In 1986, only cooking and raising kids was the norm for a woman, no one could dare to think about an all-girls tour and on the sea . But as The Late King Hussein I of Jordan put it with faith, courage and honesty, the impossible become possible. And if he motivated purely nothing on earth could stop.
It started with a girl Tracy Edwards, who was the only person in a ship “Atlantic Privateer” during the Round The World expedition, where she happened to chance meeting Hussein and his family. The yacht began as DISQUE D’OR 3 in 1979, designed by the legendary renowned Bruce Farr, whose name still finds a mention, the moment we talk about water-based chronographs.
Tracy finished the 85/86 WRTWR and knew she wanted to go round again but this time with an all-female crew! The ‘Maiden Great Britain‘ project was born. The initial announcement of an all-female crew was greeted with varying amounts of disbelief from the racing world but Tracy and her team set about raising the funds and putting a crew together.
Over the next six months Tracy and her team redesigned Maiden, ripped her apart and rebuilt her. In September 1988 HRH The Duchess of York graciously named Maiden and went sailing with the girls. Maiden had found a Godmother. Sponsorship for the girls eventually came from King Hussein I of Jordan and she was painted in the livery of the planes, the famous grey hull with its red and gold lines would become an icon of the race.
Maiden and the girls entered her first race in December 1988. She won the Route of Discovery Race from Cadiz to Santa Domingo beating all the other Whitbread boats, including Pierre Fehlmann’s UBS!! At 11am on 2nd September 1989 Maiden squared up on the start line of the Whitbread Round the World Race. The girls waved goodbye to their Godmother and as the gun resounded around the Solent set off amongst the 22 strong fleet to race the first leg to Uruguay. And the rest, as they say, is history! Maiden came 3rd in her class on that leg .
They went from Uruguay to Australia, spanning 7.3K miles then the Tasman Sea , New Zealand. She nearly sank towards Cape Horn and later survived a tornado; for 5 days the sailors were without food and yet as they reached back to Uruguay, they were welcomed with pride.
In 1990, the girls dispersed and the Maiden was sold and now 27 years later, with the support of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, it has plans for a comeback in sailing, both as a sport and to champion the cause for education.The team is now involved in promoting education for girls through its own The Maiden Education and various primary charities like Just A Drop, I Am A Girl – Fields Of Life, Room To Read, Their world, The Girls Network and the Orchid Project.
And towards the end , as Princess Haya delights us with the project and remembering her great father, “My father, King Hussein I, would have been the first to offer his support and guidance to the new Maiden Project announced this week. I, as a young girl, fondly remember his ‘hands-on’ involvement with the original project which made sporting history, and surprisingly feel how the issues of female equality and values he championed all those years ago seem even more relevant today”.
“Having the intrepid Tracy Edwards MBE back at the helm is something I know my father would have been so happy to learn and he would have wanted me to be part of this project. As his daughter, I feel honored and humbled to be involved with the resurrection of the Maiden project as it embarks on its new chapter of maritime history. The knowledge that Maiden will once again travel the seas, means not only will the memory and legacy of my late father live on but we can all use this a platform to highlight the need of equal access to education for girls in all corners of the globe, referencing something that he always believed in: ‘anything is possible’.”