Renowned as one of the toughest yachtswomen of her generation, British skipper Tracy Edwards was surprisingly emotional at a media day during Cowes Week recently as she watched archive footage of herself and an all-female crew aboard a 58-foot yacht called Maiden setting off from Southampton, UK on the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race.
“Those are the only pictures that can make me cry,” Edwards confessed disarmingly to the audience of journalists who had assembled to hear the latest news about The Maiden Factor – an ambitious project which has seen the 1979 Bruce Farr-designed yacht returned to full ocean going trim after being rescued from abandonment and dereliction in the Seychelles just two years ago.
The renovation project has been largely funded by HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein as part of the Jordanian princess’ Anything is Possible initiative. Her involvement continues the Jordanian royal families’ support for Edwards and her beloved Maiden since King Hussein of Jordan originally funded Edward’s entry in the 1989-90 Whitbread race.
Now – after a major refit and structural upgrade – the boat is as good as (arguably better than) new and ready to embark on an ambitious three-year global campaign to raise funds and heighten awareness of the plight of the estimated 130 million girls worldwide who are currently denied an education.
While full details of where the boat will visit after it sets off from the Southampton Boat Show in September, the first stop along the way will be Jordan.
“Amazingly, despite the huge part the Jordanian royal family has played in her past, present and future – Maiden has never visited Jordan,” Edwards said, adding: “So we are going to put that right very quickly.”
After competing as cook in the 1985-86 Whitbread Round the World Race Edwards to a leap of faith by re-mortgaging her house to raise the funds to buy Maiden.
Back then she lovingly described her new ride as a “wreck with a pedigree” – an accurate and fair description given the boat had been originally built for legendary Swiss yachtsman to compete in the 1981-82 Whitbread (where it finished in fourth place), before being reconfigured as Stabilo Boss for Bertie Reed to take on the 85-86 BOC Single Handed Round the World Race. The story has it that Reed and Edwards rounded Cape Horn at the same time although competing in different races.
Edwards readily admits that she would never have made it to the start line without the intervention of the then King of Jordan.
“He asked me how he could help, and I told him that although sheer bloody mindedness I had got me this far, now I needed money,” Edwards recalled. “And that’s pretty much the message I had to convey to his daughter more recently, when she expressed a desire to help with the project.”
Although Edwards has been the driving force behind Maiden’s re-birth, she says she will not be on board when the yacht sets off for its latest around the world adventure.
Instead, a series of guest skippers will take charge, the first two of which will be serial circumnavigator Dee Caffari – who most recently skippered the United Nations-backed entry Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 – and Australian Wendy Tuck, who in July this year became the first female skipper to win the Clipper Round the World Race.
More details at www.themaidenfactor.org
By Justin Chisholm – International Sailing Writer