Women in Marine: Tracy Edwards
Tracy Edwards MBE made history and broke records leading the first all-women Volvo Ocean Race team.
Born 5th September 1962, the British sailor and best-selling author was raised in Pangbourne and spent part of her childhood in Wales. Tracy Edwards’ passion for sailing started at an early age, when she was backpacking around Europe as a teenager. Whilst working in a bar in the port of Piraeus, a job opportunity as a yacht steward arose and Edwards’ sailing career began.
Tracy Edwards worked her way up in the Marine industry as a deck hand and first mate before competing in the 1985-1986 Volvo Ocean Race (previously named the Whitbread Round the World Race) on the crew of the Atlantic Pride.
At 23 years old, Tracy Edwards had no crew, no sponsorship and no boat – but in 1989, she decided to enter the next Volvo Ocean Race as a first-time skipper. After being rejected by 300 companies, Edwards finally secured support and recruited the first all-women Volvo Ocean Race team. Edwards and her team sailed 58-foot yacht Maiden, a much smaller boat than those sailed by their male competitors, to multiple victories. Edwards and her team won two of three Southern Ocean legs of the Volvo Ocean Race, received the winner’s trophy for Leg 2 – the first all-female team to win this leg of the race – and finished in second place overall.
In one of the world’s most extreme sailing competitions and a particularly tough year, in which two boats did not complete the course and three were dismasted, the skills and tenacity of the all-female team silenced the many who doubted the abilities of women in sailing. These outstanding achievements saw Tracy Edwards become the first woman awarded the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy and appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 1990, she wrote the book Maiden, in collaboration with Tim Madge, in which she described her record-breaking sailing journey.
Bad weather conditions and a broken mast in the 1998 Jules Verne trophy marked the end of Tracy Edwards’ brilliant sailing career. Since then Edwards has organised sailing projects and inspired audiences around the world as a motivational speaker. In 2014, Maiden was abandoned in the Seychelles, and Edwards worked to raise the necessary funds to restore the winning yacht.
Maiden recently returned to Southampton for a full refit and will soon join the Volvo Ocean Race Legends regatta. Historic yachts that have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race since 1973 will sail the last leg of this year’s edition from Gothenburg to The Hague in June 2018.
Tracy Edwards founded The Maiden Factor with the support of Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, who was essential to make possible the participation of Maiden in the Volvo Ocean Race 28 years ago. The Maiden Project aims to continue Edwards’ main goal of supporting and empowering women by facilitating women’s education around the world.
Find out more about record-breaking Women in Marine who changed the Sailing World.