew were also able to continue filming. This is most impressively seen in the leg of the race that passes above Antarctica. It’s a terrifying vision of the world.
• Tracy Edwards. As a symbol of resilience and determination, she’s hard to beat. She’s an inspiring figure for anyone who is told ‘they can’t’.
Maiden is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema