Alex Holmes was particularly interested in telling Tracy Edwards' story because she wasn't the typical sporting "golden girl". Instead, she had had a troubled youth which involved running away from home from an abusive stepfather and getting thrown out of school. See more »
We were a real mixed bag of mostly dropouts, misfits and gypsies and nomads. We were all running away from something, but we were family units... I mean surreal family units.
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A perfect documentary story, beautifully carried off.
Thanks to this documentary, a lot more people (including me, who'd never heard of it) learned that in 1989, 27-year-old Tracy Edwards put together the first all-female crew of sailors in the Whitbread's round-the-world yacht race and not only finished this 5-month epic journey but did spectacularly well. It's a story tailor-made for a good documentary. On YouTube you can find a really interesting recent interview with Tracy and the director Alex Holmes, which fills in loads of fascinating detail and backstory about the making of the film. It turns out that Holmes thought this was a terrific story, proposed the idea of making a movie version to Tracy complete with script and casting and everything. Tracy then told him they weren't exactly in the dark ages back in 1989, their cook doubled as embedded photographer, and there was lots of original film footage direct from the boat to work with. So -- a documentary. (Not that this wouldn't make a great movie too. Maybe someday.)
One stylistic element I really enjoyed was that the women of the crew are all still around (now middle-aged of course), and the film regularly splices in some narration from them in between seeing their younger selves during the race. These ladies are great -- they're articulate, self-possessed, with mature reflections on what they accomplished back then. I'd have been happy with seeing more of them and I suspect there's lots more that was edited down.
Minor complaints that reduce my rating "down" to a mere 8/10: first, there wasn't enough about the actual process of sailing and handling the yacht. I would happily have heard more about that. Second, what happened to the fifth leg of the race? That was the section from South America to Florida. I guess there was nothing very dramatic during it so it was cut. And last -- it didn't really tell us how Maiden stood relative to the other yachts in the race. They did finish second *in their class*, but many boats in other classes finished well ahead. Somehow they made it sound as if Maiden was among the leaders among all the boats, but that wasn't the case.
However, it has a great finish. The last scene during the race sees them on a clear day sailing calmly and steadily in to the finish line at Southampton. Tracy and her crew are a bit depressed because they know they're not going to be first (in their class). But then, a little sailboat comes by, turns around, and joins them on the way in. Then another. And another. Then dozens more. Maiden comes in to harbor absolutely surrounded by a little fleet of boats, and with hundreds of cheering spectators lining the docks, all to validate that they had done something no one had done before. It's a magnificent scene almost too good for words. This is a totally engaging film throughout, but that sequence and the women themselves make this a first-rate piece of work.
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