The Maiden Factor Blog

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The fall of the Berlin Wall – by Tracy Edwards, 1989

On 9 November 2019, the world is remembering 30 years since an important moment in history – the day when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. We take a look back to Tracy Edwards’ log book in 1989, when Tracy and the Maiden crew were sailing through leg 2 of the Whitbread and discovered the wall was due to fall.

Really worried at the 1100 chat show because the others in our class are heading north and I thought I may have misunderstood the positioning of the high pressure.  I am still not getting great weather faxes so spent most of the day trying to work out the best course. East south east seems to be our best bet with the information that I have.  The girls have every confidence in me so I have confidence in myself.

A wet southern ocean - two sailors onboard maiden in full foul weather gear, sodden

When I got the first Sat Nav position in three days I found out that my Dead Reckoning was only five miles out.  Quietly patted myself on the back! Finally when we go the Argos positions I found out we were 147 miles ahead of Rucanor and 170 in front of Schlussel!!  They are all coming south again so they must think that I have it right.  

Telexed Sarah-Jane in the Maiden office to find out what was going on in the real world and she gave me the updates on Neighbours and Eastenders!  She also told me to call Mum if I could get Portishead Radio. She added that it was nothing to worry about, she just wanted to give me some news. Intriguing!

It took three hours to get through to Portishead and we juggled frequencies.  When I got through she had left a message with the guys there as well. They are so lovely and friendly and are always excited when we call and they want to hear our news and how we are doing.  No timewasting today though, they called Mum and put her on the line.  

Two sailors on the grinder on Maiden. The boat is at an angle. Someone grips the helm. The waves are huge.

It turns out that the Berlin Wall is about to fall.  Seriously, it has been brewing for days and we had no idea. Apparently the protests that were going on when we left have not gone away.  Refugees have been pouring across previously closed borders from East to West ad she says that the scenes on the news are incredible. It is so strange thinking of something so important happening in Europe and we are stuck in the Southern Ocean.  I told the girls and we managed to get a bit more news on the BBC World Service.

It is always strange when something so momentous happens on land when you are so far from it, and any form of human life or civilisation.  The Albatross wheeling above your heads is not concerned by the Berlin Wall coming down.  The celebrations in Europe are so far removed from us and yet we understand completely what this means for the Iron Curtain.  

The yacht Fazisi, with many people onboard

And, in a way, we are connected to this event in a more poignant way.  Fazisi is the first Russian boat to compete in the Whitbread and we are the first women.  We have a bond and we wonder what they are thinking as they hear the news, as we do, on the BBC World Service.  Are they uncertain?  Are they pleased? Their Skipper Alexei Greschenko hanged himself in Uruguay rather than be sent back to the then Soviet Union.  I wish this lovely man who was my friend, could have waited just a few more weeks.  Maybe he is the Albatross, up there with Yannis, watching over us.

An albatross flying over the ocean
Credit: JJ Harrison (https://tiny.jjharrison.com.au/t/fCEqOJC1cJUcoIOa)

We know this is a huge moment and we are here in the middle of nowhere.  It is surreal.   What we did not know at the time was that when Fazisi arrived in Australia, their KGB minders, have disappeared – and they are free.

Fazisi, close up. Some men onboard smile at the camera.