A few days ago, we came across this amazing TED Talk by Tracy Edwards, released in 2020. She is a British sailor who, back in 1989, skipped the very first 100% female crew in the occasion of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. In the TED Talk, she looks back on her life and delivers an inspiring message for the industry. So, here is what we've learned and retained in the 11-Minute talk.
Tracy Edwards firstly describes the path that led her to sail. Against all odds, she made her first step in sailing after experiencing quite unstable and blurry time. When someone is asking her how she became an ocean-racing sailor, here is her answer:
"I've always wanted to say 'I had a vision, which became a dream, which became an obsession,' but, of course, life's not like that. [...] the truth is that I was expelled from school when I was 15 years old."
So after her mom meaningfully told her "Every single one of us is good at something, you just have to go and find what it is.", she left her native England and went backpacking in Greece. Quite unexpectedly, she ended up working on a boat as a stewardess. She was 17 at that point. During that time, she was taught how to sail by a skipper during the transatlantic. So, even though she hated mathematic, she let herself be led by the passion and the enthusiasm she felt when sailing. At the age of 21, Tracy worked as a cook on a Whitbread Round the World Race boat, and there, she realized how few women there are in the sailing world. During the TED Talk, she says:
"I think the second most profound thought in my entire life was: 'No man is ever going to allow me to be a navigator on their boat, ever.' And that is still the case today. In 35 years of the Whitbread, there have only been two female navigators that haven't been on an all-female cruise, and that's how Maiden was born. [...] I discovered things about myself that I had no idea existed. I discovered I had a fighting spirit, I discovered I was competitive -- never knew that before -- and I discovered my second passion, which was equality."
That when she decided to put her own crew together, composed of females only, raise her own money, and find her own boat to participate in the race again. By racing on their own and pushing the limits of what was possible at that time, Tracy Edwards and her team broadly wanted to share a message of peace and equality. When they finally found their boat and started renovating it, Edwards admits that everyone was helpful—as it was so unusual to see a bunch of women in a yard. At the end of the 1989 Whitbread Race, after successfully winning two legs and finishing second overall, they still had no money so decided to sell the boat they raced on—Maiden.
Maiden is now a legend among racing sailboats. In 2015, Tracy found the boat—abandoned and in poor condition—in the Seychelles and decided that Maiden still had a lot to offer to her and the world. That's when a film director decided to make a documentary about Maiden. The whole original team then rescued her, shipped her back from the Indian Ocean to the UK with the financial help of donors. Tracy remembers that it was beautiful to see all the crew coming together once again for this project of restoration. And to continue the fight they started with the 1989 race, the team and Maiden went sailing around the world for a 5-Year tour. This tour was empowering community programs that offer the chance of education to girls. And more than educating in a classroom, Tracy Edwards' biggest wish is to teach girls that there is no conventional or good way in life and that everyone can be successful when following their dreams and fighting for them.
To this day, The Maiden Factor is still active and continues to fight for girl's education around the world.