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J Composites 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Vendée Globe update: Pip Hare 'I felt tiny'

by Vendée Globe 5 Feb 02:05 PST 5 February 2021

I was standing by the mast last night, shaking out a reef, grinding that sail to the top of the mast, watching the familiar journey of my sponsors logos past my line of vision and was really struck by how small Medallia now seems.

I can still feel the power and it is enough to put me on guard when I hear a creak or a groan from the steering or we heel over fully loaded up but not yet moving forwards. But under the night sky with the deck floodlit against the featureless black ocean beneath us, I was very aware of me on my 60ft little island, in the middle of a huge ocean and I felt tiny.

I think these last two thousand miles of the course have made me feel small as well. The finish seemed close when I was at the equator but our mid -Atlantic detour has taken it further away and now with just about a week left to go we are expecting to meet with at least one big weather system and once again the boat feels small against the size and power of nature. I think the Atlantic in a way is more challenging that the South. It is less organised, the weather systems seem disruptive and I greatly miss the rhythm that allowed me to push so hard in the Southern ocean. It was full on but it seemed more uniform.

Today I has been my first downwind day since mid South Atlantic and it has been so great to feel Medallia grinding up through the gears and preparing to fly again. There was a lot of work, changing sails, leading sheets, managing with my one reaching pole and then moving all of the sail stack to the back of the boat. But once everything was in position it felt like good familiar territory. The breeze has come up a bit now and I am enjoying feeling the rumbling of water past the hull, listening to happy hum of my spare rudder, watching the pilot steer us skilfully through the puffs of wind. I missed this.

I have finally started to look at the route to the finish, it's 2100 miles direct and I will sail around 2350. It doesn't seem close at all because I know that some significant challenges lie between here and there. There are two big depressions which will cross directly over my track. The second I hope to remain ahead of the first I will almost certainly have to encounter and there is no way to avoid it. It is this system that takes all my attention. Every day I am watching, tracking, manipulating my route, trying to understand what it will look like to me. For now the best thing I can do is sail forwards down the track as fast as I can and keep looking. The plan will evolve as the forecast evolves over time.

Right now the sailing is great and I want to make sure I really soak it in and enjoy it. So soon this will not be my life anymore. I'm trying to make sure I give it everything I have got these last few days. I am drinking it in. This whole Vendee campaign has been so short, it's been incredible, from taking over as skipper of Superbigou (as my boat then was)in January 2019 having never sailed and IMOCA before, I am now just 25 months later 2100 miles from having raced single handed around the world.

Because we are in the last week or so of the race I thought I would share with you every day for the rest of the race a memory from my journey to the start of the race and also every day one of my best vendee tracks.

Memory one: I flew to the US to do a coaching delivery of a Class 40 to the Azores. It was a tight schedule, I flew into Boston, the boat was ready, we were due to leave two days later, I would get off in the Azores so my client could do the final leg to France solo and so qualify for the Route du Rhum. When I arrive in Boston I received an email from the owner of Superbigou telling me the boat was available for charter but I had to accept in the next 10 days as other people were interested. I had not seen the boat but I knew this was going to be my chance to do the Vendee. I rang my friend Paul and asked him to go to Lorient to survey the boat. I jumped on a greyhound, went to Portland, jumped on a class 40 and pushed out across the Atlantic. Four days later I received an email mid-Atlantic from Paul telling me the boat was good. At that moment mid-atlantic, with no sponsor, no IMOCA experience and having never seen the boat I took the biggest leap into the unknown ever in my life and I said yes to the charter.

Track one: Of course - Aretha Franklin - RESPECT

Find out more...

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