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MAIDEN

Production Notes
Determination is everything. Luck and a sense of humor help too. Determination drove the Maiden race challenge back in 1989-90 as well as the Maiden documentary filmmaking project over the past few years. Currently, the racing yacht Maiden has been resurrected with a determined new life carrying forward Tracy Edwards' Maiden Factor Foundation supporting girls' education.

Luck brought Maiden skipper Edwards and Maiden director Alex Holmes together. Edwards, who has devoted much of her post-sailing life to advocating for women's and girls' education and empowerment, happened to be the speaker at an elementary school celebration evening in South West London where she lives. Holmes was the proud parent of one of those young students inspired by Edwards' talk. "Someone must have canceled-I was invited at the very last minute and had to drag myself to go," recalls Edwards. "But I got a phone call the next day: 'Hi, my name's Alex Holmes, I'm a film producer, I love your story and my daughter just wouldn't shut up about it on the walk home.'"

"I'm the first to admit," says Holmes, "I went to the school evening with a slightly heavy heart as I've sat through many such evenings with my older kids. But this year they had a guest speaker-Tracy. I was immediately struck by the power and resonance of her story. It got me thinking that things were still different for my son compared to my two daughters-that I still felt I needed to remind my girls that they shouldn't feel in any way limited by the world around them, that it's theirs for the taking if they choose. Tracy's story still felt as relevant now as it did back then. Not only was Tracy an amazing character-you can tell that straight off the bat-not only was this a very powerful and positive emotional story, but it was an important story. And now was the time to tell it."

Holmes at first envisioned recreating the Maiden odyssey as narrative drama. His long career as a documentary film producer and director had encompassed short-form investigative journalism for the television series World In Action, the post of creative director of the documentary department at the BBC, and the development of long dramatic documentaries such as the BBC miniseries Dunkirk and the feature bio-doc Stop at Nothing: the Lance Armstrong Story.

"I assumed that, because so much of Tracy's story was confined to a boat, the chance of there being any footage from back in 1989 was very slim. My assumption going into the conversation was maybe writing a screenplay and making a drama. And Tracy rather wonderfully made the opposite assumption, because she was quite proud that Maiden had had a camera onboard the whole way around, and that they had mastered it themselves.

"So here was a story that I fell in love with immediately," continues Holmes, "and a way of telling it in documentary form. Of course, we had hills to climb. You have to find the footage. You have to raise the finance. You have to clear your schedule and make time. But I knew it was going to happen, really from that first encounter. Tracy's one of those people who has such a strong sense of purpose and confidence herself that it emboldens you when you speak to her."

A footage treasure hunt ensued, through the Whitbread Race's archives, to old video out of local news outlets around the world, to Tracy's mum's closet: "We managed to track down bits and pieces," remembers Holmes. "It was frustrating at first, because we thought maybe the archive would all be in a pristine state somewhere in a box-you've got the gold dust, and that's it. But it had been flung to the four corners because, you know, when they cover these sports events they rage around the world, but nobody's really keeping track of where the tapes are or where the high-quality footage is. Everything's a dub of a dub of a dub."

"My mum collected everything," says Edwards. "Tea towels, cups, badges. Took 10 million photos. Recorded everything on the news in every country. If she was in the UK and she heard that something was on the news in Australia, she would track it down. When Mum died I found this huge plastic box of all the stuff she had collected, and Alex said 'this is the motherlode.'"

Most remarkable is the very raw and real footage filmed onboard Maiden. As Edwards explains: "We had two cameras, a fixed camera mounted on the back of the boat, and a handheld camera. When you see the video lurching around in heavy seas, that's the fixed camera-there was an emergency button by the hatch, so if it's 'all hands on deck' the last person up would hit that button, and that's where we got the images of surfing giant waves and that sort of thing. "Then there was Jo with her camera"-Joanna Gooding, Tracy's girlhood friend who came on the round the world journey as cook (and documentarian). "She was everywhere with her camera! You'd be doing something, you'd turn around and it was 'Jo, Jo, go away!' But she never gave up. Alex said it was her tiny little vignettes that make the film."

Says Holmes, "The other boats had cameras, but the things they captured were a lot of horseplay, guys being guys, or rather stiff interviews or action scenes. Jo is now a counselor by profession, and she always had a high level of emotional intelligence. Very attuned to people. And she and Tracy were the only ones not on the four-hour watch system, so Jo could be the observer and make shots that contained character, not just action. In fact, we've given her a camera credit on the film."

While some of the shots look as if she must have been lashed to the mast, Jo explains, "There were of course scary times-we were always hooked on with a harness in bad weather. The camera we had was huge and not easy to use in some conditions. I would rely on others to film as well, especially Tanja" (one of the foredeck who kept watch off the bow). "People did not always want to be filmed and there would be times when you are hanging on to the boat, the camera, trying to keep it dry and get a steady shot."

