SAILING heroine Tracy Edwards has launched a bid to rescue from ruin the famous boat she sailed into the record books on 25 years ago.
She made history by leading the first all-female crew to the finish line of the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1990.
The 12 yachtswomen won two of the six legs and their achievement inspired women to take up the sport.
The Maiden crew celebrate in Melbourne. Picture by Rick Tomlinson
Their 58ft yacht, called Maiden, was the unsung star of the race as it was already 21 years old at the time and was self-funded by Miss Edwards.
Since the event the yacht has had several owners and has fallen into disrepair.
It is now abandoned and languishing in a marina on an unnamed island in the Indian Ocean.
Miss Edwards has discovered its plight and has launched a fundraising campaign to salvage the boat, bring it back to Britain and restore it to its former glory.
The campaign has garnered support from a host of big names including Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon and Virgin Media boss Richard Branson, both keen sailors.
Miss Edwards, 50, hopes to reunite her former crew and re-enact their historic race finish 25 years ago by sailing Maiden up Southampton Water on May 28, 2015.
The vessel will then go on display at maritime museums around Britain and also be used to take young people from charities sailing.
Tracy Edwards and Maiden arrive in Fort Lauderdale during the race. Pic by Tanya Visser/PPL/BNPS
Miss Edwards, who was awarded the MBE and named Sportswomen of the Year in 1990, needs to raise nearly £50,000 to ship the boat to Cape Town where it will be refitted and then sailed to the UK.
She said: “When we formed the Maiden crew I had to take out a mortgage just to buy the boat.
“I had no choice but to sell her at the end of the race which was very sad.
“I sold her to someone who looked after her well but she was then passed to someone who didn’t.
“I have kept an eye on her for many years and it has been heartbreaking seeing her gradually rot away unloved.
“I can’t even start to think what it will be like to spend a month on the old girl bringing her home from Cape Town, let alone sailing into Southampton with the original crew.
“We will be leaving the swimsuits at home this time though.”
Miss Edwards now lives in London with her 14-year-old daughter Mackenna and runs a company providing advice on the Internet and travel security.
She added: “With a little bit of TLC we can restore Maiden to her former splendour and our hope is she can inspire countless people to sail. There is still plenty of life left in Maiden.”
Mr Le Bon, 55, who raced in the 1985-86 Whitbread race on his yacht Drum, said: “I really am very excited to be part of the mission to rescue Maiden to commemorate her 25th anniversary.
“Maiden kept the girls safe on their voyage and I can’t wait until we get her back.”