Maiden, one of the most iconic boats in Volvo Ocean Race history, is finally coming home.
The yacht, which was famously raced by Tracy Edwards and an all-female crew in the 1989-90 edition of the event, was found languishing and going rusty in a Seychelles marina in 2012 – and Tracy has been fighting ever since to bring the boat back to its former glory.
A crowdfunding campaign raised over £45,000 – enough to secure the boat back in November 2016 – and, with confirmation that boat was legally hers again, Tracy set about the task of getting it onto a ship.
That moment took place last week, when, after almost five years of blood, sweat, tears and logistical nightmares, Maiden was lifted onto a cargo ship, bound for the UK.
"Seeing Maiden for the first time in 27 years was a real mix of emotions," explains Tracy. "I was so happy to have found the funding the buy her and at the same time distraught at the state she was in.
"The excitement has been rising though, and sourcing funding for the shipping was just brilliant. Now I can picture her in her cradle on the deck of the cargo ship heading towards us and I can barely contain myself! The girls are all really happy as well. She will be in Hamble, UK, we hope, on 25th April."
Seeing Maiden for the first time in 27 years was a real mix of emotionsTracy Edwards MBE
It marks a big moment in what has been a long and arduous journey to regain ownership and control of the famous boat. But why has this been such an important project for Tracy?
"I felt a duty," she comments. "Maiden is an important piece of maritime history and couldn't be allowed to rot away in the Seychelles. It would just be such an awful end for her.
"All of the Maiden crew feel a very deep affection for her because when we got her for the first time, that was when people believed that the Maiden project was actually happening. It was blood, sweat and tears to get her to the start line, and even a few months before the start we didn't know for sure if we were going to be there. But the perseverance and tenacity of my team was quite extraordinary, the will to get her there was unbeatable.
She continued: "By the time we got to the start line we were so knackered that all we could think about was to get on with the racing. Until then, people were just laughing at us. It wasn't until the boat arrived in Southampton that people realised we were serious, and the project went up a gear. She really held things together for us."
Maiden will go into the same shed at Hamble Yacht Services as she was in the first time around to undergo a refit, with sea trials in May 2018 and a launch planned for June 2018.
"Maiden is an ambassador to the Maiden Factor which will work with with small charities which facilitate commercial fundraising for the education of 66 million girls around the world that are currently denied that basic right," continued Tracy. "Her whole focus will be raising funds for girls education, which is my big passion."
In a bonus for Volvo Ocean Race fans, Maiden is just one of a number of iconic boats from the Race's heritage scheduled to compete in the Legends Race, which will take place during the final leg of the 2017-18 edition, from Gothenburg to The Hague.
"This race, from the Whitbread through to the Volvo Ocean Race of today, is an amazing historical record of sailing," explained Tracy. "It's a visible picture of where we've come from and how far we've come."
All of the Maiden crew will be on board for the event. Then, it's off to Cowes Week 2018 before before heading off on the first leg of a three year world tour. The first stop will be Aqaba in Jordan where of course Maiden will receive a special welcome from her adopted country. The world tour will then include Middle East, India, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and America.
Read the full interview with Tracy, on the Southern Ocean, the rule changes around female participation, and whether she'd take part in another Volvo Ocean Race, here.