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Maiden Voyage

When Tracy Edwards got the idea to skipper her own boat in the 1989/90 Whitbread race, there were five female sailors competing for every 200 men.
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Tracy Edwards, who hails from Pangbourne, England, has always been an adventurous spirit. After being expelled from school at the age of 15, she left home to backpack across Europe before landing a job as a stewardess on the Greek yacht Piraeus at age 17. That’s when she learned to sail. She would go on to compete in her first Whitbread Round the World Race, now called The Ocean Race, in 1985/86 at age 23, serving as the cook aboard Atlantic Privateer, thus becoming the first woman to race around the world in a maxi.

When Edwards got the idea to skipper her own boat in the 1989/90 Whitbread race, there were only five female sailors competing for every 200 men. So, she assembled the first all-female crew and mortgaged her home to purchase a 58-foot, 1979 aluminum sailing yacht designed by Bruce Farr. She refurbished the boat and renamed it Maiden. The boat and its crew are shown above.

Edwards and her 12-women crew crossed the starting line on Maiden on September 2, 1989, and went on to make history. Maiden won two out of six individual legs of the race, including the perilous Uruguay-to-Fremantle stretch, and finished second overall in its class. Edwards was awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her accomplishment and became the first woman in history to win the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.

Following that race, Edwards pursued more historic sailing feats. In 1998, she assembled the first all-female crew to race a multihull for the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world by sail. Sailing aboard a 92-foot catamaran, the women broke five world records before being dismasted 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile. Later, Edwards broke four major world records with a mixed-gender team aboard the 110-foot maxi catamaran Maiden II.

In 2014, Edwards received an email from a person in Mahé, an island in Seychelles, telling her that Maiden was sitting in a marina there rotting, and that if nobody came for her, they would sink it. Heartbroken, Edwards contacted Maiden’s original crewmembers with a request to help raise the 75,000 Euros required to recover the boat through crowdfunding. After restoring the boat with outside funding, Edwards founded The Maiden Factor, which will utilize the ship to raise money and awareness for girls’ education. 

This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue.

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