The 58ft Maiden began life in 1979 as DISQUE D'OR 3 on the design table of the talented and prolific boat designer Bruce Farr. The commission for the design came from the Swiss Ocean Racing Club and called for a lightish displacement, easily handled, ocean racing yacht for long passage races including the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World Race. The yacht - DISQUE D'OR 3 - was skippered by Pierre Fehlmann, one of Switzerland's best known all-round yachtsmen, who had also competed in the previous Whitbread Round the World Race. DISQUE D'OR 3 finished 4th overall in the 1981-82 Whitbread race.
In 1986 a young cook and the only girl on the South African boat Atlantic Privateer was rounding Cape Horn in the 85/86 Whitbread Round the World Race. Out in the icy wastes of the Southern Ocean there was one other boat rounding the Horn sailed by legendary single handed sailor Bertie Reed on his 58ft Bruce Farr designed Stabilo Boss as they raced in the BOC Single Handed Round the World Race. Reed had bought Disque D’or 3 and renamed her after his sponsor. Tracy Edwards was the young cook, and as they spoke on the radio to Bertie, she could not have had any idea that just three years later she would be crossing the start line in that very boat to be renamed Maiden. After the BOC, Stabilo Boss was renamed Prestige and languished in Cape Town all but forgotten.
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. Based in Hamble, their initial idea was a Tony Castro designed yacht but it took so long to raise the funding that idea was scrapped. In 1987 Tracy mortgaged her house to buy a “wreck with a pedigree”. Prestige was put on a ship and brought to Southampton in England where she was unloaded into the water watched by a sceptical crowd! Motoring Prestige up river to Hamble marina she began to sink but after much frantic bailing she arrived to the cheers of the Maiden crew.
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 ‘christened’ 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.
Photo 1: 1988, September, HRH The Dutchess of York formally christened Maiden with Tracy Edwards in attendance.
Photo 2: 1989, May, Maiden's refurbishment completed "all ship shape and Bristol fashion" ready to take the plunge.
Photo 3: 1989, September, Maiden makes her way to the start line of the WRTWR.
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 and although the girls were disappointed, the yachting press was amazed they had got there!!
After a three week stopover they took on the 7,300 mile marathon from Uruguay, through the treacherous South Ocean to Australia. They went further south than the other boats in their class, survived icebergs, 30 degree below freezing temperatures, frostbite, contaminated gas and no satellite signal for 9 days. Two men from competitor yacht, Creightons Naturally, went overboard and although both were retrieved Anthony Phillips could not be resuscitated, however Bart van den Dwey was still alive although suffering from salt ingestion and hypothermia. Doctor Claire Russell stayed on Maiden’s radio for two days giving advice on how to keep him alive.
Despite the ferocity of the leg, Maiden sailed into Perth, Australia ten days later she was a full 24 hours ahead of her nearest rival and a proud Tracy and her team were presented with the Beefeater Trophy. Jaws in the sailing world dropped!!
A well-earned rest in Perth was followed by a short hop of 14 days across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand during which they celebrated Christmas Day. Maiden also won this leg, extending her lead to 28 hours overall. In New Zealand, Maiden had a thorough overhaul, the mast repaired and rigging checked before the next Southern Ocean leg, round Cape Horn to Uruguay. It was another tough leg and Maiden lost her overall lead when she nearly sank rounding Cape Horn! She limped to Uruguay where her Godmother The Duchess of York welcomed them. The girls then spent a wonderful day with her mother, Susan Barrantes at her Polo ranch in Argentina.
The leg to Ft Lauderdale in Florida was not a happy one unfortunately with Maiden coming in third place but a trip to Disneyland cheered the crew up.
Maiden set off on her final leg to Southampton. After surviving a tornado and the final five days with no food, the girls arrived home to a rapturous welcome. Their final position was 2nd place overall in their class; the best result for a British boat in 17 years and unbeaten to this day.
Maiden was sold and the girls scattered to the four corners of the earth. 27 years later, Maiden is coming home to the UK.