Yachtswoman Tracy Edwards made an emotional speech when she gathered with former Whitbread Round the World Race crew members and supporters to welcome the Farr 58’ yacht Maiden home to Southampton.
Maiden sailed into the history books in 1990 when skipper Edwards and an all-female crew successfully completed the race – winning two legs and coming second overall – a British record that is still held.
The yacht then went through a procession of owners before being found abandoned in the Seychelles, and was subsequently bought following a Maiden Rescue campaign to start the next chapter of her history.
Edwards and former Maiden crewmates gathered on Monday this week, as their ’13th crewmember’ was discharged directly to water in grand fashion from a cargo ship at Southampton Port.
Edwards told the crowd of media and supporters, she had experienced ‘very difficult times over the past four years.’
In the speech, which was captured on a Facebook live video, a tearful Edwards said: ‘The Maiden girls are the reason I rescued Maiden. If it hadn’t been for these girls, it would just be a boat, it would be a lump of metal. It’s Maiden because of us.
‘When we decided to rescue Maiden four years ago, we knew it was going to be a bit of a hard slog.
‘We had absolutely no idea it was going to take four years of blood, sweat and tears with comments from potential sponsors like “Oh it’s a bit of an ego trip for you isn’t it love?” Which was my personal favourite, I have to say.
‘We’ve toughed it out, we have raised money through crowdfunding, there are people who have helped to buy the boat, people who have kept me sane, kept me going, so thank you very much.’
Edwards credited her daughter Mackenna for the suggestion of combining her fundraising work for girls’ education and charities with Maiden’s restoration.
She added: ‘We want to work with schools and charities that get girls into education. That’s how The Maiden Factor was born, everything we do with The Maiden Factor will be built around that premise.
‘I was expelled from school when I was 15 years old, I gave away an education that some girls fight for, or their fathers and mothers fight for. They live in cultures where they’re not allowed to go to school, 69million girls around the world don’t go to school.’
Edwards celebrated the fact that the daughter of her original Whitbread race sponsor, King Hussein of Jordan, HRH Princess Haya bint Al Hussein was supporting the new Maiden Factor project.
She said: ‘Without King Hussein, Maiden wouldn’t have happened, it really is as simple as that.
Edwards said The Maiden Factor was King Hussein’s legacy and Princess Haya bint Al Hussein had ‘brought the project full circle.’
Edwards added: ‘The Princess’s vision is even bigger than mine. Her vision is that we’ll make a women’s global movement, we’ll bring charities and organisations together, and work together for the benefit and empowerment of women and the education of girls.
‘Thank you so much for getting us here, which is just amazing, thank you.’
In order to bring Maiden home for an extensive refit at Hamble Yacht Services, Edwards needed to find a practical solution for the transportation.
As the Seychelles being a remote area, with limited shipping options for a yacht of her size, Peters & May Yacht Racing Logistics were able to induce the RollDock SKY Flo Flo Vessel that Peters & May Commercial had chartered for other cargo shipment on from Asia to Europe.
Craig Stanbury, global yacht racing logistics director at Peters & May, said: ‘Due to her location and size it was a challenge to find an efficient solution for the cradling and shipment of Maiden.
‘Peters & May having worked with the Maiden campaign previously during The Whitbread Round the World Race are proud to be a part of it working together with friends in the industry to get her home safely. We are all delighted to help make it happen for Tracy and the team.’