Tracy Edwards, the first woman to lead an all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race 1989-90, has been named an Ambassador for the first Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion.
Edwards and her crew of Maiden won two of the six legs in their class including the spectacular route through the notorious Southern Ocean from Punta del Este to Fremantle, a leg which cost the life of Tony Philips from Creighton’s Naturally.
The team attracted attention far in excess of their rivals, both before and after the race. Edwards herself overcame incredible odds to bring the Maiden project together. Although Clare Francis had been the first female skipper with ADC Accutrac in 1977-78, and many other women had taken part in the event, the crews had always been mixed and there was a widely expressed view that women did not have the sheer physical strength necessary to compete.
There was much scepticism before the race started and no early major sponsorship was offered. Determined to compete, Edwards sold her house to buy the run-down 58’ (17.7m) Disque d’Or III, Pierre Fehlmann’s entry in the 1981-82 race and refit her to take part in 1989-90.
Sponsorship from Royal Jordanian Airlines came at the last minute, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson became ‘godmother’ to the boat and christened her ‘Maiden’ at a ceremony on the banks of the River Hamble on the south coast of England. When Maiden won arguably the toughest leg of the course on both corrected and elapsed time, the sceptics were silenced in the most effective way possible.
Maiden went on to win her class in leg three, finishing second overall in her division. This was the best result for a British boat since 1977 and Edwards became the first woman to win the Yachtsman of the Year Award in its 36-year history. In 1990 Edwards was named Sportswoman of the Year and presented with an MBE.
Edwards will be joining other Legend Ambassadors: Lady Pippa Blake, Magnus Olsson, Sir Chay Blyth CBE, BEM, and Skip Novak.
The Legends regatta is the first ever official reunion of all who have sailed in the world’s premier ocean race since the inaugural race in 1973-74.
It is being held in Alicante, Spain from 1-5 November 2011, the week between the Alicante in-port race and the start of leg one.