Tracy Edwards: ‘Maiden was either met with antipathy or aggression’

Story highlights

Edwards begins a new chapter with 'The Maiden Factor' -- which will see Maiden taken on a global world tour to raise money for girls' access to education

She skippered the first all-female crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race

CNN  — 

In 1989, Tracy Edwards would have recoiled at the thought of being a feminist.

“It was such a dreadful word then,” explains the sailor, who that year made history and defied critics by leading the first all-female crew to sail around the world.

Had Edwards not been expelled from school – for smoking and drinking during a school trip – she may have never discovered her love of sailing and become the trailblazer she is today.

Tracy Edwards, skipper of Maiden, celebrates with champagne after finishing second during the Whitbread round the world yacht race in 1990.

Unbelievably, it was Edwards’ well-traveled mother who suggested she pack her bags and go traveling to get some life experience abroad – and alone – after she was left without a degree.

“My mom was an extraordinary woman and she could see very clearly where I was headed and the direction I was carrying on,” Edwards tells CNN Sport.

“She realized I needed to go away from where I was and kind of make many mistakes and find my way.”

‘I didn’t realize there were people like me’

It was in Greece where Edwards, aged 17, began working on charter yachts.

“I found my feet and realized that I’d felt contained before and it gave me the freedom to discover what I wanted to do,” she says.

“Every boat I worked on had a great skipper who was a mentor and a ragtag bunch of crew members who I realized were like me.

“I didn’t realize there were people like me and I felt like I fit in for the first time in my life, that no one really cared about anyone’s background or why we were there.”

Edwards on-board Maiden in Australia.