Movie raises funds for school sailing trip
On a cool and windy night in early September, a group of islanders and travelers watched “Maiden,” a sailing documentary, outdoors on the beach.
The event, presented by Soundwaves (“Movies on the Beach”) and sponsored by the Block Island Yacht Club, was held to benefit the Block Island School, which would receive over 90 percent of the donations raised to benefit their annual seventh grade sailing trip.
The film was projected onto a 214-inch widescreen stretched across the town beach pavilion’s deck. With the ocean to our backs, the tide slowly advanced towards our beach chairs while winds buffeted the screen, carving tiny creases onto parts of the blown-up image.
Scarves and sweaters were worn, jackets were fully zipped, blankets covered all. It wasn’t the preferred condition for an outdoor event, but neither were the thunderous waves and squalls endured by the crew aboard the Maiden — the first all-female crew to compete in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race.
Now known as The Ocean Race, the Whitbread in 1989-90 spanned 30,000-plus nautical miles through turbulent southern waters, touching down at ports of call in Uruguay, New Zealand, Australia and the United States before looping back to the race’s starting point in Southhampton, England. It took nine months to complete.
“Maiden” primarily tells the story of captain Tracy Edwards, a young woman who against all odds was determined to race around the world with a female crew. The odds, however, were less related to time, temperature and money (though each was a factor) and more about confronting the masculine world of racing itself.
News reporters and Whitbread alumni either disparaged even the idea of women competing in the race or looked upon them with grave patriarchal concern, that condescending tone given to those assumed to be acting beyond their experience. Interviewers tripped over themselves asking the ladies time and time again if they would “get along alright”, as if an all-female crew was genetically predisposed to drama.
But Maiden’s crew weren’t inexperienced socialites out to prove a point. They were professionals every bit as qualified as their counterparts.
If they were misfits, it was because their role in the yachting world made them such by default. Not long before distinguishing herself, Edwards took a job as a short-order cook on a ship even after being told “girls are for when you get into port.”
Looking at the other outdoor-movie attendees, I couldn’t help but think how many of us under the flickering light had abandoned past ambitions, and all for lacking the unbreakable tenacity these women had just to be accepted in a community, let alone thrive in one.
In a community as small as Block Island, committing to acceptance comes in the form of nights like these: the local yacht club teaming up with event coordinators to promote a documentary that both fairly criticizes and empowers the sport and lifestyle they hold so dearly.
Further helping this spirit thrive is the school’s sailing program, encouraging young students to learn the ropes firsthand.
As the moon towered over the ocean behind us, dangling like a silver earring in the sky, Maiden arrived back to port in Southhampton during the brightest of daylight. Seeing the juxtaposition of the moon and sun over both oceans, and thinking about how many cycles of each shone their light upon the decks, how each sequence is a rebirth of the previous one, is a feeling we won’t soon forget.
Josh Maldonado is the co-founder of SoundWaves and Jim Fiorato is Commodore of the Block Island Yacht Club.