PIP HARE Lone star
Yachting Monthly|December 2020
Pip Hare talks to Elaine Bunting about the long road to fulfilling her Vendée dream
Elaine Bunting

While many of us are wondering who we will be able to spend Christmas with this year, Pip Hare’s dream is to be isolated and alone. Fingers crossed, the 46-year-old will be deep in the Southern Ocean.

On 8 November she and 33 other solo sailors will set out from Les Sables d’Olonne in France on the Vendée Globe non-stop round the world race. The fleet bristles with the latest foil-borne flying machines capable of reaching 40 knots, costing €10-15 million apiece. Lined up against them, Hare will be on Medallia, the almost 20-year-old, resolutely flightless IMOCA 60 she took out a loan to rent. Winning is out of the question. Yet no one is better placed to expose sailing’s fiercest test of survival than this determined, down-to-earth skipper. Galvanised by the feats of Ellen MacArthur and Isabelle Autissier, Hare always dreamed of competing in the Vendée Globe. But unlike the French sailors who dominate sailing’s ultra-marathon, or her British counterparts Alex Thomson, Sam Davies and Miranda Merron, Hare’s cruising, teaching and seamanship background put her at a disadvantage. She had no youth squad pathway, no apprenticeship with a campaign team, no network of connections to help. It has been a long, often confidence-sapping road.

ALL ABOUT ADVENTURING

Pip Hare grew up messing around in boats. Her grandfather kept a clinker-built wooden Folkboat at Waldringfield on the River Deben. Her family lived in landlocked Huntingdon but her mum and dad took their four children on sailing holidays. ‘My earliest memories are of being on that boat. I remember us sleeping on board and Mum cooking us dinner on the single burner paraffin stove,’ she recalls. ‘But it was never just about sailing; it was about adventuring. We could all swim and we could all row strongly against the tide. I didn’t think of sailing as a sport.’

When her parents bought a Moody 33 they started going further afield, across the Channel to France, Holland and Belgium. ‘I definitely didn’t really enjoy sailing then, it was all a bit stressy,’ she says. But at 16 she enrolled on an RYA Young Skipper scheme and that changed everything.

Sailing out of Plymouth on Hunter Duette bilge keelers, teenagers were taught the basics of seamanship and navigation. They made passages west to Helford. They rowed into Polperro and dried out. ‘We navigated using paper charts on our laps. It was proper sailing with a huge amount of responsibility and the freedom that you were looking for as a teenager and couldn’t find anywhere else,’ she says. ‘From then on, I was obsessed with sailing.’

She got on the water by volunteering for disabled sailing through the RYA Seamanship Foundation. ‘Racing was never an option for me. The thing about the performance pathway is you need to come from a family that is able to deliver that for you. Mum and Dad worked full time.

‘It wasn’t a question of money, it was one of time. They were working as hard as they could to create the life we enjoyed, so if we wanted to do stuff, we had to do it on our own. We saved our own money, we cycled to the club. I worked as a cleaner, I waitressed and I saved up enough for the train fares to the south coast as often as I could.’

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