Safety paramount for Pip Hare during Route du Rhum first hours

Approaching her first Route du Rhum-Destination Pip Hare is taking a necessarily cautious approach, especially for the first 24-36 hours. The British skipper lit up the last Vendée Globe with her effervescent joie-de-vie during her first adventures in the Southern Ocean and her tenacious attack with one of the oldest boats in the race. 

She has more than enough deep ocean racing miles, even with her new foiling Medallia, to race the course at close 100 per cent, but – as is the case with most solo IMOCA skippers – most of all she is under huge pressure just to finish the race into Guadeloupe to accumulate miles to secure qualification for the next Vendée Globe which is currently oversubscribed.

And, also like others in the class who need to repatriate their boats quickly, she needs to get her Medallia back to the UK quickly for a refit which will see her graduating to new, latest generation foils which will be fitted this winter in England.

The biggest initial danger is simply the size of the IMOCA fleet. With a record 38 IMOCA boats competing avoiding a collision in the hectic first 24 hours will be key. Add in a giant fleet of 55 Class40s of which nearly half are fast, new-build latest generation boats which will be as fast as many IMOCAs, plus even some Multi 50s in a mixed up fast moving fleet, the whole scenario is concerning, especially if it is windy as seems set to be the case.

“This is a massive fleet. I am really, really nervous about the start.” Hare contends, “Can you imagine having a collision at the start and in the first 24 hours? And it looks like it will be upwind which then means the fast, new Class40s will be in with the IMOCAs so it will be … busy.”

She continues, “I think I will approach this all with a sailplan I can handle quickly and easily with the top (roof) open, fully kitted up, alarms on and the minimum possible sleep. I need to be super vigilant and if the situation looks ‘iffy’ at all then just back off a bit.” 

The whole complexion of IMOCA racing has changed because of the constant quest to finish big races and clock up qualifying miles for the 2024 Vendée Globe. And the Route du Rhum is a high tariff, valuable miles building race. Even so she is totally on board with the need to have a qualification process for the solo non stop race around the world.

“This is what we are used to in other classes. It is how we qualify for the Mini650.” Hare notes, “It is all fantastic for the Vendée Globe to have all this interest and it is fantastic to be part of it and I definitely respect the need for a qualification. But I do joke about the fact that everyone got a free pass before this and then the year I come back to do it again you need to qualify! But I think it is a sensible move. I do have mixed feeling the way it has been done. But it really has changed the whole dynamic as it is now just mostly about a race for miles, even for the new boats. Everyone has a lot to lose if they don’t finish this race. And that includes the guys who are doing The Ocean Race who have to get the boat back quickly and then have, like, three weeks or so for a refit to do The Ocean Race.” 

She is looking forwards to the ‘Rhum’ and the new challenge it brings. She has been to two Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe starts helping as a preparateur but while she is enjoying the passion of the huge crowds it is somewhat overpowering for a sailor who says her ‘happy place’ is being alone on her boat,

“I am nervous about this whole thing.” she reveals, “ I don’t think you ever come to a race like this and aren’t nervous. But this is crazy big. I think being able to distance myself from the race village at some point every day for me that is essential. And I am not someone who enjoys crowds. I love the enthusiasm, it is lovely that people want to know about me and support our project, everyone wants to be kind and generous and meet you and that is great but I am at my happiest alone on the ocean.”

Hare is totally single-minded when it come to the Vendée Globe, she had no real interest in joining the crewed The Ocean Race,  “Boris (Herrmann) asked me when he was trying to rally the troops and get a few more boats but we bought this boat to do the Vendée Globe and the budget to do The Ocean Race is enormous. We  don’t have it. And I want to keep my boat for best.” 

And after a winter with Medallia in the yard she is looking forwards to organising training with other boats, “I know next year when I get the big foils I need to be lining up and training with other boats. I need to be working with other boats to see what we are doing well and what we are not. If we have to organise things ourselves we will.”

She concludes, “This is our last race with the small foils and on paper we are quite far down the pack. This is definitely a learning race and about not damaging the boat. I need to finish this race. And then I need to turn round and sail the boat back almost immediately as I need to have the boat out the water and in the shed at Carrington Yachts before Christmas. I will enjoy it and it will be the longest race for me, that is my thing and I will really enjoy it.”

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