Tracy Edwards’ book ‘Maiden’, written with Tim Madge, tells a tale that has quite properly passed into legend

Tracy raises the funds, finds the boat of the same name and skippers the first all-female crew around the globe in the world’s greatest fully-crewed yacht race. The years 1989/90 were iconic for the Whitbread, with the likes of Peter Blake driving Steinlager II, Lawrie Smith with his redoubtable crew jockeying Rothmans, and Fisher & Paykel with Grant Dalton at the helm.

The stress on Tracy throughout this book is almost unbelievable, but it is in the Southern Ocean, hammering down to Fremantle in Australia, that she really shows her mettle. The text comes in the form of her daily diary and it lays her soul frighteningly bare.

In the extract below, she has just been relaying messages and standing by for Creighton’s Naturally, a maxi which had just lost a crewman. She has turned in exhausted, while inaccurate steering compasses have forced Maiden further north than she’d intended. Read on. I couldn’t put it down.

From Maiden

November 14th 49°24’N, 19°05’E

I spent the whole day in a dreadful mood because we had gone too far north. When I finally thought I had sorted it all out, the satnavs packed up. I started praying my calculations had been right, but I have no way of checking them.

Dawn, Jeni and I racked our brains trying to work it all out. Why did this have to happen when we were first? Well, we won’t be for much longer. Rucanor will have creamed past us last night.

I stood by for Creighton’s all day. Bart is getting better all the time. I had a message for them from British Defender.


Edwards at the Maiden nav and comms station. Unreliable instruments piled on the pressure

At the chat show, sure enough Rucanor were only 39 miles behind with lots of wind. I had to fight my temper – difficult. I still couldn’t get weather maps because of being on standby. It was too cloudy to take a sight (using a sextant).

I am beginning to feel, too, that if we can’t sort out these compasses in Freo then the girls can get themselves another navigator, I’ve had enough. I expect Rucanor can’t believe their luck.

November 15th 49°40’S, 25°17’E – 3,960 miles to go

I kept getting up in the night to check on the sat nav. Nothing, bloody nothing. We had pancakes for breakfast but Jo was in a foul mood. I missed Creighton’s calling as I was trying to deal with a couple of our own problems.

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If anyone who didn’t sail had been on the boat today it would have put them off sailing for life. It very nearly did it to me. What a nightmare. The wind, too, was up and down. No weather charts again – very bad reception.

It was very cold and damp and miserable – now there is something wrong with the breakers (for electric power). I wonder if they are leaking into the hull and creating the compass problem? At one point everything went. I screamed for Jeni and we sat down and went round and round in circles trying to figure it all out.

We checked everything: the compasses again, the cables to the satnav, the computer. Tempers were again a little short today. Then, at the chat show, things were not too bad. Rucanor and the others are still in the high as well as us. We’ll try to head south again as they all are. Rucanor is still 40 miles behind (are they sailing backwards?). I really thought they would have overtaken us last night. L’Esprit is 100 miles behind, Schlussel 173. Good.


Dramatic view of Maiden in the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race

Everyone else is very fed up but trying to make the best of it. Good on ’em. I stayed up all day but did manage to grab two hours this afternoon. Finally, the satnav took a fix in the early evening; then immediately stopped again.

Dawn had worked out the fuel. Because of Creighton’s (not that I mind), we will probably run out during the last week. Thank the Lord for the emergency batteries. I have worked out that in five days we can finally head north. Jeni will be pleased – she has been suffering badly from her frozen feet.

We went today onto the chart which has Australia away in the corner. Rucanor are not on it yet. That makes things seem a lot better. But while we were gybing, Sally managed to slam the hatch shut on my hand. When Jo brought some water to soothe it she stumbled and spilled it all over the chart. If I hadn’t been crying, I’d have laughed.

  1. 1. From Maiden
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