Now 59 and licensed to use the letters MBE after her name, Tracy Edwards is an international sports legend, the first woman to receive the Yachting Journalists’ Association’s Yachtsman of the Year trophy. She put together the first-ever all-female team to compete in the prestigious Whitbread Around-the-World race, in 1989/90. Rather than sink or retire, as many of his male peers predicted at the time, Edwards and his brave crew won two of the race’s five legs and finished second overall in the class of their boat: the first time England had ever done so well in the Whitbread, and unequaled since. Their story is told in the thrilling 2019 documentary Young lady (https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2019/07/25/maidens-all-female-crew-breaks-boundaries-in-the-male-dominated-sport-of-yacht-racing).
But Edwards had a rocky start to life, being kicked out of school at 15 for her rebellious behavior and literally running off to sea to get away from an abusive stepfather. She spent her late teens and early twenties as a reckless “boat bum,” learning sailing skills mostly by taking jobs as a cook, deckhand, and “stewardess. “. It was during one such gig, a 1985 sailboat rental at Martha’s Vineyard by a mysterious VIP, that she befriended the man who would later sponsor Young ladyRenovation and participation in the Whitbread Race: King Hussein I of Jordan.
By his own admission, Edwards still had a lot on his plate at that time. She was stubborn, unfocused, combative and made many decisions that she would later regret. It was only with the prospect of several decades that she realized that not completing her education had been a hindrance. Today, she holds a university degree in psychology and is professionally committed to protecting and nurturing young people, especially girls.
That’s why she does what she does today: using her fame and that of her historic sailboat to raise funds for the Maiden Factor Foundation, which will be channeled to non-profit organizations around the world that help girls to get 12 years of schooling. For financial reasons, Edwards had to sell Young lady shortly after his triumph at the Whitbread Race. After discovering the 58ft aluminum boat rotting in the Seychelles in 2014, she financed its reconstruction (with start-up funds provided by the late King Hussein’s daughter, Princess Haya) and relaunched it in 2018. The ship‘s new mission is not to compete, but to visit ports around the world, tell the Young lady story and inspire girls to do the things everyone around them tells them can’t be done.
This planned three-year world tour was interrupted by COVID, and during the downtime, Edwards began to reflect on the increased role remote learning was likely to play in the future as a strategy for teaching students. girls who cannot go safely to schools in places like Afghanistan. She also refined the Foundation’s purpose: to encourage the participation of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, both by obtaining an appropriate education and through networking and job recommendations. An online dating and resource site for girls and women in STEM is set to launch in September on the Maiden Factor website (www.themaidenfactor.org).
Now that she can spin again, Young ladyStops in port cities provide great opportunities for hands-on demonstrations of how STEM skills are applied in a practical way when sailing a sailboat. Last week, the children of Kingston had the chance to meet the Young lady crew and attend sailing science workshops, while the boat spent two full days in port at the Hudson River Maritime Museum on the Rondout waterfront. The Museum, the sloops Clear water and Apollonia collaborated to organize field trips for local schoolchildren.
The lessons were divided into several “activity stations”. On board of Young lady, girls and boys were able to try their hand at hoisting a heavy sail using a winch and pulleys, working as a team. On the grounds of the Museum, a few other crew members taught a course called “How the Wind Powers Sailboats”, which explained the science behind sailing. Children assembled homemade anemometers with straws and paper cups, learning to use revolutions per minute to calculate wind speed, Young ladysaid engineer Ami Hopkins.
Although not on board for her boat’s current 22,000-mile three-year voyage (Liz Wardley is currently the official skipper of Maiden), Tracy Edwards was on hand to welcome visitors to the Rondout last week, and heaps praise on his crew. local hosts. “The Hudson River Maritime Museum is so awesome!” she says. “We will be in New York until the end of June. I flew for this leg because New York is one of my favorite cities.
Maiden returned down the Hudson on June 11. After a stay in Brooklyn, she will spend time on Long Island, where the lucky raffle winners (https://go.rallyup.com/maidenfactor/campaign/details) will be able to watch the 4th of July fireworks or spend a day sailing aboard the boat. Then it’s up the New England coast to Mystic/Stonington, Connecticut; St. John’s, New Brunswick in Canada; back down to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island; then across the Atlantic to the Azores and Dakar. The crew expects to be in Cape Town in December.