The yacht Maiden broke through the “final stronghold of male control” and uplifted women globally.

Estimated read time 4 min read

CNN  — 

Over 30 years after its groundbreaking trip around the world, the Maiden racing boat is once again navigating the open waters and making a positive impact on the lives of young women.

In 1990, under the leadership of British sailor Tracy Edwards, the boat Maiden achieved the historic feat of being the first all-female crew to sail around the world. This was a significant milestone for a sport that had been resistant to including women.

“It is difficult to recall the resistance we faced when trying to race around the world,” Edwards explains to CNN Sport’s Don Riddell. “It was the final stronghold of male superiority in the sport.”

The team ultimately triumphed in two out of the six stages of the Whitbread Round the World Race, currently called the Volvo Ocean Race. Despite the prevalent gender stereotypes in the sailing world at the time, they came in second place overall in their category.

Edwards recalls one particular headline that stood out to him, stating, “Maiden is simply a container filled with pastries.” He also mentions that the same reporter later described the crew as “a container filled with intelligent and quick-witted individuals.”

Edwards (front and center) celebrates onboard Maiden during the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Reworded: Looking back 33 years, Maiden still symbolizes “the advancement of women, the resilience of women, and the potential of women,” as stated by Edwards.

After undergoing restoration, the yacht has been traveling around the globe since 2018. Most recently, it completed a trip from Dakar, Senegal to Cape Town, South Africa.

The purpose of the tour is to generate funds and attention for girls’ education, with a focus on ensuring their education continues until they reach the age of 18, especially in developing countries.

Reviving Maiden’s seaworthiness was a challenging task. In 2014, Edwards received news that the ship had deteriorated and was decaying in the Seychelles.

That prompted the original crew from the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race to start a fundraiser. Along with support from Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, they were able to bring Maiden back to the UK and begin a restoration project.

The organization, called “The Maiden Factor,” is a part of the original crew’s legacy.

Maiden plans to travel 90,000 nautical miles and stop at 60 locations in over 40 countries between 2021 and 2024.

Jordan's Princess Haya bint al-Hussein (center) meets Edwards (center left) on the newly-refurbished Maiden in London on September 5, 2018.

Lungi Mchunu, a member of the current Maiden crew, expresses that she has observed people allowing themselves to dream more and recognizing their boundless potential as human beings.

My wish is for them to believe in their dreams and have the courage to pursue anything they desire. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay; keep pushing forward and you will eventually find something that suits you better.

Mchunu, originally from South Africa, previously held a job as a banker and had a strong fear of the ocean. However, in 2017, she was introduced to sailing and has since overcome her fear. In fact, she has achieved the remarkable feat of becoming the first African woman to sail to the Arctic.

Mchunu remarks that, for some strange reason, he feels comfortable even when the waves are between five and eight meters high.

“I am most at ease when surrounded by the ocean… Even in the midst of being rescued in the Arctic, I did not feel frightened. I was simply content, I suppose… I am discovering a part of myself that I never knew existed.”

Mchunu’s ultimate aspiration is to independently navigate around the world by boat. Maiden, as it has done for numerous women in the past, is enabling her to fulfill this ambition.


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