A documentary of the highest quality and the widest appeal




To make a film as special as this one by Alex Holmes is always likely to involve luck as well as judgment but recognising where one ends and the other begins is not that easy. Maiden tells the story of how Tracy Edwards then in her twenties took part in the Whitbread Round the World Race setting off from Southampton  in September 1989 and on paper that suggests a film primarily for those interested in the sport of yachting. Add that Tracy as skipper was breaking fresh ground by taking part with an all-female crew (the boat itself was named ‘Maiden’) and one can see that the material could also have a special attraction for feminists. What is far less obvious is that what has emerged on the screen has an even broader appeal than this would suggest. It may be that Holmes was aware of this extra potential when choosing to film this story but, equally, it is quite possible that it was only during the filming that it became apparent that what was being captured by the camera would make Maiden a candidate to be one of the year’s best documentaries.


There is a lot of archive material available for use here so we have television interviews of the day seen alongside substantial footage shot on the boat during the race. The balance between this and the fresh interviews with Tracy herself, her crew members and others including journalists and rival sailors is admirably handled by Holmes. Initially, after a pre-credit build-up, he gets Tracy to talk about her childhood and her troubled adolescence. There is just enough personal detail here to make this an involving character study and all the more so because Tracy is wonderfully honest and engaging. These qualities add much to the film but could not have been taken for granted. More forthright now than then (at the time she tactfully toed the line verbally when asked about male attitudes to her and her crew), Tracy’s story is one that says much about the need for women to fight for recognition in a man’s world - indeed the fact that eventually she would win a trophy as ‘Yachtsman [sic] of the Year’ carries its own irony.


The race covered five legs and lasted over eight months and it is both natural and appropriate that Maiden should present this in chronological order. As it happened various incidents occurred along the way which provide dramatic moments that are very telling in their own right. Furthermore, for those like myself ignorant of how the event concluded, there is also considerable suspense as to just how well Maiden will fare. Put all these elements together and you have a film of extremely wide appeal. Indeed, I defy any viewer not to be caught up in the dramas of the voyage and not to emerge from the screening admiring Tracy Edwards - and liking her too. 




Featuring  Tracy Edwards, Jo Gooding, Nancy Hill, Claire Russell, Jeni Mundy, Dawn Riley, Sally Creaser,  Bruno Dubois, Barry Pickthall, Bob Fisher.


Dir Alex Holmes, Pro Alex Holmes and Victoria Gregory, Screenplay Alex Holmes, Ph Chris Openshaw, Ed Katie Bryer, Music Rob Manning and Samuel Sim.


New Black Films-Dogwoof.
97 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 8 March 2019. Cert. 12A