The two-hour sail almost didn’t happen. Maiden, the yacht made famous in Alex Holmes’ eponymous documentary about skipper Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew and their history-making bid to win the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race, has been docked at the St. Francis Yacht Club since the evening of Monday, Aug. 19. Now, she was off with a few invited guests for a sail around the Bay, but a dredging operation with a huge barge at the mouth of the harbor dropped the water level even more than the low tide, trapping Maiden inside the marina. But cooperation is a hallmark of people who spend their lives on water. The barge moved off. The sail began.
On the boat: Skipper Wendy Tuck, a cheerful Australian who became the first woman to win a round the world race when she came in first in the 2018 Clipper Race; three sailors of the permanent crew, Matilda Ajanko, Courtney Koos, and Amalia Infante; Angela Heath, a member of the 1989 crew, joyful to find herself back in familiar surroundings; an assortment of journalists and others most of whom seemed familiar with the sport; and me—a landlubber whose boating experience can be summoned up in one word: ferries.
Ferries are big. Ferries are kind of like buses, only on water. Maiden is not that. Thrilling and terrifying at the same time. For one thing, Maiden (at least to these eyes, actual sailors may feel differently) is small, its deck narrow, ringed by a taffrail we were told to hold onto at all times when walking on the deck (not something this scaredy cat was not going to attempt—it is far too easy to imagine pitching forward overboard, so not a good look). Then there’s the heel, those moments when a boat leans more to one side than the other and it feels as if you could slide off the world.
Despite the fear, it was a joy to be on the water. The crew invited confidence, moving around the deck as if on solid dry land. And they were kind to the newbie, particularly skipper Wendy, a surfer who came to sailing in her later 20s, and Amalia, a Spaniard who has been sailing since she was a small child. And despite the Golden Gate being so socked in that the bridge disappeared—Wendy admits she doesn’t like sailing in fog, but we weren’t going that way—it was a beautiful day for a cruise around the inner San Francisco Bay, around Alcatraz and within shouting distance of Angel Island and Sausalito.
So, why is Maiden here? After the Whitbread race, circumstances forced Tracy Edwards to sell her beloved yacht. It passed through several hands and then dropped out of sight, only to be found in a state of profound disrepair in 2014 in the Seychelles. Edwards raised the money to buy Maiden back and brought her back to England where she was fully restored.
Now, Maiden is sailing around the world again, but not as part of a race. Instead, she is on a two-and-a-half year world tour that will cover over 60,000 nautical miles, visit 20 countries, and make 36 stopovers, including all five stopovers the Maiden made during the Whitbread race. The boat left the UK in Nov. 2018.
The journey is not simply one of sport, it also a way of raising awareness of as well as funds for the education of girls and the rights of women through The Maiden Factor and The Maiden Factor Foundation. Part of that effort is outreach. To that end, Maiden is offering public tours, Sat., Aug. 24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., South Beach Yacht Club in San Francisco and Sun., Aug. 25, 12 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Richmond Yacht Club in Richmond. There is also a benefit screening of Maiden on Weds., Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m. at the Premier Theater at Lucasfilm. Original Maiden crewmembers Jo Gooding and Angela Heath will take part in a Q&A. Maiden departs from the St. Francis Yacht Club at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.
And now I can say I’ve sailed. (And, yes, I would do it again despite the fear.) And I can brag, because my maiden voyage was on the world-famous Maiden. –Pam Grady
For more information about Maiden and The Maiden Factor, visit www.themaidenfactor.org