Most cruising boats reach average speeds of around 5 knots, with tops speeds of 7-9 knots. Pip Hare's IMOCA 60 Medallia reached 20.5 knots with ease, as Katy Stickland found out
Nervous, excited..slightly terrified. I felt all of these emotions when I stepped on board Pip Hare’s IMOCA 60, Medallia in Poole Harbour.
The most I had ever coaxed out of a yacht was 8.2 knots..and that was on a day of perfect wind aboard our S&S 34, Rebel.
Medallia was a completely different beast and unlike any boat I’d ever sailed before.
Pip Hare has been sailing the foiling 2016 Verdier/VPLP IMOCA 60 since August last year, and her excitement at owning a new boat bubbles to the surface continually.
A smile spreads across her face as soon as she is onboard, getting ever wider once we leave the confines of Poole Harbour and sail into the Solent towards the Isle of Wight, where the IMOCA 60 can show off her potential in 16-18 knot southwesterlies.
Pip’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I am reminded of why she won legions of fans during the 2020-21 Vendée Globe. It is almost like she can’t quite believe that she has been given this boat to race; she radiates joy at being given the opportunities most sailors would give their right arm for.
Luckily for me, she loves to share the experience too, and it is not long before a smile is plastered across my face.
I was more than happy to be asked to help manoeuvre the IMOCA 60 out of her berth at Poole Quay. The engine is controlled by three bits of string – a white string for the throttle which can be taken out into the cockpit and then a red and a green line for forwards and reverse.
Pip was on the tiller and the throttle, while I responded to her clear instruction of forwards or reverse; we cleared the quay without incident.
Once out of Poole Harbour and into the Solent, the real fun began.
The main was raised and then the J3 and we were off..quite literally.
In quick time we were hitting speeds of 13-15 knots..and faster.
Most of the time, the autopilot steers Medallia. The pilot drives her ‘aggressively and efficiently’ so Pip often takes the tiller to feel the balance of the boat and to make sure sail trim and configuration are at their optimum.
Today she was happy to hand the tiller to me.
I am 5ft 8in but with Medallia heeling, I had to stand on tiptoes to be able to see fully over the sliding coachroof, as Pip gave me pointers to keep the IMOCA 60 on course towards the Isle of Wight.
The speed was increasing…18.4 knots….18.9 knots.
The ride was surprisingly smooth, and it felt like the boat would keep going faster and faster.
This will sound strange, but it actually didn’t feel as though we were sailing as fast as we were; my brain only registered the speed when I turned around to see the white water in our wake.
Some of Pip’s crew gathered around the cockpit display, shouting out the boat’s speed. 19.7 knots…20knots…and then 20.5 knots.
I quietly punched the air. I had helmed the fastest speed of the day so far, although was swiftly beaten by a fellow sailing journalist just five minutes later. Glory is often short lived.
Nonetheless I was pumped to have held the record, even if it was for such a short time (although as Pip Hare points out, as a regular Yachting World journalist, she has reached speeds of over 29 knots so ultimately holds the record. Who am I to argue?)
With the tiller in the safe hands of one of Pip’s crew, we went down below where there was no escape from the sound of the sea hitting the hull; it is a constant noise.
The last time I was on Medallia was at her official naming ceremony in London, just after Pip had bought the IMOCA 60 from Louis Burton, who raced her as Bureau Vallée II in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, coming third.
‘I absolutely feel at one with Medallia now,’ Pip told me.
‘Last year, we didn’t push the boat super hard because we had only had a light refit when I bought her from Louis and it was still feeling a little bit raggedly after the Vendée. This year, we spent three months in a proper refit. We have new sails, and we have made some modifications and I feel like this is our boat now. It doesn’t feel like we are sailing someone else’s boat. I love it, I feel at home and I love being onboard. Every time I walk around the dock I just smile. It is amazing.’
Modifications include a new engine, moving the battery banks from under the companionway to an area starboard of the engine (‘Sometimes we do get water in the cockpit that spills over [into the companionway] and we felt that was an unnecessary risk so we moved the batteries’) and upgrades to the instruments including new B&G displays and a exocet pilot overlay, a PC progamme which manages the B&G pilot to refine the way it steers. The water maker has also been moved forwards from the back of the boat.
‘We really thought about what we wanted to do with the boat because it has an incredible pedigree. It got a first [by Armel Le Cléac’h as Banque Populaire in 2016-17] and third in two Vendées so there is not that much wrong with the boat, and I think you would be a fool to get onboard and start changing stuff without understanding why it is the way it is. Our objective for this year was to put the boat back into a condition where it could be as fast as possible in this configuration. We are racing the boat with the small foils in this configuration and then come out of the year with a whole heap of things that we want to modify going forwards, which will also roll into a big foil programme,’ explained Pip.
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Her team is working with naval architect Guillaume Verdier and collaborating with Kevin Escoffier on PRB before Medallia will go to Carrington Boats at Hythe to have larger foils fitted as well as a 2-6m bow modification.
During the recent Guyader Bermudes 1000, Pip was thrown across the cabin, injuring her back. At the time Medallia was racing at 26 knots when the bow dug into a wave, causing the IMOCA 60 to decelerate too quickly.
‘The bow modification will stop the bow digging in. That is why I had a fall in the Bermudes 1000 because the boat was up at 26 knots and then it ploughed into the wave in front and didn’t lift over the wave, causing the boat to decelerate quite quickly. The new bow shape should allow us to climb up over the waves as you overtake them which means you get a steadier, more consistent speed without the sudden slow down as you hit waves,’ explained Pip.