All the footage gleaned from a year of archival and back-of-closet research afforded ample material for Holmes and Editor Katie Bryer, whose work editing the documentary Virunga had greatly impressed Holmes. Add to that the one-on-one interviews with many of the crew members, whose vivid personalities and memories tell tales that no vintage news clip ever could. "Katie's an astonishingly talented editor, especially in these slightly rangy, many-sided stories. She just got Tracy and the crew straight away. It took about nine months of off-and-on work to cut the film together-it takes a long time to make something really simple."

Early on, Holmes and the New Black team made a creative decision to keep the film's focus squarely on the time frame of the 1989-90 race itself, with a brief preamble into Tracy's early life. "There were so many different films we could have made," says Holmes. "But to me, the simpler we kept the story, the more powerful it was. Unfiltered. I regard it a bit like portraiture-this is my version of Tracy. And the story of that crew. Someone else could have taken the same material and told a profoundly different story."

As Producer Victoria Gregory says, "The crew are all such brilliant people, you could make a movie about every one of their lives." Gregory is co-founder (with Maiden Executive Producer James Erskine) of the sports-oriented documentary production company New Black Films, which produced Maiden.

The Maiden Factor
The documentary film was not the only Maiden-related project to kick off back in that late spring in 2014. Not long before Holmes and Edwards met on the fated school presentation night, Edwards got a call from a boatyard in the Seychelles. Maiden, the "wreck with a pedigree" that Edwards had rebuilt back in 1989, was about to be scuttled. Edwards had sold the boat immediately after her history-making Whitbread Race (she was dead broke), and Maiden had gone on to sail under different owners and different names. Now, she was virtually abandoned for unpaid boatyard fees. She's yours if you'll get her off our hands, offered the boatyard in the Seychelles, fees forgiven. Tracy raised the funds through Crowdfunding and bought her back.

Post-Whitbread, Edwards had continued racing and organizing competitions in the sailing world, and had written two memoirs: Maiden, a best-selling recounting of her Whitbread experience, and Living Every Second. In the mid-2000's, her focus shifted to advocating for children through Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), an NGO contributing to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). She went to University at the age of 47 for a psychology degree and continued her inspiring work as a speaker. When she heard about her old friend Maiden being located, she brought all these strands together.

"It was my daughter's suggestion" says Edwards: "'Why don't you use the boat to raise money for the girls' educational charities that you're a patron of and that you work with?' I just thought that's a brilliant idea, so that became our raison d'etre."

As in all endeavours-altruistic, cinematic, and other-first there were funds to be raised. "We spent two years getting financing sorted out for our Maiden documentary at the same time as Tracy was raising the funds to salvage Maiden," says Victoria Gregory. "Tracy and I became fast friends, and we'd go through parallel frustrations and joy over good news and bits of financing. It's not that different, really, independent filmmaking and running an operation like Tracy's. We ring each other up and 'Oh, I've got to do month-end accounts this weekend.' 'Oh yeah, me too.'"

"As they found money to make the documentary, I found money to rebuild the boat," says Edwards. "The whole thing has been synchronistic. It's just meant to happen."

Synchronicity played out dramatically when Edwards secured support for her project from Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, who had sponsored Maiden's 1989 Whitbread race through Royal Jordanian Airlines. As Tracy Edwards was making the rounds of international conferences drumming up support, HRH Princess Haya heard about her campaign and reached out, unsolicited, to offer help in the rescue and restoration of Maiden, continuing her father's legacy.

Meanwhile, the derelict yacht Maiden was the centerpiece of another reunion when it finally arrived back at the same Hamble shipyard where the crew had stripped her down and rebuilt her by hand back in 1989. "When we rescued Maiden from the Seychelles and brought her back, the reaction was so extraordinary," remembers Edwards. "Everyone was in tears. The whole boatyard was out to see her. Seven of the original Maiden crew. These guys who helped work on her 30 years ago, these rough-ty tough-ty yard workers. People were saying, 'what is it about Maiden?' and I said 'well, she made me who I am. It's kind of the Maiden factor.' And that's how we hit upon the project name. Once we restored her to her former glory, she became the vessel for our two-year world tour to raise funds and awareness for girls' education and female empowerment."

The Maiden Sailors
"If Tracy has a unique skill," Holmes says, "it's in spotting talent in other people. And the way she chose that crew and put them together was extraordinary. I think her single greatest achievement was attracting that group of women. They fit together so perfectly."

