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The “Sex Raft” and the Maiden

The Raft

In 1973, five men and six women embarked on a 101-day scientific sea adventure, drifting across the Atlantic on a raft called Acali. The voyage was a social experiment cooked up by Santiago Genovés. The anthropologist aimed to explore the origins of violence and the dynamics of sexual attraction. He assembled a crew of subjects, mixing religion, gender and nationality to maximize potential friction on board. The documentary uses archival footage and a recreated set, assembling the surviving participants to discuss the controversial experiment, lambasted by the media as “The Sex Raft.”

Crewing aboard Acali (and shooting some of the film) was Mary Gidley, the wife of Cass Gidley. In the Bay Area, the Gidleys are best known for starting Cass’ Marina, a sailboat rental and lessons business in Sausalito. Now 82, Mary currently sails with her son, race car driver Memo Gidley, aboard the Elliott 1050 Basic Instinct out of Sausalito. They compete regularly in Bay Area regattas, including the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s doublehanded series. We interviewed Mary and Memo in May, and have been running our conversation in installments starting in the June issue of Latitude 38. The story will continue in the July issue, coming out on Monday.

Mary will be at the Rafael Theater tonight at 7:15 for a Q&A that will follow the screening of The Raft. We’ll be there too, and we hope that many of our readers will come and wear their Latitude 38 gear. If you can’t make it tonight, you’ll have another chance tomorrow night, also at 7:15. For a complete schedule of times and dates, including matinées, see


In 1989, the first all-female crew raced around the world in the Whitbread on Maiden, a 58-ft Bruce Farr aluminum monohull. “They shattered expectations and blazed a new trail for women in sailing,” said Oakcliff Sailing’s newsletter yesterday. “Thirty years later, that story is more relevant than ever. Director Alex Holmes turned their story into a documentary and it officially hit theaters on Tuesday. As the story of Maiden touches more people, it is garnering interest in the advancement of women and the sport of sailing.”

Dave Davies interviewed Maiden skipper Tracy Edwards on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday. Apparently, the footage from aboard Maiden owes its existence to the fact that the women’s team was the only one that agreed to shoot footage during the race; the men all refused, thinking it would slow them down.

The movie opens today, but already, sailors who’ve seen the trailer are plotting to screen it at their yacht clubs. And, we’ve received a tip that the yacht Maiden herself will sail into San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere later this summer; estimated dates are August 20-30. We haven’t found any showtimes locally yet. See to find a screening near you.


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