Historic yacht Maiden sails back into NZ to inspire new generation of women

When “Maiden” sailed into Auckland almost 30 years ago as part of the Whitbread Round the World race, her all female crew were making history as the first ever to sail around the world.

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Maiden and her all female crew won their class for the leg of the Whitbread Race into New Zealand almost 30 years ago. Source: SKY

Amanda Swan Neal was the only Kiwi sailor on board for that voyage in 1990.

“Coming into New Zealand, leading our class was just amazing,” Neal explains.

It was their second leg win and it was particularly significant for the message it sent the male dominated industry.

“We started out as a gimmick, they didn't take us seriously but then once we pulled up our socks and got organised and started racing for serious and we weren’t going away, I think they then paid attention,” Neal said.

Now Maiden has sailed back into New Zealand having been refurbished after being found rotting in the Seychelles.

For the journey, Sharon Ferris-Choat, a Olympian in Sydney for New Zealand and round the world sailor, was at the helm.

“I was actually crying, I was really choked up it was a big moment for me personally.”

Maiden's original voyage inspired a generation of female sailors like Ferris-Choat, who was 15 at the time and now the plan is to inspire the next generation of women through education and the Maiden Factor Foundation.

Neal says as a 20-year-old the idea of an all women crew sailing around the world didn’t actually seem like a big deal.

“Back then we weren't making a stand for women in sailing, we just wanted to sail.”