[For profiles of each of the Maiden crew mates, see Meet the Maiden Crew, which follows.] The crew members had all remained in touch to varying degrees with Tracy and each other (the upside of Facebook for a group scattered across the continents.) The near-simultaneous flurries of activity around the making of the documentary, the repatriation and rehabilitation of their old sailboat, and the launch of Edwards' Maiden Factor Foundation brought old shipmates back together in person and gave Holmes the opportunity to film interviews (though not all the crew members were able or available to take part in the filming).

"One by one," says Edwards, "the girls asked me, 'how honest do you want us to be?' And I said, Oh, complete honesty. This must be an absolute record of what happened, because the first one"-a TV documentary made shortly after the race-"was all nicey-nicey, aren't we all wonderful? And this one was the truth."

When Edwards, Holmes, and the New Black team embarked together on the making of Maiden, they quickly reached a mutual understanding that extended to all the crew members. Says Holmes: "Tracy trusted us, which is unbelievably brave, I think. I always marvel at characters who allow their lives to be put on a sleeve, particularly the way Tracy did it, allowing it to be very raw and real. We made it very clear from the start that we wanted everything. We would choose the right bits to tell the story in the most powerful way. And they would have to trust us. That's the deal-we really want to tell this story. We think it's an important story. We want to honor what you achieved. But we can only do that if you're totally upfront." The Maiden sailors did not let them down.

As Sally Hunter (formerly Creaser, one of the helms and head of safety on Maiden) reflects: "I sometimes feel that the whole Maiden project is portrayed as being some rather miserable existence which the girls on board had to simply endure to get it done. I remember it as being huge FUN. We were a bunch of girls who loved racing yachts and being at sea and we got the chance to compete in the most iconic yacht race there was. We all got on very well with each other, had a good boat to sail, were sailing round the world, what's not to love?!" She and her husband, also a sailor, now operate Hunter Yacht Deliveries in her native Scotland.

Marie-Claude Heys (formerly Kieffer) was the first mate and, at the time, most experienced crew member; she was sacked when conflict with Tracy escalated shortly before the 5th Whitbread start date. It's hard to imagine that the skipper and first mate who clashed over leadership would ever find themselves on friendly terms, but, says Heys: "A chance meeting in Hamble about five years after Maiden allowed Tracy and I to exchange views and build a bridge. We have remained in touch thereafter. We were young, enthusiastic, headstrong-our problems came from passion and immaturity. At the time the stress was so great we were not very forgiving, but neither of us bore a grudge. Pulling together this unique challenge against all odds was an incredible feat. I was disappointed not to sail the race with Maiden."

Heys, like several of the Maiden crew including Dawn Riley, Mikaela Von Koskull, Michele Paret, Sally Hunter, and Amanda Swan Neal, has made a life in yachting and sail racing at a high professional level. Heys competed in the 6th and 7th Whitbread Races on all-women crews, and sailed many other competitions as well. She married Paul Heys, a fellow sailor, and they operate Key Yachting, a boat broker business.

"Everyone turned out to be the person we knew they would be thirty years ago," observes Claire Russell, Maiden's medic and now a doctor in New Zealand. "We knew Jeni was absolutely brilliant. We knew Jo was really caring and was going to become that kind of amazing counselor who creates safe spaces for everyone. We knew Dawn was just a force of nature who was one of the fittest, most driven and brilliant women. So when we heard what became of everyone, we'd just go-yeah, of course."

Dawn Riley, like her fellow Maiden watch captain Michele Paret, is one of the top yacht racing pros in the world. Both sailors have logged hundreds of thousands of open-ocean regatta miles and won numerous awards (they, along with Mikaela Von Koskull, another Maiden helm, are still close friends who sail and compete together). Riley, who is also an author, public speaker, and TV commentator, operates Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, NY, training, coaching, and developing sailing and racing professionals and amateurs. "I can't get enough students through my program to fill all the demand in the marine industry," says Riley.

Claire Russell notes, "It's too bad the documentary didn't have the footage to really show how phenomenal Dawn and Michele were as watch captains" (in charge of on-deck operations, spelling each other in the four-hour watch system). "There were times in the Southern Ocean when they helmed until they were frozen, till they cramped, because they knew and we knew that they were the ones who were able to pull it off when we were in a shit fight. Staggeringly fantastic yachties. That couldn't be shown because there was nobody on the camera right then-we were all just doing our jobs as crew, praying and hanging on."

Riley shrugs off the terrifying wave-surfing sequences. "I grew up sailing the Great Lakes. That prepares you for anything."

Equally high profile in a very different field is Jeni Mundy, who, with Tanja Visser, was on the foredeck keeping watch and handling the sails off the bow. "We'd hang off the bow and watch for icebergs and help maneuver sail changes, out the end of spinnaker poles, up the bow, out the boom, dangerous and wet. Tanja and I never sailed together-one would be asleep when the other was working."

