For our inaugural spotlight feature, Houlder was privileged to interview Tracy Edwards, the famous skipper of the first all-woman crew to sail around the world for the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race. Tracy set up the Maiden Factor to raise awareness and fundraise for the education of girls worldwide. She shared with us her career steps, proudest moments, and advice for young females thinking about a career in the maritime industry. If you don’t know about Tracy already, you can find her biography at the end of this article.
Our interview with Tracy
What attracted you to the Maritime world?
The people. I was expelled from school at the age of 15 and was becoming a ‘troubled teen’. My Mum thought it would be a good idea to travel and I backpacked through Greece and ended up working in a bar in Zea Marina, Piraeus. A guy came in one night and asked if I wanted a job as a stewardess on a Charter Yacht. I said yes and four days later on our way to Rhodes, I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I had found my ‘tribe’.
In your maritime career, what is your proudest moment/achievement?
It’s a toss up between winning the leg into Australia and the finish in the UK. Australia was so monumental and it’s hard to remember how shocked people were that we had survived the Southern Ocean but was had won the leg – by 38 hours! The finish was total vindication of what we had achieved and day I will always remember.
What guided you towards this path?
I did the 85/86 Whitbread Round the World Race as a cook and I loved the race but hated the cooking. I wanted to ‘navigate’ but I knew that no man would ever let me navigate on a racing yacht. So, the only thing left to do was to put my own project together. I soon realised that this was about so much more than me navigating – it was about all women everywhere having opportunities.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
I don’t think people realise the incredible amount of work by the Shore Team and Crew that goes on behind the scenes which make the tour look effortless. There are so many moving parts and variables and each destination has its own set of complexities. It’s not as glamourous as people may think. It’s hard work but we love it!
What is the most exciting part of your day-to-day job?
Meeting extraordinary and inspirational women who become part of our Maiden Community. Also watching what the crew and Maiden are up to even if I am not there. Knowing we are making a difference and seeing Maiden inspire so many.
What would you say to young females thinking about any career across the maritime industry?
Be prepared for the, quite frankly shocking, casual sexism which is still dominant in the industry BUT do not be disheartened and do not rise to the bait. Listen, learn and seek the support of other women, which, in my experience is always there! There is male support for women in sailing but they tend to be quiet about it. We, as women, need to encourage men to stand up and be heard and fight alongside us.
Tracy Edwards MBE Biography
We hope you have enjoyed reading our interview with Tracy. Please look out for further upcoming features. If you have any comments or feedback please contact firstname.lastname@example.org