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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

8th March 2020 Vienna, Austria

Maiden – awesome, inspirational women on the big screen

I recently had co-hosted a special premiere of Maiden, the gripping story of how Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old Briton, became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World race in 1989.  The race, today known as the Volvo Ocean Race, was a brutal competition comprised of six legs totalling 32,000 nautical miles. The screening was organised by UN Vienna to mark International Womens’ Day on Sunday 8 March.

The film is about defiance and determination. Tracy undertook huge personal risks, including mortgaging her own house to embark on her endeavor which was met with dismissive comments and condescending coverage from colleagues and male sports journalists.  These are retold – with starting candour – by some of the journalists and male competitors today.  The year before Tracy and her crew entered the race, only 4 out of 230 competitors in the race were women.

Incorporating spectacular and emotional scenes filmed aboard the Maiden by the crew themselves, the film shows how Tracy and her crew, through self-belief and teamwork, proved that even in the physically demanding conditions of offshore sailing, women are the equal of men.

Following the film Desiree Schweitzer (President of UN Women Austria), Rosa Diketmüller (Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of 100% Sport) and Sylvia Vogl (Vice-President of the Austrian Sailing Federation) held a discussion.  Sylvia, who has a lot of professional sailing experience herself, talked about how even now, 30 years on from the Maiden crew’s heroic effort, sailing is still a predominantly male sport.  Such poor ratios are unfortunately all too common in many areas of society, including business and diplomacy.

In the Foreign Office in London we have a big wall called the diversity challenge. For every senior role in the organisation there is portrait of the first women who held it. And if there hasn’t been a women yet to hold it there is mirror instead of portrait.

That spirit where no woman should be held back from following her dreams and ambitions just because no woman has ever done something similar before is perfectly embodied by Tracy and her team.  It’s on all of us, including men, to be the wind in their sails.

Maiden opens in Austrian cinemas on 1st May. Find more information here: https://www.polyfilm.at/film/maiden/

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.