How pioneering yacht Maiden overcame ‘the real last bastion of male dominance’ and continues to empower women



Over three decades of its pioneering, worldwide journey, The The first racing yacht Sailing the high seas again – and changing young women’s lives in the process.

Captained by British sailors Tracy EdwardsMaiden became the first all-female team to sail around the world in 1990 – a historic moment for a sport that had been slow to welcome women.

“It’s hard to remember that people were aggressive enough about us not racing around the world,” Edwards explains. Don Riddell of CNN Sport. “It was the real last bastion of male dominance in a sport.”

The crew won two of the six legs of the Whitbread Round the World Race – now known as the Volvo Ocean Race – and finished second in their class, defying the sexist attitudes to sailing at the time.

“One of the headlines, which has to be my favorite, was: ‘The Maiden’s just a tin full of tarts,'” says Edwards, the same journalist who later credited the crew with “smart, quick tarts.” A full tin” said. ”

Fast forward 33 years ago and Maiden continues to represent “women’s empowerment, women’s strength, and what women are capable of,” according to Edwards.

After being restored to her former glory, the yacht has been touring the world since 2018, recently completing a voyage from Dakar, Senegal to Cape Town, South Africa.

The purpose of the tour is to raise funds and awareness for girls’ education – especially in developing countries – to try to keep them in education until they turn 18.

Making the Maiden seaworthy once again was no easy feat. In 2014, Edwards was told that the ship had broken down and was burning in the Seychelles.

This prompted the original crew of the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race to start a fundraiser. With the support of Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, they were able to bring Maiden back to the UK and start a restoration project.

“The Maiden Factor” — the name given to the nonprofit organization — is part of the original crew’s legacy.

Between 2021 and 2024, Maiden intends to sail 90,000 nautical miles, visiting 60 destinations in more than 40 different countries.

Princess Haya bint Al-Hussein of Jordan (center) meets Edwards (center left) at the newly-renovated Maiden in London on September 5, 2018.

“I see people dreaming more and realizing that we as humans are limitless,” says Lungi Mchunu, a current Maiden crew member.

“I just want them to be able to dream and know that they can try and do anything. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay; As you move on, you find something that suits you better.

A South African native, Mchunu worked as a banker and was afraid of the sea before discovering sailing in 2017. Since then, she has not only conquered her fear, but also become the first African woman to sail to the Arctic.

“For some strange reason, I still feel at home when the waves are like five or eight metres,” says Mchunu.

“I feel most comfortable in the ocean … even though I was rescued in the Arctic, it wasn’t scary. I was just fine, I guess … I’m getting to know a side of myself that I never knew existed.

Machunu’s ultimate dream is to travel the world alone, and Maiden – as it has been with so many other women before – is empowering her to achieve that goal.

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