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Pip Hare in the Vendée Globe, 'Over half way, I am coming home'

by Vendée Globe 25 Dec 2020 22:35 PST 26 December 2020

Pip Hare writes this morning, "I have officially passed half way! Based on the rhum line course around the world, in the early hours of this morning I reached the half way mark. People! I am coming home.

I was asleep when I sloped past half way mark and yesterday was such a busy, happy day I didn't feel the need to celebrate. I have some treats lined up to mark this occasion all this is on the back burner because there is serious work to be done over the next three days and I am totally focused on putting my best efforts into sailing Medallia well. This feels important.

There is a low pressure system developing some miles behind me to the West today, it is intense but should remain in the west, moving South over the next couple of days. But there is a large and very active front associated with this system which stretches up to the North towards Tasmania and is travelling East rapidly, catching up with my position. I have been tracking these systems for a number of days. The front looks particularly aggressive with forecast winds of 35 knots at it's peak which I have no doubt will mean a gradient breeze of 45 with gusts of 50 or above. At first it looked like there was no way to avoid the front and I was considering taking a route to minimise it's impact. But as the forecasts have developed the passage of the front has slowed down and a route opened up which should keep me ahead of the worst of the wind.

Every day I pull in updated forecasts, check the routing, run variations, change the parameters really trying to understand all possible scenarios, what if I don't sail fast enough, what the wind is less, what if it the wind direction is 15 degrees different. All routings suggest that Medallia can make this leap and stay ahead of the big breeze but I need to sail fast, make no mistakes and take every opportunity to push this boat hard.

The consequences of not sailing fast are not good. My routing at a conservative pace keeps me riding ahead of the front, some 150 nm in front of the worst conditions at around 1200 on the 27th. But 150nm is not so far, if the front moves more quickly or I sail slower then this safety cushion will be eroded. I am trying to sail faster than my routing, trying to squeeze every tiny drop of speed of Medallia that I can.

It's a pretty intense feeling and I am hyper aware of how the boat feels and watching the numbers on my instruments several times a minute. Today I sat on deck for over an hour, being engulfed by the water running down the deck and just watching, listening and feeling Medallia as the pilot carved it's way through the waves. Watching the route the pilot takes through the ocean helps me to understand how loaded up the boat really is. When we leap off the back of a wave and surf at 24 knots to the next one we don't always jump over it, but sometimes plough into the back of it, the boat lurches forwards, everything loads up, it's then watching how the boat recovers from this sudden loss of speed that I can really get a feel for if I am pushing too hard.

Previously I have always taken the helm to make this assessment. Even last year while I was getting to know Medallia properly, I needed to have the helm in my hand to completely understand the power, balance and load that I was putting the boat under. Now, I don't need to steer and in a way it is better not to. But being on deck to watch the wave patterns and understand exactly what it is that made us lurch, or heel over or load up is essential to my decision making. When I've got it just right I find it mesmerising, the energy from the wind and the ocean seamlessly transfers into the boat and the motion is powerful but fluid. The interface between man made design and the natural world is just right. It's a rough ride and you get thrown around by every wave but the boat doesn't feel out of control. When there is too much sail, or too much heel, when the course or balance is not quite right the feeling is more edgy, it feels rough and unpredictable. Most of the time there is something you can do about this, change sails or trim sails, adjust the course, all the time looking for that perfect balance between maximum speed to take me East and managing the risk of breaking something by pushing too hard.

Managing this balance day and night is my only preoccupation now. As well as the regular checks and deck and below to look for early warning of problems. So, my half way fresh thermals and boots are still in their vacuum bags. Celebrations are postponed. We have some sailing to do.

Find out more...

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