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Port Saint John to Welcome Maiden and Her All-Female Crew

From August 3rd to August 13, the Maiden, a racing yacht with a storied history, will be docking at Port Saint John. Maiden’s mission, and that of her all-female crew, goes beyond speed on the water. The crew uses their travels to encourage girls’ and women’s education and empowerment, including moving into traditionally male-dominated fields, such as sailing. DP World is proud to sponsor this mission.

Maiden’s main goal, supported by the Maiden Factor Foundation, is to promote the education of girls at least through grade 12, and encourage girls and women to pursue interests and careers that fascinate them, especially opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields. Maiden and her crew launched from Dubai in January 2022 for a three-year journey that will take them to 40 ports of call in 20 countries. Port Saint John, in New Brunswick, Canada will be one of those stops.

A Long Journey to Saint John

In the 1980s, Tracy Edwards, Maiden’s captain, dreamed of being a crew member in a sailboat race, but the sailing industry was dominated by men, and she had a hard time finding a place. Eventually, she was able to sign on as a cook with an otherwise all-male team competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a 53.1km event. But even after this experience, she couldn’t find anyone willing to take her on as a crew member. So, she decided to make her own crew.

Edwards, then 26, assembled a 12-person all-female crew. They found an aging racing yacht built in 1979 that was in bad shape but had good bones. The vessel, originally named Disqe D’or 3, was designed by Bruce Farr, a talented and prolific racing boat designer and had once been a competitive racer. The crew started with sledgehammers, tearing away the old boat, then rebuilt it piece by piece.

Most sailing crews have shore teams that would renovate or maintain the boats; the women were their boat’s crew and its shore team, and as a result they knew their boat intimately. When they were done, they christened it Maiden. Despite derision and doubt from others in the sailing industry, they entered the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race with Edwards as their skipper. The women wanted to perform well, of course, but they were all acutely aware that they were serving as an example for women and girls who had been dismissed because of their gender. Maiden and its crew ultimately placed second in their class. They were the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread. It was, and remains, the best showing for a British boat in the Whitbread.

Restored for a New Mission

After the Whitbread Round the World Race, Maiden was sold, and her crew went on to other endeavors. But in 2014, Edwards learned Maiden was abandoned and once again deteriorating. She raised money to bring Maiden from Seychelles home to Southampton for restoration.

With the renovation came a new mission: to raise awareness and funds for women and girls’ education worldwide. A three-year tour that began in 2018 was cut short by the pandemic, but now Maiden has set sail again. After leaving Dubai in January, Maiden sailed through the Suez Canal and then made a stop in Palma, Spain, to prepare for the journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

Because of the pandemic and global crises and conflicts, more than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school. COVID-19 is still having an enormous lingering effect; the education of 11 million girls was interrupted in early 2020 and has not meaningfully resumed in many regions since. Education and training allow women to determine their own destinies while contributing to the well-being of their children, families, and communities. In addition, many industries desperately need these educated and skilled workers.

Lads vs. Maidens

What’s it like working with an all-female crew? While sailing could be grueling either way, Edwards has noticed some distinct differences in Maiden’s crew vs. an all male one. The men might go for days with little to no conversation. In contrast, the women had deep, ongoing discussions throughout their journey. The women were more likely to be empathic, offering a cup of tea or a kind word to a colleague.

Maiden’s Saint John Visit

The crew of Maiden, including Edwards, will be at, non-profit organizations leading programming and talks on changing the narrative surrounding what a girl or woman can do. After all, Edwards would know. Even when most everyone told her it was impossible, she recruited a crew, restored a yacht, and sailed around the world. DP World is honoured to support the vessel and see it visit Port Saint John.