Fantastic Maiden

I really don’t mind saying it but for some reason it’s controversial – I’m a fan of Tracy Edwards. A big fan. I think she’s got real, evidence-based guts, is determination personified and I am just delighted to see the progress she’s made against the odds to get her old boat Maiden, back, completely re-vamp it, secure a dynamite sponsorship from DP World and a heck of a lot of foresightful personal backers to launch her huge initiative aimed at empowering and inspiring women and girls all around the world through sailing. It’s brilliant. And it’s happening whether you like it or not.

©Pia Torelli / The Maiden Factor

The sailing world is a cliquey place as we all know and since thundering onto the scene in the Whitbread Race in 1989 with an all-girl crew, Tracy has divided opinion. The late, great Bob Fisher made a rare miscalculation when he described Maiden as a ‘tin full of tarts’ and never quite lived that one down although he did controversially and rather idiotically correct his copy after the team won the second leg into New Zealand to: “not just a tin full of tarts, a tin full of smart, fast tarts” – you simply wouldn’t get away with that today. And nor should you.

But every female sailing athlete out there today knows that Maiden was a glass-ceiling shattering enterprise. What they did back then in the late 80’s, early 90’s was something of legend. It bent the arc of perception in a positive direction and challenged accepted, deep-rooted fundamentalism and supposed wisdom. Maiden set off in that Whitbread Race derided and ridiculed but came back to a changed world. They changed the world. Tracy Edwards changed sailing and the sporting landscape for the better.

©Pia Torelli / The Maiden Factor

But even today there’s an element of sailing, a pretty unedifying element I have to say, where this sits uneasily. Tracy is straight-up, hard as nails (actually delightful in person) and ruthlessly determined. She’s an heroic character that if you scripted in a novel would get watered down by the publisher. But she does exactly what she says she will do regardless and focusses laser-like on the end goal. Her latest mission is broad, demanding and ambitious but by heck she’s doing it in some style and with the boat on its way to the Suez Canal having left Dubai at the start of a 90,000nm journey, it’s the stuff of legion.

The Maiden Team will be interacting with schools, outreach programmes, charities, foundations and organisations to promote the simple message of 12 years of quality education as a minimum for girls around the world. She’s got some heavy-hitter supporters all around the globe and once through the Suez Canal, after a brief provisioning stop in Palma, will head across the Atlantic before an East Coast tour of the United States and then back across to Cape Town. It’s breathless stuff in its ambition and outreach. Sailing as a positive for life, education, equality and empowerment means something, it’s powerful and Tracy Edwards is the force of nature to deliver it.

But the knocking commentary will come and armchair Admirals will opine or worse still, disregard or elect to actively disengage. Poor them. It’s a fight that Tracy takes on full-square and is unabated by. It’s been the fight of her life and she’s well accustomed to mezzanine glass ceilings being retro-fitted by the boys club of print journalism, social media, forums and message boards, the vast majority of which are old-hat and irrelevant in any case.

©Mack Edwards / The Maiden Factor

Tracy chooses the positive and looks to a brighter future. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph back in 2019 she commented: “I’m so proud of being a woman at this time in history where we’re all coming together and making a change. What’s very interesting and positive is the difference between 30 years ago and now is that men are part of the same conversation. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or you can’t be someone. Stand up and go for it.”

And there in a nutshell is the Tao of Tracy Edwards. How can anyone possibly argue with that? I’m proud to be part of that conversation. They will argue it and they do but I for one think she’s an inspiration, a legend, a unique, rare, uncompromising, foresightful individual that cares not a jot for preconception. I like that pioneering spirit and I like people who never accept when they are beaten and rise to every challenge. Tracy Edwards rocks the sailing world and we’re lucky to have her in our sport. Check out her website, watch the videos, support if you can.

They don’t make them like Tracy anymore. Bravo for moving the dial and continuing to do so. The sailing world is richer for you and I wish the Maiden crew every scintilla of success as they go global.

‘Stand up and go for it.’ To coin a phrase.

2 thoughts on “Fantastic Maiden

  1. When the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News reopens and traveling by train is a bit less risky, I definitely want to head down and see the “Maiden” documentary in their theater (and USA-17 in her gallery!)

    Liked by 1 person

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