Maiden is the Farr-designed 58-footer which Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew sailed to 2nd overall in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race. The yacht recently had a full restoration before setting off on a round the world trip to raise funds and awareness for girls’ education under the banner of The Maiden Factor
Few yachts, and fewer skippers, become truly famous – famous in the sense that the everyman on the street would recognise them by a single name. Maiden did though, as did Tracy.
The controversial all-female team, led by a petite dynamo of a skipper, gained a celebrity status that went beyond the sports pages of the British press. From her christening by HRH The Duchess of York to the team’s final, triumphant return back to the Solent in 1990 as double leg winners (the crew wearing swimsuits), Maiden attracted unprecedented column inches to become one the most famous yachts of the era.
But after the race, while Edwards’ remained in the spotlight, Maiden was sold on. Eventually, after 24 years under various ownerships, the aluminium-hulled yacht was found languishing in the Indian Ocean.
Maiden had been abandoned in Eden Island Marina, on Mahe, in the Seychelles and was corroding into oblivion. When Edwards heard of her plight, she launched a crowd-funding campaign to bring Maiden home, which unlocked a surprising depth of affection for the boat. Over £40,000 was raised as hundreds of individuals pledged just a few pounds towards her recovery.
It took nearly three years to secure the full funds to ship Maiden back – she was long past being sailable – with the substantial refit costs covered by the generosity of Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, who had sponsored Maiden’s original Whitbread bid. She eventually made it back to Hamble in 2017, where she underwent a thorough refit, before setting sail on her three-year world tour in late 2018.
The refit brought Maiden full circle. The yacht had been designed by Bruce Farr and first raced the 1981-82 Whitbread as Disque D’Or III, before competing in the 1986-87 BOC single-handed challenge. Edwards shipped her back from Cape Town to Hamble the same year. When the crew motored her from Southampton up the Hamble River, she nearly sank.
Article continues below…
A moment of history was revisited on the banks of the River Hamble in April when the Whitbread maxi Maiden…
Sportspeople – and sailors are no exception here – can be a little… one-dimensional. That single focus which makes competitive…
Her original refit, in preparation for the 1989 Whitbread, was done against the clock and on the cheap – her famous grey livery, for example, was never quite the right colour for her sponsors Royal Jordanian Airways because the team used a few pots of end of line paint they’d got free.
This time, the paint is the right shade of grey. However, the project has many echoes of the past. Howard Gibbons, who was the original project manager for Maiden, returned to manage the restoration and refit.
Amelia Ralphs, who is the crew engineer and was a key part of the refit team, recalls: “I think what’s fun about this project is that there are so many manufacturers and individuals that were around for the original who have invested in it this time around.”
Maiden‘s original specification
She points out a custom bow hatch, which Goiot created for the boat as an exact replica of the original. “We haven’t paid anything more for that hatch than we would have for a normal off-the-shelf one, but Goiot have invested in the legacy of what we’re trying to achieve here.”
The restoration aimed to balance between remaining authentic to Maiden’s original glory, and bringing her in line with modern coding requirements. Throughout her world tour, Maiden will take paying guests on both offshore legs and day sails, so she needs to meet modern safety and environmental requirements, be easy to handle, and be suitable for publicity and marketing activation activities, as well as transocean passages.
Above decks, the biggest changes have been to the rig, as the runners and vast overlapping headsails favoured by Whitbread racers are not practical for corporate sailing.
Instead Maiden has a new fractional rig with aft-swept spreaders, created by Marine Results and Seldén. Hamble designer Tony Castro has also been involved in much of the design work for the refit.
Otherwise Maiden is strikingly similar to her Whitbread layout on deck. The deep working pit area has barely changed. “It’s really unique because it’s just so old fashioned, but it’s really functional,” comments Ralphs. “The depth makes it really safe, you feel really secure in it.”
Many of the fittings are in the original positions. For reference, Ralphs found herself studying an incredibly detailed scale model a Maiden super-fan had made.
“It was in a museum and then it moved to my kitchen – I’ve been really worried about breaking it for months,” says Ralphs. “And that model is so accurate it was genuinely valuable because there are details on that model you can’t find in any picture.”
The winch layout is almost identical – just two backstay runner winches have been removed, leaving 14 still on deck.
“We’ve got pedestals but moving back to the original set up we’ve got string pulls rather than buttons, it’s all above deck so there’s no risk of leaks down below,” says Ralphs.
They will sail offshore with nine crew, inshore with 12, including a permanent team of three. Ralphs says a dip-pole gybe requires eight pairs of hands. There are analogue instruments on deck, all chosen to be as close a match as possible.
“The compasses were the last two Plastimo black surrounded with black card compasses I could find in all of Europe – from two different countries – because that was the original colour scheme on the compasses.”
The entire hull and deck went through a lengthy shot blasting process to strip 30 years of paint, filler and insulating foam back to bare metal. The deck itself had relatively little other work done to it, which has left some areas pooling with water as it’s no longer perfectly fair.
The hull, on the other hand, required major structural repairs. The elegant sloped transom was almost entirely rebuilt, and the keel had to be largely replaced. The skeg was found to be almost entirely rotted away, and was removed.
Up to standard
Interior structural work was needed to both repair corrosion and upgrade the yacht to meet modern safety requirements. Watertight bulkheads have been added abaft the sail locker and galley, as well as a proper forwards heads and fireproof engine and machinery bay.
Otherwise the interior changes have been minor, the bunk numbers reduced to double rather than triple stacks as Maiden will be sailing with nine, rather than 12-14 crew.
A pilot berth has been added next to the chart table, and the analogue instruments on deck are supported by full-spec electronics and comms systems from B&G, Inmarsat and Mastervolt, including four on-deck cameras.
One area would be the envy of many a round the world crew – what Ralphs calls ‘the library’, a convenient space just under the companionway with a single seat, wet locker, small cuddies for personal items and an aft heads.
It’s a place to store sunglasses and grab bags, or regroup your thoughts before coming on or off watch, separated from the living quarters by a new watertight door.
Maiden may no longer be racing, but her round the world voyage – from the UK to India then on to Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, the Pacific North West, down to Uruguay, around Cape Horn, back up to the Caribbean, through the Panama canal in both directions, a transatlantic back to Britain, and then a final return to Jordan – will be an epic endeavour.
LOA: 17.71m (58ft 1in)
LWL: 15.24m (50ft 0in)
Beam: 5.02m (16ft 5in)
Draught: 3.20m (10ft 6in)
Displacement: 21,773kg (48,000lb)