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Review: All tides rise in rousing sailing story 'Maiden'

Captivating documentary looks at rebel crew of all-female sailors

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Tracy Edwards, center, in "Maiden."

Though it tells a story that's 30 years old, "Maiden" couldn't feel more appropriate for our times.

A riveting documentary that tells the tale of the first ever all-female crew to sail around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Race, "Maiden" offers the kind of rousing underdog tale and triumphant sports saga that if it were fiction, you'd say it's too good to be true. 

As it stands, "Maiden" seems like the blueprint for a Hollywood-ized based-on-true-events film to follow. 

Growing up, Tracy Edwards was a ne'er-do-well who was suspended from her school 25 times for disruptive behavior. She found herself in the male-dominated world of sailing, and after joining a crew in the 1985-86 Whitbread as a cook, she decided to assemble an all-female squad to compete in the 1989-90 race. 

There were roadblocks. No one would finance the team. Their boat was scrappy. But Edwards and her crew pulled together, and wound up shocking the world. 

Director Alex Holmes uses archival footage from the race as well as new interviews with the participants to frame this engaging story of girl power gone massive. The parallels to today's feminist movement gives the story a resilient punch, yet it shows strides that were made decades ago which planted the seeds for the strides being made today. 

Edwards herself is a fascinating figure: powerful enough to take on the system, naive enough to not know what she was getting into. "I'd begun a fight I didn't realize I was having," she says at one point. "Maiden" makes sense of her journey and tells a story whose tidal waves were felt far beyond the deck of her ship. 



Rated PG: for language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images

Running time: 97 minutes