Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY SONY PICTURES CLASSICSSome of the crew members on the yacht, ”Maiden,” during 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY SONY PICTURES CLASSICSSome of the crew members on the yacht, ”Maiden,” during 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Movie Review: Inspiring ‘Maiden’ voyage

Monday, September 2, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Mothers, take your daughters to see “Maiden.”

Fathers, take your daughters to see “Maiden.”

Mothers, take your sons to see “Maiden.”

Fathers, take your sons to see “Maiden.”

In fact, everyone should see “Maiden,” an inspirational documentary film about Tracy Edwards, who led the first all-female crew on the yacht, “Maiden,” to compete in the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race.

While the film ostensibly may not have been intended as an inspirational film, it becomes that as Edwards and her crew are challenged beyond belief with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yet the crew, and especially Edwards, never gave up.

The film is astonishing in many ways: the self-realization of the women about their own strengths and weaknesses, the grueling nature of the race itself, and the sexist treatment of the “Maiden” female crew some 30 years ago.

This was after the 1972 passage of Title IX in the United States that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally-funded education programs and activities. It’s before the campaign for equal pay by the World Cup-winning 2019 United States Women’s Soccer Team.

The yacht, “Maiden,” competed in Division D, and won two legs of the six-leg race. Edwards was named Yachtsman of the Year in the Whitbread Round the World Race, the first female to be so chosen. Edwards was awarded a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The yacht race around the world, which first took place in 1973, was held every three or four years after that. It was named for the sponsor, British brewing company Whitbread. In 2001, the race was renamed for its sponsor, Volvo, the Swedish auto manufacturer. In 2019, it was renamed The Ocean Race.

The documentary film back-stories Tracy Edwards’ life, including the death of her beloved father when she was 10. Her father and mother inculcated in young Tracy the importance of being independent, having dreams and striving to achieve them. In the aftermath of her father’s death, Edwards’ mother struggled economically to raise her. Her mother remarried. The antagonistic relationship that Edwards had with an alleged abusive stepfather is noted in the film.

Edwards fled the household as a teen and lived in Greece where she became a bartender. She got interested in boating and learned the ropes. She became a cook on a yacht that entered the Whitbread race.

Edwards wasn’t satisfied with her job as a cook, yearning to skipper a crew of females to compete in the Whitbread race. Edwards put together a crew of women with considerable experience. However, it would have cost an estimated $6 million to purchase a competitive yacht.

Edwards, unable to raise the money to buy a new yacht, bought a used yacht. She and her crew refurbished the yacht. It was difficult to secure sponsors. A previous chance encounter with King Hussein (1935 - 1999) of Jordan led to Hussein’s sponsorship of the Maiden yacht in the race.

The documentary film tells the story of Tracy Edwards in a fascinating, entertaining and sometimes provocative manner. The film’s images are a mix of television reporting and interview footage, grainy footage of Tracy Edwards’ family’s home movies and of the Maiden and other yachts during the Whitbread race, and contemporary, crisply-filmed, one-camera interviews with Edwards, her crew, crew members of other yachts in the Whitbread race, and journalists who reported on the Whitbread race.

The movie-goer travels around the world with Edwards and her crew, from the 33.000 nautical miles race start in Southampton, England, to Punta del Este, Uruguay; Punta del Este to Fremantle, Australia; Fremantle to Auckland; Auckland back to Punta del Este; Punta del Este to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Ft. Lauderdale to Southampton.

Edwards apparently was a stern taskmaster and not always the nicest of persons toward her crew, by their and her own admission. We share in the joys and sorrows of the “Maiden” crew. The film’s footage of the race, as well as interviews with the crew, dramatically depicts how dangerous the Whitbread race was, and is. Monstrous waves tossed the Maiden yacht about like a rubber duck bobbing in a bathtub. The effect is described as if the yacht was a surfboard plunging up and down walls of water.

A bittersweet aspect of the documentary film is the contrast visually and verbally of the young women in their 20s when they competed in the race and the now elderly women in their 60s when they are interviewed. Youthful enthusiasm burnished into elderly wisdom is quite sobering.

A young Tracy Edwards says of her goal, voyage and competing in the Whitbread race with an all-female crew, “It was just something I had to do.” The criticism and doubt that she and her crew faced was unfortunately emblematic of the sexism, misogyny and gender-inequality typical of the era when the Maiden made her voyage.

“Maiden” director Alex Holmes (director, “Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story,” 2014) has created a stunning documentary, one of the best documentaries of 2019 in a year of outstanding documentary films.

Look for an Oscar documentary film nomination for “Maiden.”

Don’t miss this “Maiden” voyage.

“Maiden,” MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images. Genre: Documentary, Sport; Run Time: 1 hr., 37 mins. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Tracy Edwards restored the Maiden yacht in 2016. It’s on a world tour to raise funds and awareness for girls’ access to education in poor nations.

Box Office: Aug. 30-Sept. 2 weekend box office results were unavailable because of the early Labor Day holiday deadline for the Focus section.

Unreel, Sept. 6:

“It Chapter Two,” R: Andy Muschietti directs Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Isaiah Mustafa in the Horror film sequel. Members of the Losers Club have grown up and moved away 27 years after their first encounter with Pennywise. And then the phone rings.

“Night Hunter,” R: David Raymond directs Alexandra Daddario, Henry Cavill, Minka Kelly and Stanley Tucci in the Action Thriller. A lieutenant, police force, and vigilante track a man accused of kidnapping and killing females.

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” PG-13: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct the documentary film about the 1960s and 1970s pop-rock star that includes interviews and concert footage of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

“Rapid Response,” PG-13: Roger Hinze and Michael William Miles direct the documentary film about the development by medical student Stephen Olvey of improved techniques for rescuing drivers in racing-car crashes, especially at the Indianpolis 500. The developments improved trauma medicine and passenger car safety. The film includes interviews with Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser.

“Blink of an Eye,” Paul Taublieb directs the documentary film about the 2001 Daytona 500 in which NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt died in a crash. The film includes interviews and car-racing footage of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Michael Waltrip.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes