“Maiden” is the story of the first all-female crew to race a sailboat around the world. The team was led by Tracy Edwards, who was sick of being told no by the men who dominate the sport. So, in 1989, she gathered up the women and the financial resources to enter her own boat in the Whitbread Round The World Race.
This is not some Hollywood story. It’s a documentary by Alex Holmes, who combines archival footage with contemporary interviews with the women on the Maiden crew and some of the men who raced against them. There’s even one journalist who dismissed everything they did, and still doesn’t give them the respect they deserve for completing the 33,000-mile voyage. In that instance and too many others, the women of the Maiden were treated as a novelty, with all sorts of misogynistic terminology (e.g. constantly referred to as “girls”). Where members of the press always asked male crews about their strategies, they asked the women about their looks and how they all got along.
Because I get seasick, I wasn’t sure I could watch some of the scenes, particularly where the boat is being pummeled by the waves in the southern ocean near Antarctica on the way from Uruguay to Australia. One crew members compares it to driving a car into a brick wall without wearing a seat belt — every ten seconds! How there was footage shot during those scenes is a mystery, considering the danger of being on deck during those conditions. But there’s plenty of it, along with lots of other more placid scenes from the trip.
I don’t care about sailing or yachting, but “Maiden” is such a compelling story, it kept my attention all the way through its 93 minutes. My only complaint is that Holmes spent time at the beginning on Edwards’ backstory, with an abusive stepfather who caused her to run away as a teen. He could have skipped that and showed us more about how she learned the skills necessary to be the skipper of an amazing adventure.
I won’t be surprised when someone in Hollywood adapts this documentary into a based-on-a-true-story dramatic movie. Besides an opportunity for a young actress to establish herself as a lead, there are plenty of other interesting characters and rough waters to fill the screen. The only obstacle might be that boat-bound movies haven’t done well in recent years. No one went to see Robert Redford’s “All Is Lost” or Ron Howard’s “In The Heart Of The Sea” or Shailene Woodley in “Adrift” (though I liked it quite a bit). Although there have been successful films set on larger vessels (“Titanic,” “Captain Phillips”), you might have to go back to John Candy vs. Richard Crenna in the yacht race at the end of “Summer Rental” to find anything popular in this genre.
“Maiden” won the audience award at a couple of film festivals earlier this year and opens in select theaters tomorrow, but I expect most viewers who search it out will do so on Netflix.
As for me, I liked it enough to give “Maiden” an 8.5 out of 10.