Celebrity Interview: Maiden Director Alex Holmes and Skipper Tracy Edwards Talk on Making the Documentary

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Maiden, from Sony Pictures Classic, the incredible story of Captain Tracy Edwards, and her historic voyage and win in The Whitbread Round the World sailing race, has continued its upward track at the indie box office.

Having the opportunity to speak with Tracy and Director Alex Holmes, at the media day prior to the film's release, we spoke on her relationship with former King Hussein of Jordan his decision to become her sole sponsor, and a few harrowing moments at sea.

Janet Walker: You have quite the amazing story there is so much to it and it's such an inspiration story. I think I'd like to talk about the journey. In the film it spoke about how long it took you to ask King Hussein for the sponsorship. You finally just broke down and ask him. I felt that that would have been the clear choice in the very beginning – So tell me why it you decided to wait?

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Tracy Edwards: I felt that I really wanted to do this without any help. And I didn't want people to turn around and say of King Hussain of course he would. It was difficult because I knew the help was always there if I asked for it. It was very tempting. What he did do before he gave us the money. He was just so supportive. We became friends after I met him when I was chartering, and I know that sounds bizarre, but he was friends with lots of people, lots of weird and wonderful people. He was a collector of people. They fascinated him. He loved humans. That's why we have the stability in the middle east that we have now. His love for his fellow man was quite extraordinary. He always so the good in people.

During that whole time, he was negotiating the Middle East peace process, meeting with Yasser Arafat, and Bill Clinton and all that was going on and he still had time to pick up the phone to me and say what's the problem now. I flew out there a few times and sat with his family and there was always that he had that extraordinary belief in me. And I was like, if he believes in me, he's a pretty good judge of character. He must see something in me that I can do. He was always there. I just didn't want to ask him for physical help, for money, I'm British, none of us like talking about money. So, it was the last resort.

We did a race before the race and we won. And it was at that point when we were still being told no we can't sponsor you that I called him. He just said, I was wondering when you were going to ask, so how much do you want. So, we went over and we met Royal Jordanian Airlines, and that's another interesting story. When he started Royal Jordanian Airlines, the rest of the Arab world laughed and said, "You're Jordan, you're tiny, you have no money, you can't have your own airline what were you thinking." And he said, "Yes I can, I can have my own airline if I want." So, he had a fight to put to put the airline together, it was named after the love of his life, Queen Alia, and it then became Royal Jordanian Airlines, but he had that fight. It was just so fitting that Royal Jordanian Airlines sponsored us. This tiny little airline sponsoring this tiny little project that's been told it couldn't be done. It's perfect.

Alex Holmes: Can I chip in with an observation? Just from the answer and looking, at the footage and remembering all the interviews you did at the time. The other reason, I think. It seemed like a no brainer that someone would want to sponsor this was a British entry into the race. Not only did these boats have different composition of crew but they were generally thought of as Belgium boat, British boat, French and a Russian boat and a kiwi boat, and why wouldn't a British company step forward and sponsor a British boat? In fact, the first name of the boat was Maid in Great Britain, it was a rather poor pun on Made in Great Britain, a campaign at the time for home produced goods and all that kind of stuff. The idea that you would go to a King of a Middle Eastern country for the sponsorship for this thing was a long way from your thoughts at the time. It was just so obvious that is was a great thing to get behind and sponsor and yet the truth was otherwise.

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JW: It was amazing. I found that aspect fascinating and there are many other aspects that are fascinating including and obviously the voyage. From the beginning of the film where it says, "The ocean is always trying to kill you." I love the ocean, I love the water, I'm not so fond of sailing, honestly, I don't mind sailing from one slip to the next slip but around the world is not something I've ever thought about, but there is the near death experience, when you were taking on water in the Southern Ocean.

TE: The second leg of the Southern Ocean.

JW: In the film, I'm assuming it was longer than the high points in the film, so, describe the hours and who gave the decision to send the Mayday and when did you tell them to back off and so tell me a little about that.