The new foils will be double the size of the existing foils on Medallia, and will add an extra 5-6 knots to the IMOCA 60’s speed.
Pip is still getting the feel of Medallia’s risk-reward line, learning how far she can push the boat.
The 1,200 mile Guyader Bermudes 1000, which starts and finishes in Brest via the Fastnet Rock and the Gallimard waypoint positioned 340 miles northwest of Cape Finisterre, was a ‘massive learning curve’.
What was suppose to be ‘an easy start to the season’ was in fact a ‘really tough race’ with no wind at the start and then 26 knots reaching up the Irish Sea.
‘50% of the course was upwind, so basically the Atlantic threw everything at us that it could and, for me, it was a massive learning curve. I started off really disappointed as I didn’t have a great start; it took me a while to get into the racing mindset. I am always better on longer races, and always joke that it takes the Atlantic for me to warm up and you can’t do that on a 1,200 mile course. It took me 12 hours to get myself into a proper racing mode. For the next race, I need to build a strategy where I am in the right frame of mind when I cross the start line,’ she explained.
Pip, who has until recently always managed her own racing campaigns, now has a team. She admits the transition between working with others and then sailing solo was ‘quite brutal’.
‘I finished the Bermudes 1000 tired and emotionally and physically battered. I had a wipe out and I did hurt myself. That was really about learning what the boat feels like when it starts going over the risk-reward line. I now know what that feels like so I can go up to the line but not over it in the future,’ said Pip, who came 17th in the race
The Vendée Arctique started on 12 June, where skippers have to round Iceland by crossing the Arctic Circle.
Pip prefers races with longer legs. She will also be thinking more about her technique. Every tack of Medallia requires the moving of the unused sails, which are usually stacked and strapped to the back of the boat when racing, a process which takes half an hour. Each weigh 80kg, 100kg when wet.
‘What came out of the Bermudes 1000 was that I unnecessarily used a lot of energy making my manoeuvres absolutely perfect and moving every tiny bit of weight, even though I knew I had to tack back in 4 hours. On the face of it that is how you do it, but if you are on your own and you have only slept for 2 hours [on a bean bag] in the last 12 hours, sacrificing half a knot of boat speed for four hours to maintain your energy reserves is probably a better balance,’ she added.
Pip is surprised that her regular postings during her races attract so many followers, and that they continued to stay with her ‘story’ even after the 2020-21 Vendée Globe. She also feels guilty when she doesn’t race as well as she should.
‘I hate to think that I have wasted an opportunity and I have this great opportunity, I really do and I am so privileged and I don’t want to waste it; I don’t want to miss out on doing well because I have not prepared well enough so I feel this obligation to really do my best, not only for me but for everyone who is supporting me. It is a double edged sword. I feel guilty when I let them down,’ she said.
There is little doubt that she will attract even more fans as momentum builds towards the 2024 Vendée Globe, a race Pip considers very much ‘her thing’.
‘The Vendée is my race, I love it. It is 3 months of racing which is just perfect for me. I am looking forward to it but I flipping well wish the world would stop turning so fast as we have so much to achieve and I have got so much I want to achieve, that I want to develop and I want to work on; I would just like some more time please!’
Pip Hare’s racing journey is one of determination, spirit and hard work. It is a story that doesn’t disappoint and will certainly keep me gripped for the foreseeable future.
What is an IMOCA 60?
The International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) was founded in 1991, and manages the IMOCA 60 class.
The first IMOCA 60s were used in the 1986 BOC Challenge, a round the world yacht race, completed in stages rather than non-stop like the Vendée Globe.
By 1998, canting keels to improve righting were common, along with wider sterns, improved performance upwind and better protected cockpits.
Foils were also introduced, allowing the boats to lift out of the water, increasing their speed.
Each IMOCA 60 is built out of composite material to make them as light as possible, but tough enough to be able to cope with open ocean racing.
Under class rules each IMOCA 60 must be able to right itself from 180° of heel when the keel is canted. The foils also have to be retractable.
Hull Length: 18.28m/60ft
No more than 8 sails
Bright and highly visible colour on rudders and keel
Stainless steel one design keel fin
One design outrigger
Must have 2 rudders, 1 keel and 2 foils
Air draft can’t exceed 29m
Wing mast must rake between 2° and 4°
Who is Pip Hare?
Pip Hare, 48, is a British professional sailor, and has been for 25 years.
She grew up sailing with family on the River Deben and then further afield to Northern Europe in her parents Moody 33.
At 16, she completed an RYA Young Skipper scheme and was bitten by the sailing bug.
She began teaching sailing, working for Sunsail before cruising the UK, North and South Atlantic onboard her Oyster Lightwave3 395, The Shed.
She competed in her first solo race – the OSTAR – in 2009.
She was the overall winner in the Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race in 2010 before going on to race in numerous events including the 2011 and 2013 Mini Transats and the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre.
She has project-managed and fundraised her own racing campaigns.
The 2020-21 Vendée Globe was her first solo nonstop round the world yacht race, and she was placed 19th with a time of 95d 11h 37m 30s.
She raced in a 20-year-old non-foiling IMOCA 60.
Following continued sponsorship from customer management company, Medallia, Pip Hare bought Bureau Vallée II.
The IMOCA 60 was raced by Louis Burton to 3rd overall in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe.
The yacht also won the 2016-17 event, raced by Armel Le Cléac’h as Banque Populaire, and set the current course record of 74d 3h 35m.
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