Maiden review – raging seas and sexist squalls | Documentary films

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Tracy Edwards is the British sailor who made history in 1989 by skippering the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race. This film tells her story and those of her crew members, as they faced sexist squalls from male competitors, who as greying interviewees don’t look best pleased even now to be talking about when and how Tracy beat them. There was also the press. The Guardian’s Bob Fisher comes in for some criticism.

Edwards showed a staggering amount of leadership and energy on dry land, as well as at sea, assembling her crew and persuading the King of Jordan to provide vital sponsorship. The boat was coyly called Maiden, and Alex Holmes’s film also shows how it punningly bore the banner “Maiden Great Britain”. Their success was also a matter of patriotic pride.

Holmes recreates their adventure, using a lot of home movie footage of her childhood and early life – this appears to be the real thing, although sometimes I wondered if faux Super 8 reconstruction was being used – and also the TV coverage from 1989, with much toe-curling Partridgean commentary from Frank Bough and Fred Dinenage. At one stage in the race, Edwards cunningly manipulated the paparazzi by getting the entire crew to wear glamorous swimming costumes on deck: they each look surreally like Princess Diana aboard Dodi Fayed’s yacht – but maybe that is simply the era.

There is something that the film doesn’t address as clearly it could have done. In 1989, Edwards was asked if she was a feminist and she said no – and that she hated the word. It’s probably clear enough what she meant: she just wanted an equal shot at yachting success, just as the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher once wanted an equal shot at political success. But, given that the present-day Edwards is interviewed at length, Holmes could perhaps have given her another chance to consider that question. At all events, it pays due homage to Edwards as a courageous pioneer.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Maiden review – raging seas and sexist squalls | Documentary films

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