As the 2022 Route du Rhum approaches, we take a look at some of the top names set to compete in the race and the boats they're racing: here we take a look at Pip Hare's chances
Pip Hare is a British professional sailor and solo skipper, and the 8th woman ever to finish the Vendée Globe. She needs little introduction to regular readers of Yachting World, as a regular writer and boat tester on these pages.
Pip Hare grew up in landlocked Cambridgeshire but spent many holidays and weekends cruising aboard the family’s Folkboat, and later a Moody 33 moored on the River Deben near Ipswich. She read extensively about the Whitbread Round the World Race, and the achievements of solo skippers like Isabelle Autissier and later Ellen MacArthur, and realised from an early age that she wanted race across oceans.
She has been working in sailing for over 25 years, as an instructor, coach and race skipper. She also cruised – on and off, around sailing work – for eight years while living aboard her Lightwave 395 The Shed, completing many short-handed ocean crossings.
However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Hare first moved into solo racing, aged 35, sailing The Shed in the OSTAR singlehanded race from Plymouth to Newport, RI. Her preparation for that first single-handed race including delivering The Shed back from Uruguay to the UK on her own, a passage which took 58 days.
Pip then moved into the Mini Transat class, competing in the solo transatlantic in 2011 (aboard a Mini 6.50 named The Potting Shed) and 2013.
Swiftly working her way through the ranks, she moved into the Class 40s, and finished 9th in the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015. She campaigned in the Class 40 fleet for many years, also working as a coach with other teams.
The ultimate goal for any solo sailor is typically the Vendée Globe non-stop around the world race, which departs every four years from Les Sables-d’Olonne. Pip Hare set out to join the hallowed ranks of Vendée skippers in 2018, committing to take part in her first Vendée Globe aged 46, at the time with no sponsor and no IMOCA experience, and an old, early generation boat which she had chartered.
The route to the Vendée is a tough one and for many the hardest race is simply to get to the start. Hare’s incredible determination got her there with a tiny budget and a support team made up of volunteers and friends, but in June 2020 she secured Medallia as a title sponsor for the Vendée Globe campaign, allowing her to finally recruit a small team in preparation for the start in November 2020.
In her own words, Pip says she had to: “just make it happen, force a campaign into existence and not be fussy about what I had. I just wanted to experience the [Vendée Globe] and show potential sponsors that I was worth backing.”
No one was more surprised than Pip Hare when Leslie Stretch, CEO of software company Medallia, stepped in to sponsor her 2020 Vendée Globe campaign, just months before the race start.
She admits she had been Googling ‘How do you go bankrupt’ just days before Stretch contacted her with an offer. A keen solo sailor who keeps a Beneteau 41.1 in San Francisco Bay, Stretch said Hare‘s track record as ‘an intrepid offshore sailor’ meant sponsoring her campaign to race around the world in a 1999 vintage IMOCA 60 was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, and ‘it was an easy choice to sponsor her again in 2024.’
Hare sailed an impressive 2020-21 Vendée Globe, despite the challenges of her IMOCA 60 (the former Superbigou built by Bernard Stamm), which was well known to be one of the hardest to sail in the fleet – with halyards led to the mast base, a block and tackle canting keel system, no foils, and little in the way of cockpit protection.
She finished in 19th position, with a final time of 95d 11hr. Despite sailing the second-oldest boat in the fleet she finished within a few hours of the two closest foilers ahead (Alan Roura’s La Fabrique in 17th, and Stéphane le Diraison on Time for Oceans).
On her Vendée Hare suffered power generation issues, lost her wind instruments, and even had to replace a rudder mid-ocean in the Pacific.
She also proved herself a fantastic communicator during the race, turning the skills she regularly utilises in writing for Yachting World to share the emotional rollercoaster of a Vendée Globe campaign with a non-sailing audience. Her blog posts from the race captured her raw, unfiltered enthusiasm for what it feels like to achieve a lifetime dream, and inspired many followers.
Her ability to drive every ounce of performance from her boat, meanwhile, proved she would be capable of much improved results with the right machinery underneath her.
IMOCA 60 Medallia
Sail number: GBR 77
Designer: VPLP – Verdier
Builder:: CDK Technologies, Port-La-Forêt
LWL: 18,.28 m
Beam: 5.80 m
Draught: 4.5 m
Displacement: 6.5 tonnes
Foils: Yes, 2020 generation, new ones in build
Following the huge success of their original partnership, Medallia backed Hare again for a second Vendee Globe in the 2024-25 race.
CEO Leslie Stretch had asked Pip mid-race on the race’s live video show: “What’s next Pip? Let’s get to the end and then let’s go shopping for a new boat, shall we??” – on her return they did just that, buying the fastest boat ever to complete the Vendée Globe.
Launched in 2015 as Banque Populaire, the new Medallia comes with an impressive history. It was one of the first generation of yachts that were built specifically to foil, and it won the Vendée Globe for Armel Le Cléac’h in 2016, setting an unbroken course record of 74 days.
In the 2020 Vendée Globe it competed as Bureau Vallée with skipper Louis Burton, placing an impressive 3rd despite Burton having to stop and reattach a mast track among other repairs.
Pip took ownership of her new IMOCA 60 in 2021 and has spent the past year learning how to get the most out of a foiling IMOCA. She has new, larger foils in build as part of her ongoing optimisation and development programme for the boat.
Although she has a wealth of ocean racing experience, Hare will take on the Route du Rhum for the first time in 2022. She will be hoping to demonstrate her potential in a new foiling IMOCA 60 whilst also critically securing qualification miles for her second Vendée Globe.