MY VENDÉE GLOBE
Yachting World|April 2021
PIP HARE FULFILLED A LIFELONG DREAM WHEN SHE FINISHED THE VENDÉE GLOBE, THE FIRST BRITISH SKIPPER IN THIS YEAR’S EVENT. HERE SHE TELLS THE STORY OF HER RACE

The Vendée Globe race was everything I ever dreamed it could be, and more. It challenged me every day, it made me scream with laughter, it brought me to my knees with physical fatigue and the emotional agony of disappointment. But there is not one single day I did not want to be exactly where I was.

It had been a hard battle to get to the line. I was sailing the second oldest boat in the fleet, was a rookie in the IMOCA class, had a small team behind me, and very little time to test the upgrades we made after Medallia came on board as my title sponsor. But I was determined to make the most of what I had, to value every minute of the race and get the best result with the boat I had.

At the start of the race I had really no idea where I would sit in the fleet. My previous IMOCA racing performances were in a tired boat with no funding and the sole objective of finishing races to secure my Vendée Globe qualification.

Among the non-foiling fleet there were two other boats launched in the year 2000 to benchmark myself against, and a number of 2007 boats to aspire to keep up with. It is incredible how my own expectations changed throughout the race as I learned, and loved, to push harder with every week that went by. If you’d told me at the start I’d finish four hours behind a foiling boat and be racing against them for weeks before the finish, I would have never believed it.

The first indication that Medallia and I were sailing hard was when we approached Storm Theta in the second week of the race. While most of the back third of the fleet chose a route to avoid the depression, both Didac Costa (who sailed a phenomenal race in another 21-year-old boat) and myself chose to gybe towards the centre of the system and the stronger winds. It felt like the right thing to do. I’d benefitted from one month of big breeze training in the English Channel before the race and I was completely in control of how close I would go to the system. Why shy away from this now?

I was a little surprised to see other boats in the fleet not taking advantage of that extra breeze, which did make me question my judgement a little. Was this too great a risk early on in the race? But it didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like the right thing to do in the context of a race so I relished the extra speed. I was slightly relieved to see Didac, who was on his third round the world race, chose the same tactic; we crossed gybes one mile apart.

By the time I’d reached the doldrums, I was leading a pack of boats that eventually stayed together until the beginning of the Indian Ocean. I’d even managed to sneak ahead of one of the foiling boats that had not put back at the start. This blew my mind, but got me hungry. If I could be with these boats now, why not for the rest of the race? A new benchmark was set and I never conceded a mile to this pack without one hell of a fight.

WHO DARES WINS

Doing well became like a drug to me. The first time I appeared in the top three on the best 24-hour run leaderboard was a shock (I never expected to see my boat there) but it made me laugh with glee and I wanted to be there again. Then I had my first 400-plus mile day; and that made me want another. I did a three-hour run where I averaged 19.3 knots and that blew my mind. I was outpacing the foilers behind me, Medallia constantly surfing at 25-26 knots. It was incredible.

I couldn’t eat or sleep at first. I was standing by the companionway in full foulies with the autopilot remote in my hand, just watching the numbers, holding on, listening intently to the boat. My stomach was doing somersaults and I was caught in a continual loop of inner dialogue – was I pushing too hard? Was this reckless? Meanwhile the other part of me was thinking: this is all fine, the wind is not excessive, the pilot is working well, the bow is up, speed is my friend. Eventually I got used to living in these conditions and 17 knots felt slow.

Knowing when to back off became the most important decision for success. Back off too early and you could drop off a weather system and lose a few hundred miles. Backing off too late could lead to problems or damage that would set me back for days, or even cost the race. It’s a fine line to tread and it would be easy to always back off early. I don’t think I left it too late once. But more often than not I changed down a sail too early, then regretted the decision and had to change back up again having lost a couple of hours of good speed – but having hung on to my weather system.

Medallia is a really physically demanding boat to sail. The lack of protection over the cockpit stung me both in the south and on the equator. It made everything more effort, harder to manage, more dangerous to me. In the south the volumes of water coming through the cockpit would fill it up to shin level at times and pummel my body. At the equator the heat was at times unbearable and there was no shade. Sometimes I talked to myself out loud to persuade me to get out on deck and make the changes needed. “What are you doing out here if you’re not going to try?” I’d demand of myself.

I often slept in my drysuit on the bare floor to avoid getting the beanbags wet. Towards the end of the race the physicality of the boat started to take its toll. I lost 8kg in weight, and in the last month a lot of muscle mass. But I always knew I’d be able to finish.

A PROBLEM EVERY DAY

Easily 30% of my time on the race was spent dealing with, or trying to avoid, gear failure. The perceived wisdom of the race is ‘one problem a day’ and having an older boat, and a relatively short time to bed in the upgrades we’d made prerace, I was fully prepared to be fixing stuff. The reality was more like two problems a day, but they didn’t come in at that rate and some issues just kept coming.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM YACHTING WORLDView All

WHAT'S NEW

SUPERYACHT DESIGN IS AS BOLDLY IMAGINATIVE AS EVER, REPORTS SAM FORTESCUE

10 mins read
Yachting World
April 2021

NOTHING TO STOP YOU

WHEN PLANNING AN OCEAN PASSAGE, HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU CAN KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT? RUPERT HOLMES FINDS OUT WHAT VENDÉE GLOBE SKIPPERS CAN TEACH US ABOUT MID-OCEAN REPAIRS

10+ mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

MATT SHEAHAN

WAS AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ‘BOT’ THE SECRET TO EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND’S AMERICA’S CUP SUCCESS?

3 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

Gender equity drive in racing

As part of a remix for the coming season of the foiling SailGP series, each of the eight teams are to add one female athlete per team. Teams will be incentivised to include female athletes in rotation for ‘active roles’ and to include women in the sixth position, progressing to ‘practice and/or training in key roles’.

2 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

Resurgence in round the world races

A clutch of ‘budget friendly’ new round the world races for sailor-owners has tapped into renewed enthusiasm for adventure and endurance sailing. All three new events are set to take off in 2023.

2 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

Grenada to host ARC+ rally

A new destination is being introduced for the ARC+ rally in November that could bring the total number of yachts sailing across the Atlantic in rallies this winter to a record-breaking number of almost 400.

2 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

Science while you sail

Cruisers can help improve scientific knowledge about the health of our oceans while going sailing.

1 min read
Yachting World
May 2021

SKIP NOVAK

GETTING INVOLVED IN THE HELICOPTER BOMBARDMENT OF A REMOTE ISLAND… ALL IN THE NAME OF A WAR AGAINST MICE

3 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

DREAM MAKER

WHEN SURFING SUPERSTAR JOHN JOHN FLORENCE TOOK HIS GUNBOAT 48 ON A 2,500 MILE CRUISE TO REMOTE PACIFIC ISLANDS HE FOUND A THRIVING ECOSYSTEM THAT MAY GIVE US ALL CAUSE FOR HOPE.TOBY HODGES REPORTS

9 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021

THE DISRUPTORS

AFTER AN UNPREDICTABLE MATCH, EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND DEFENDED THE 36TH AMERICA’S CUP – AND COULD ALREADY BE SHAKING THINGS UP FOR THE 37TH. MATTHEW SHEAHAN REPORTS FROM AUCKLAND

7 mins read
Yachting World
May 2021