TE: So, it was two days. It's interesting, when people look at me and say, I couldn't do what you did, I look at them and say, Yes, you could. Anyway, can do anything. I didn't think I could be as frightened as I was for two days, without keeling over and without showing it. But whatever you have to do, you will do and you find if you've got to do it a bit longer, you'll do it a bit longer and if someone had said, you'll have to go through these two days, I would've said, I can't do that. You get to the next bit, and you get to the next bit and as Jenny so eloquently says in the film, I love that line, "You can't call the repair people. There are no repair people." I just love that line.

And because you can only reply on yourself. We built that boat and I always that we had an advantage because we built that boat. We knew every nook and cranny, but what I didn't know was that because we were beating the hell out of the boat because we were so nervous about not doing well in that leg, we had opened up stress fractures in the mast. So were looking here (she points to the floor) where is the leak, and the water is coming in through the mast and coming down and disseminating so we never found it until we got into port and then we found it.

For me, it was the first time I had to wrestle with my conscience about telling the truth to the crew about how actually very worried I was about the situation. And don't make a major thing about it, oh we went through much worse last time, oh it fine, this is nothing, which is what I did to a certain extent and they're not stupid. We all kind of knew that we were in a fairly precarious position, we didn't in the end send out a Mayday, we sent out a warning that we might be sending out a mayday, and that's when they scrambled the RAF Hercules to fly over us, we did all luck it and when it was over we asked, what were they going to do if we sink? Wave?

AH: Yes, exactly how would they pick us up?

TE: So that was weird. We knew the British forces were still on the Falkland Islands, so we knew we had to keep edging over toward them, we spent a lot longer on that tack knowing we were close enough to be rescued if something happened.

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The other thing, and I think about this now, we have Maiden sailing again, and we've had to deal with health and safety. We never had to deal with Health and Safety then. Our risk assessment was we might die, let's try not to. That was it. And at that point, as we were taking on this water, we couldn't find it, I was thinking, Jen we've never really timed how long it takes to get the life rafts out the lockers. And when I think back on it now, the life rafts were in locked lockers and the grinders we would have had to take with a tool, one of the handles off, unlock the locker and get the life raft out. If the boat had gone over, we wouldn't have stood a chance. So, I did have a moment when I said to Sally very quietly, "Sal, could you just go and have a look at how long you think it would take to get the life rafts out of the lockers." She said, "I'm on it." So, there was all this subterfuge going on in the background. But at the end of the day I trusted us and I trusted the boat. So, there were moments of sheer terror, but I didn't think we were going to die.

AH: And if I again can make one observation on how calm it was. There wasn't, you could tell there was deep concern, but there wasn't shouting and screaming, it was like okay we've got a problem, "Let's lock on and see what we can do to solve it." And there was no argument, everything ran incredibly smoothly, it was almost as if you had practiced this, like you had been in training for just these circumstances. Everyone contributing ideas, everyone was open to everyone's idea when you were looking for what the problem might be, and I felt that was one of the things that was quite distinctive about the nature of crew. You talked about how close you were as a crew perhaps closer because of the obstacles you had to overcome and that was one of the clearest observations to me in the footage of that there not hysterical it was the opposite.

TE: there was a moment for me. Obviously dealing with the problem. The water had gone over the generators and lost battery power and we couldn't use the bilge pumps which was rather worrying. There is a saying at sea, "there's not a bilge pump like a bucket in the hands of a frightened sailor." Oh my God that was true. I had to go back to the and there was a steady procession of bucket going backwards and forwards and we looked at each other, We carried on.

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Maiden is sailing again, on another round the world victory tour, as Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, the daughter to the late King Hussain, stepped in and offered to continue her father's legacy and sponsor this Maiden.

Edwards and company are holding major fundraisers in the fall 2019 in several US cities, including major sailing ports on the west coast. Los Angeles made the list, as well as New York on the east coast. The British fundraiser and launch party, attended by HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who from all accounts didn't want to leave, was a smashing success.

Maiden is in theaters everywhere. See it.

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