One of my movie buddies asked me why I watch so many documentaries. I told him it’s a mix of being a critic and trying to watch every film that’s released, whether it’s a big blockbuster, foreign film, indie picture, or documentary. And I often find documentaries to be among the most interesting pictures I see in a year. That’s because the filmmakers do such a great job putting the pieces together. It is also because of the fun of learning about characters in a story I knew nothing about. This film falls into that category, as the only thing I knew about boat racing was from meeting Dennis Conner at the Del Mar Fair when I was 12, after one of his America’s Cup wins. I didn’t know anything about a 1989 all-female crew skippering a boat in the Whitbread Round the World yacht race.
As you’d expect, the women had to deal with a lot of sexism. Sometimes it came from competitors, but surprisingly, it also came from reporters that asked some idiotic questions of the crew.
The start of the documentary talks about skipper Tracy Edwards’ early life, and the death of her father. Her mother was having financial difficulties and eventually married another man that was abusive to Tracy. She ran away from home, and ended up as a cook on a yacht. My wife felt it took too long for them to get to the races, but these were the moments I enjoyed a bit more. It also made me angry that the end of the movie didn’t tell us what became of these tough women, some of whom we saw in current interviews talking about what they went through.
It’s incredible to think that there wasn’t any business around that would sponsor these women, and it took them two years, before she finally called the King of Jordan, whom she had a brief but enjoyable conversation with years earlier on a boat. He ponied up the cash.
There’s a lot of home movie footage of Tracy’s childhood, although now I never know if that’s authentic when I watch documentaries. We were stung watching the powerful “home movies” filmmaker Sarah Polley provided for the documentary about her childhood in Stories We Tell, and one of the mountain climbing movies a few years ago recreated footage of climbers sliding off of Everest. Sometimes now you watch documentaries not realizing you’re not really watching their home movies from decades ago, but something that was newly shot.
Of course, there’s lots of news coverage from 1989. You’ll cringe when you hear some of the things the reporters had to say.
It was interesting (and I’m not saying this because I’m a guy), to see the women distract the reporters by sailing in at the end of one leg of the race — all wearing bathing suits.
I’m glad that the film touched on some of Edwards’ faults, and her short temper. You could tell there were times the crew was a bit divided. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t enough information about these women and what they did after all this. Even if that just meant a paragraph before the closing credit telling us what they went on to do. I had to Google to find out Edwards made a lot of money…and in her 40s, went bankrupt. It made me think I could’ve just read a story about the Maiden and it would’ve been just as interesting. Although, that might not be accurate. The scene when the women finish the race, and what happened on the water — is perhaps the most emotional, powerful sports moment I’ve seen on screen since Rocky was yelling for “Adrian!”
I won’t give away that ending, but it was so inspirational and wonderful, just thinking about it now is getting me choked up.
Whether you’re a sailor or you get seasick, you’ll enjoy this journey on the treacherous seas. It’s playing at the Digital Gym starting Friday.
3 stars out of 5.