Pip Hare is preparing for the Vendée Globe, a big sail racing step.

Pip Hare: “I have never worked so hard in my life”

24th on the Transat Jacques Vabre – her first big IMOCA transatlantic – Pip Hare, back to her home base in Poole, England, had just lifted her famous evergreen 20 year old IMOCA Superbigou out of the water ready for a refit to be ready for the 2020 season and the Vendée Globe. Hare, 45, a former Mini sailor, is on one of the tightest budgets of the fleet but says if she does not have the money she won’t do the race…

What’s the plan with the boat for the winter?
Mast off, keel off, we have to get all of those surveyed so that we can pass measurements and then we are having the bottom done, painting the deck and all the deck gear off. We have got quite a lot of old kit on the boat that I’m hoping to replace – all of the jammers, all the furlers, my kite halyards are all still 2:1 so I’m going to try to make those into haliedlocks. We really want to try to put a pedestal (winch) in because I’m the only boat in the fleet without a coffee grinder at the moment. We are going to put outriggers on, which I think will make quite a big difference and then new furling gear and halyard locks should help with that as well.

What’s your budget for the refit and what do you need to get through to the end of the Vendée Globe?
The refit budget is fairly meagre I think it will come in at just over £150,000. But my objective is to have no debt. The way that I’ve set my budget is that there are certain financial milestones and I have to reach them all to continue. So far I have achieved that. I reckon I need a further £500,000 to go on from here. I am fairly confident but I will still have one of the smallest budgets in the fleet. I’ve got a three-tier approach to my funding. I’ve got the traditional tiered structured sponsorship with a title sponsor, gold and silver levels. Then we have a business syndicate which is created really around the community that is supporting me in Poole in doing this. The idea with the business syndicate is that it’s a lower level amount that is contributed in monthly installments. That’s what has enabled me to exist this whole year to finish three IMOCA races and to get a place in the Vendee Globe. It is incredible, absolutely incredible. Every single penny that I have raised has gone into the boat. I don’t pay for extra stuff on top, I don’t pay for marketing on top, I don’t pay for team kit on top- every single penny has gone into the boat and that’s why it’s worked.

How do you cope day to day, it is incredibly stressful?
The thing is nobody else cares about this as much as I do, so it just seems to me that you have to be task focussed. If you want something, then you have to identify what it is, and you have to make it happen. I don’t really know how to explain it any other way.
The thing about the way I’m doing it and the flip side is that it is really, really, really hard work, I have never worked so hard at anything in my life ever. But so it should be, shouldn’t it? The other thing is that it is built on ten years’ experience. I didn’t just wake up one morning and think…… ‘oh, I’m going to do the Vendee Globe’.

But then this is the pinnacle, a one off….do the Vendée Globe and then move on, go off sailing Superyachts in the sun?
I’m not just thinking that this is the pinnacle and that I want to do this once I want to do another one. This is typical me, everything I have ever done in my life I do it once to prove that I can do it and learn it and then I do it the second time and that’s when I go for smashing it out the park. That’s my approach to everything, so I would definitely want to do another one without a doubt.

Superbigou is the perfect boat for you?
It’s the boat for me because it was available and for charter for a really cheap price. That is what has made all of this possible and the fact that I was prepared. I have it on a two-year charter. It’s a manageable monthly amount. No one else in the fleet is paying as little as I am I can assure you. But I’m responsible for everything else. Alan (Roura) had the same deal. So, at the end of the day he (the owner) gets a boat that, yes it is an old boat but it’s still an IMOCA and its still maintained to class rules. I’m putting new running rigging on it, new standing rigging on it, so I think it works for us both.

But it is a hard boat to sail, to get the most out of?
As it happens, sure it is an old boat, there is no way around it. It is an old boat and it has the performance of an old boat. And it is phenomenally difficult, n­­ot technically difficult but physically difficult to sailIt is a beast. And all of these guys here who are helping me, who have experience on other boats are just going ‘rather you than me…this is…well…hard’. For example, my keel is on a block and tackle, we have an electric winch, the winch doesn’t do a full cant on its own so so you have to wind with one arm and push the button with other! Obviously, I don’t have a coffee grinder so when you’re putting the main up, you’re on a winch on the mast and it’s a little 52 winch.

You are incredibly driven, are you inspired by the likes of Ellen MacArthur and Sam Davies, do you tell yourself ‘well if they can do it, so can I’?
To be honest, no. Ellen was such a one off and I am very much into doing it on my own terms. It is definitively manageable. I think that so much of it is around physique and definitely in terms of those challenges I look at Ellen and I look at Sam in particular and think ‘well I’m bigger than them so I should be able to do this’. I think I would challenge any female sailor not to be influenced by what Ellen McArthur did. She grabbed it and she did it at such a young age, it was really impressive. So, I think that along with that I think one of the wonderful statistics when you drill down and look it at it is the number of British sailors that have finished the Vendee Globe- include Miranda and me in this because we are lining up for it- by the time we have finished there won’t even be ten and 50% of them will be women. That’s pretty impressive.

Your hull, for those who have not seen it, is one very large Union Jack flag. Clearly the being British aspect is close to your heart, or is it more of a marketing tool?
The British aspect is quite important. I think I wanted to make a point there. I’ve been over and I’ve lived in France for a bit. I did my Mini training in France and I look over the water at what is going on there and I want to be there and be a part of that. That is the express, fast track way of getting good. I was thinking about where I wanted to base my campaign and in my heart I want to go and train with these guys and be a part of that community and train with them. But I am looking to British companies to support me, how can you base your campaign in France if that’s the case? The other thing I really want to do is try to shake up Britain a bit and say, ‘come on, we’ve got some amazing sailors in this country and we are doing some amazing things. But we just don’t engage with it in the way that we should’. One of the big things that I am plugging is that the Vendee Globe in itself is an incredible endurance sporting event. It is a sailing event that anybody can understand. It is a pure physical experience. It is pushing yourself to the limit of what it means to be a human being, sailing is only a part of that. Everyone can get into that. There is a reason for everyone to be proud of it and want to know about it. I guess that’s the reason for the Union Jack. Plus when I go plus go over to France, I’m just one among a number of people there and that doesn’t make me any different.

So, seeing Plymouth lose The Transat and The Fastnet must hurt you?
It does hurt to lose it, it’s such a shame. It’s now the ‘Fast Not’ isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong I can understand why. I think with the Transat in particular, I did the OSTAR in 2009, I did Round Britain and Ireland from Plymouth in 2010. When I did it in 2009, compared with the French events it was small, but there were still spectator ferries out. We had a warship there. I think Dee and Mike started it and they had a ‘Royal’ (family member). It was a big event as was Round Britain and Ireland. I think there were 48 boats. It was an event. What happened?

You want to crusade to see big sailing events return to the UK?
I’m sure I can’t be on a one-woman mission; I have got too much to do but that’s kind of part of the point I want to make is: how do we re-engage people with this? Maybe it’s because we aren’t being human enough. Maybe it is because you look at the big campaigns in the UK and it is all chiselled looking men. Here I am, I am just a scatty looking tired woman doing this. Surely everyone can relate to that!

But in the Vendée Globe you are going to have a great race against Miranda Merron and Alexia Barrier, three girls and three boats of a vaguely similar vintage…..
I am so excited after the TJV. Firstly, because I have got so much more in the tank, I am just getting started girls. I’m just learning. I am so looking forward to it. It is going to be fun and we are going to have a great race. We are going to make part of the race. We are going to make part of that story.

Photo : Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

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