Now, that dauntless energy runs multinational corporations. Mundy is the Regional Managing Director for UK and Ireland for Visa; prior to that, she was Chief Technology Officer for Vodafone, the telecomm giant. After her Maiden experience and with a few years more adventuring and sailing under her belt, Mundy earned a Masters degree in electronic engineering, a career path she traces back to the 1989 Maiden rebuild in the Hamble shipyard.

"I was interested in electronics, so I ended up with the job of rewiring Maiden top to bottom even though I had to figure out as I went what I was doing. My Masters specialized in communications systems, which was how I worked my way into telecomm-and it all started with slithering around in the bilge and trying to keep smoke out of all the boxes!"

Mundy continues: "In business, we always talk about 'teamwork' but Maiden gave me a very high bar. Being a great team is a piece of work. You have to be very deliberate about it. We were all such strivers on the Maiden team, and I try to help women succeed and build confidence in tech and business. I'm very proud that Visa Europe just signed a multi-year sponsorship supporting women's football with UEFA" (Union of European Football Associations).

And some sailors love-horses. One might intuit that sailing and equestrian sport would both attract adventurous personalities, and several of the Maiden yachties have made horses a prominent part of their lives. Tanja Visser breeds dressage horses in her native Holland; Claire Russell runs an equestrian facility in New Zealand with her husband; and Nancy Harris, who was in charge of deck hardware, Sarah Harrison, reserve crew, and Mikaela Von Koskull, all own and ride horses.

The Maiden Screening Reunion
When the documentary Maiden was finally ready to roll, the race crew and other film participants made up its first private audience in a London screening room.

"Apart from Michele, who had the very feeble excuse of waiting for the ice to break up in the Northwest Passage, we all made it there" jokes Claire Warren.

"We've always had little pockets of reunions," says Tracy Edwards, "but we've never managed to get everyone together at the same time. So we paged them. And we hassled them. And we organized them. We sent them tickets, we made it impossible not to be there." Spouses and children-most now in their twenties-were there too.

"The best part," says Dawn Riley, "was seeing the kids, the boys and girls, seeing their moms as really cool. Nobody had changed, it was the same old banter and humor and jokes and heckling. We're crammed in the taxi and they're saying 'Dawn, you're all dressed up but you always did look better out of clothes than in clothes.' And Tracy going over our schedules like we were fifteen years old. Walking down the London streets barefoot because none of us can wear high heels. Nothing changed."

Anticipating the screening, Marie-Claude Heys felt "excitement and a little trepidation beforehand, joy at reuniting upon arrival. A mixture of pride and surprise during the film, ending with gratitude for the compliments from my former teammates about a job well done."

"We are all phenomenally close," says Warren. "If anyone ever pushed the panic button, within 24 or 48 hours the crew would be there wherever you are in the world. Not that it was a panic, but this film gave Tracy a great button to push."

Mikaela Von Koskull observes: "The bond we Maiden crew have is the strongest imaginable- unbeatable and unbreakable-similar, I imagine, to what teams experience who have done something-war, climbing-any incident where you are truly 100% relying on your next buddy for survival! Seeing the documentary, once again, made me realize that the achievement of Maiden was truly a historic first, something I believe that most of us-to this day-have not always been able to comprehend."

Maiden and her indefatigable skipper and crew paved the way for many women in sports that followed them. "If what we did inspired people and changed misconceptions then that is a very good thing that happened from something that was so enjoyable," says Hunter.

"It's great to see women athletes holding their own," says Amanda Swan Neal. "I'm watching with interest the upcoming women's professional team in the Sydney-Hobart yacht race. These thirteen women are sailing stars in their own right."

But, as Mikaela Von Koskull reports, "Progress is slow. Maiden did change a lot of lives and was really the steppingstone for women sailors, but there is still a long way to go."

"Women athletes still have to carry day jobs," observes Jeni Mundy. "I did expect us to be a lot further on in these many years. My patience has run out-c'mon! c'mon!"

Dawn Riley, who trains the next generation, sees the long view: "Women feel that they have to achieve perfection right off the bat. It would be so much nicer if the guys were more realistic about what they can accomplish and women could stand up and ask for more opportunity, and disprove the naysayers. We've moved past that as a society. In large part the problem is retiring or dying."

Tracy Edwards is optimistic: "The great message we always had was simply equality. What's the difference between thirty years ago and now? My usual answer is: not enough. But there is a difference. Thirty years ago, men were either aggressive towards us, or there was antipathy. Whereas thirty years later, women are not just having the conversation with ourselves. We are having it with men."

For the team of intrepid young women racing Maiden back in 1989, matters of gender parity and politics were important, but secondary; the ocean, the wind, the camaraderie, the sailing itself were the essentials. "What I learned from racing Maiden," concludes Dawn Riley, "is how big the world is. Literally. Because I sailed around it."

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