By Laurie Coker
Girl power is at the forefront of many movies this summer, but often the effort to promote female strength and equality feels forced and faked. In 1989, Tracy Edwards, a twenty-four-year-old boat cook, put together the first-ever, all-female crew to sail in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Documentarian Alex Holmes captures Tracy and her exceptional and varied team as they ready for and compete in this rigorous sailing marathon. Holmes incorporates interviews with fascinating footage of Edward’s efforts to do what she loves.
Edwards didn’t start out to break down gender barriers. Instead, she simply wanted to help crew a boat in the Whitbread, but no all-male crew wanted a girl, except as a cook. From a young age, Edwards fell in love with the sailing life, but standards of the time prevented it. She didn’t begin as a feminist; in fact, she denied the label. Stubborn and determined, Edwards pulled together a crew of women to enter the race, but she came up against stereotypes and sexism at every turn.
By her account, Edward’s, who rebelled as a youngster, never meant to change the sailing world. She only wanted to skipper a boat. Her role, however, was far more than that. Sponsorships and a new ship were entirely out of the picture. She bought a used sailboat using double mortgages on it and her own home. To someone other than these women, the sight of the dilapidated vessel might have curtailed their efforts, but its skipper and her crew repaired it themselves. Still, with no sponsor, the boat would stand in dry dock — a lucky meeting with the King of Jordan years before offered Edwards her last chance at sponsorship. The Maiden would race in the Whitbread after all.
Holmes’ attention to essential detail and careful weaving of archival footage with fresh recollections creates an engaging and inspiring tale of sheer determination and group perseverance. The media circus that followed them – often printing critical and doubtful commentary seem only to spur the ladies forward. Their dream was to sail and sail they did. Holmes’ documentary proves what women can do when faced with can’ts and won’ts. Holmes takes viewers along for the ride of a lifetime aboard Edward’s vision in an often tumultuous journey on land and on the sea.