A guest blog by Jonathan Kline
We left in darkness and drove the steep and winding roads from Mercury Bay to Auckland this past Sunday to participate in the departure ceremonies for the Yacht Maiden, the recently refitted Whitbread Round the World boat, currently on a global tour, advocating girl’s education and welfare. Maiden burst onto the world sailing stage almost 3 decades ago. In 1989/90, 21-year old Tracy Edwards, assembled a group of women who were determined to compete in the exclusively male dominated Whitbread round the World race, a gruelling year-long event covering nearly 30,000 nautical miles. At the time, there had never been a women’s team; in fact only a few women had ever sailed on these yachts and when they did (as in Tracy’s case in the 1986 edition of the event) they were brought on board as cooks and helpers, not racing sailors. Tracy Edwards changed all that. With sponsorship from King Hussein I, the King of Jordan, the all-girl team refitted a retired BOC Around the World boat, and made the deadline to enter the race. They were mocked by the media and much of the sailing community. Naysayers asserted that this crew would perish or be forced to retire before the end of the first leg.
This did not happen. In fact the women’s team went on to win 2 of the 6 legs, placing 2nd in their class, the best finish by a British team in the history of the event – past and present. The Maiden crew proved to a male-dominated sailing world that girls with big dreams, unyielding determination, and a Herculean work ethic can achieve the impossible. The Maiden crew remind us, “Anything is possible.”
Thirty years has passed since that milestone Whitbread Race and today women race crew make up a good percentage of the team members aboard high performance racing yachts. In the most recent edition of the round the world race, 17 women were on the crew lists; for the first time in history, every team had women on their rosters. However, the recently refurbished Maiden is now sailing with a new mission — to raise awareness and generate funding for girls’ educational organisations through The Maiden Factor Foundation. According to the Maiden website, 130 million girls around the world are currently denied an education and studies show that given 12 years of education, girls can change their futures, their communities and the world. Maiden has undertaken a global tour to promote the newly established charity, The Maiden Factor. Their mottos include “Anything is possible” and “Educate a girl, and change the World.” But also, importantly, the society has captivated the imagination of boys as well as girls: “The world of humanity has two wings,’ writes Abdu’l-Baha, “one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.”
Maiden, skippered by her all female crew, will make approximately 29 stopovers during her circumnavigation. At each port, the schools liaison team works with local teachers and students to share the powerful Maiden story, using this remarkable tale of a determined young woman as a platform for their new goals. Students are invited to contribute to a Virtual Message Board using the Message of Hope template provided by the Maiden team. The actual messages are harvested and placed into a special vessel, which travels with the Maiden from port to port.
It was only last month that MBAS teacher Rose Mahon together with youth sailing coaches Fred Acke and Jonathan Kline invited the School Liaison from the Maiden Factor to give a presentation the Mercury Bay Boating Club. Greg Bint and Kaia Bint Savage, met with a group of junior sailors and coaches and presented a slide show about the original Maiden voyage and the new initiatives that the boat now represents. Our students were so enthusiastic that Greg invited a small group to travel to Auckland to take part in the departure ceremonies. Two other celebrated Whitbread Boats, Steinlager 2 and Lion, both now based in New Zealand and operated by the New Zealand Sailing Trust, would be part of the event. Our students, we were told, would be asked to hand over our messages of hope to the Maiden Crew and then board one of these yachts and escort Maiden from the Viaduct out to sea.
Rose Mahon brought elements of the project into her classroom. “Even in NZ many girls and boys do not have access to equity in education,” Rose explained. “Therefore, as an educator I feel quite strongly about empowering girls to reach their potential and for boys to be respectful and supportive. The Maiden is the perfect vessel to encourage this thinking.” Rose continued, “I asked my students to add their Messages of Hope for the Maiden Wall. ‘Please add your own message of hope to these girls, what would you say if they were stood in front of you and did not have access to education or the same rights as we experience. They are someone’s sister or daughter, they are our neighbours.’”
And so just a few weeks later, on this crisp June morning, Tara Corley, Rose Mahon, and Jonathan Kline together with the 9 students from both Mercury Bay and Whenuakite schools found themselves on the docks at Market Square, in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin. The yacht Maiden, Lion of New Zealand and Steinlager 2 were all berthed together. Photographers and shore crew were busy making final preparations. The Master of Ceremonies called the crowd to order. Junior Sailor and MBAS Te Reo Maori student Annabelle Kline was invited on to the stage to perform the Karakia. Maiden Factor founder and CEO Tracy Edwards, stood near the front, joined by the new Maiden crew, and invited family, students and guests. Peter Montgomery, New Zealand’s most passionate and celebrated TV and Radio sailing presenter was also in attendance. For the occasion, local Whitianga resident, Maddie Johnson had offered Annabelle a replica of a kiwi feather korowai or ceremonial cloak, loaned to her from Te Puna Reo o Whitianga. “I gave Annabelle my blessing and aroha”, Maddie said, “for her to stand tall and deliver the sacred words.” Standing on the stage alone with what she later described as “butterflies churning in my stomach”, Annabelle looked out into the crowd, took a breath and offered the Karakia, flawlessly, first in Maori and then in English.
Tracy Edwards then spoke about her Whitbread experiences, especially the Auckland stopover. “We arrived at 1 in the morning, first in the fleet. We were told that everyone had gone home but when we sailed in, there were 14,000 people gathered on the docks to see us cross the finish line. We found out later, they had gone home, but they came back.” The current Maiden crew then joined Tracy to share their messages, how they had been inspired by Tracy and how they too now wanted to inspire this next generation to forge big dreams and develop the strength to achieve them. Last to speak were a group of junior sailing girls from the Christchurch area who had flown up in the morning to take part in the ceremony. They thanked Ms. Edwards for her courage and presented the Maiden Crew with a palm woven basket, filled with shells, flowers and pounamu to be offered to King Neptune when the yacht crossed the equator on her way from New Zealand to Hawaii. For the last portion of the shore ceremony, the guests gathered next to Maiden. Troy Aickin, Hannah Hardy, Josie Fairweather and Caitlin Klouwens held the vessel, filled with the hand-written messages of hope, out to the Maiden crew, who would be the guardians of these messages during the 3-week voyage to Hawaii.
The NZ Sailing Trust operates two iconic Whitbread Round the World Yachts: Lion of New Zealand and Steinlager 2, both of which are used to provide experiences for young New Zealanders that bring to life the values of leadership, courage and teamwork, build awareness and engender conservation of our Marine Environment, preserve the legacy of the significant sailing vessels of Sir Peter Blake and his crews. The programs aboard these yachts provide youth the opportunity to be challenged by pushing their boundaries and demanding the best of their capabilities, be it physically, mentally and emotionally. They learn team work, compassion, resilience and become environmentally conscious. They come away with transformational life skills. Their eyes opened to a world they may not have experienced before. For the occasion of the Maiden arrival and departure, these two yachts were provided by the Trust to the Maiden initiative, to take students and guests out to sea to welcome and bid farewell to Maiden. Our Whitianga team was on board Lion, which hoisted mainsail and genoa and joined Maiden and Steinlager 2 for some beautiful synchronized sailing out of the Waitemata Harbour towards Rangitoto. Coach Tara reported, “All our sailors got a chance to take the helm and help “grind” the big sheet winches for the Genoa. None had ever been on a yacht of this size, let alone steered one. The boats sailed very close together.”
The day was filled with remarkable highlights, underscored by the gracious welcome extended by Tracy and her team. “The best part for me,” said Kizzy Samson, was meeting Tracy Edwards, the first famous person I have ever met.” Most of our sailors pointed to the privilege of sailing aboard Lion, in the company of Maiden and Steinlager 2. Olivia McDOnald was thrilled to be able to speak to the Maiden crew about their jobs. Sam McDonald added, “the best part for me was that moment of the final farewell; I felt like I was part of something special.” “What an amazing day,” sighed Coach Tara; “We got to meet Tracy Edwards, chat with Peter Montgomery, and sail under the Harbour Bridge with Lion, Steinlager and Maiden.”
Everyone longed for the moment to continue. When it was time to take the port hand turn to the north and pass between North Head and Rangitoto Island, the flotilla honked and waved their final good-byes. Maiden sailed on, carrying the messages of hope from Whitianga to the rest of the World.
Maiden’s mission is to raise awareness and funding for girls’ educational organisations through The Maiden Factor Foundation. For more information about the Maiden Factor, visit www.themaidenfactor.org. Read more about Tracy’s journey here https://www.tracyedwards.com/ You can follow the Maiden on Facebook as well.
The New Zealand Sailing Trust is a Non Profit Charitable Trust providing adventurous youth development sailing journeys for youth between the ages of 13 and 22. The Trust operates two iconic Whitbread Round the World Yachts: Lion of New Zealand and Steinlager 2, both of which are used to provide experiences for young New Zealanders that bring to life the values of leadership, courage and teamwork, build awareness and engender conservation of our Marine Environment, preserve the legacy of the significant sailing vessels of Sir Peter Blake and his crews. The programs aboard these yachts provide youth the opportunity to be challenged by pushing their boundaries and demanding the best of their capabilities, be it physically, mentally and emotionally. Learn more about the New Zealand Sailing Trust at https://www.nzsailingtrust.com/
The Mercury Bay Boating Club runs youth sailing programs for children aged 7 to 17. The club runs a Mentor program, Learn to Sail, and Learn to Race courses as well as Fun Sailing Days and Race Clinics.
For more information about the Mercury Bay Youth Sailing please contact Tara Corley or Jonathan Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Facebook – Mercury Bay Youth Sailing.
Mercury Bay Youth Sailing promotes sailing, seamanship, ocean and coastal stewardship, and marine awareness among our town’s youth and adults so that they become ambassadors for the sport and champions of our unique and precious environment.