British Vendee Globe skipper Pip Hare has officially named her new IMOCA 60 Medallia. She shares how she is adjusting to her first foiling yacht
No one was more surprised than Pip Hare when the CEO of software company, Medallia stepped in to sponsor her 2020 Vendee Globe campaign, months before the race start.
She admits she had been Googling ‘How do you go bankrupt’ just days before Leslie Stretch contacted her with his 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 certainly shone in 2020-21. She was the first British skipper to finish, taking 19th place, and won legions of fans for her enthusiastic race reports, as well as the respect of seasoned Vendee sailors like Jean Le Cam.
Sponsorship for 2024 has meant a newer boat and the need for Hare to learn new skills.
The foiling 2016 Verdier/VPLP model was raced as Bureau Vallée II by Louis Burton to 3rd overall in the 2020-21 Vendee Globe.
The yacht won the 2016-17 event, raced by Armel Le Cléac’h as Banque Populaire, and set the current course record of 74d 3h 35m.
Under blue skies, the IMOCA 60 was officially christened Medallia by Hare and Stretch at London’s Butler’s Wharf – the same location Alex Thomson’s new HUGO BOSS was launched in 2019.
‘It’s like I woke up in someone else’s life,’ explained Hare, when asked about the impact of four years of sponsorship from Medallia.
‘We are still looking for other partners to join us so that we can really maximise our performance potential and that is still ongoing and it is still a huge amount of my work. In the 2020 campaign, I literally was carrying the whole thing on my back for a year and a half. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.
‘To have this boat from the start and have a team, and have the fact that I am going to do the race underwritten by Medallia takes one pressure off, although puts another pressure on. I now have the responsibility of running a team, and people have expectations of me now; they never did before. That is a new kind of pressure for me. I am somebody that likes to fly under the radar and I am not under the radar anymore,’ she said.
Hare said the transition from a 22-year-old boat to one which is five years old and foiling had been ‘really good’ despite her initial concerns about stepping up to the challenge.
In training sessions she hasn’t yet pushed the yacht beyond 20 knots, allowing her time to learn Medallia and her systems.
‘Initially, we started going out with quite big crews to give me support but actually, I got to grips with sailing Medallia really quickly, and physically this boat is less demanding to sail. There are nuances [between the two boats] but actually they are almost the same. I think when we really start getting to the high performance stuff then there will be differences.
‘But in terms of the actual seamanship, the basics of the sail changes, trimming and manoeuvres, it is the same. And in many ways it’s easier [Hare’s 2020 boat had no outside protection. She had to go to the mast every time to reef, and to tack her canting keel, she had to use a block and tackle taken to an electric winch]. So it’s been a lot less brutal than I was expecting,’ she explained.
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Hare said she hadn’t experienced foiling in ‘really big conditions’ yet; Medallia‘s foils are used from 7 knots onwards.
‘We are foiling most of the time, but it’s not the kind of full on dramatic thing that we think it is. The foils are providing lift, they’re providing extra righting moments so they allow the boat to be more powerful, but in terms of the characteristics and the way the boat is behaving, it doesn’t actually become that different until you get up to 18 to 20 knots of boat speed, and then it starts to change.’
Medallia currently has small foils, allowing Hare to train. These will be changed in 2023, with the potential to go bigger.
Hare said the team will be consulting naval architects and following foil development over the next few years before making a decision.
‘It’s a really interesting question. 11th Hour Racing recently launched their new boat for The Ocean Race and the foils are massive. But, is that appropriate for a solo sailor in the Vendee? It is going to be quite a hard one to judge because all of our intermediate races are short races, and I am sure we’re gonna see the [IMOCA 60s with the] big foils absolutely smashing it, but, actually is spending five weeks in the Southern Ocean with big foils a good idea?
‘I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about how much bigger we could or should go with the foils. I think it’s going to be a really interesting thing to watch. So for now, we’ve got the luxury of being able to train with these ones, and kind of let everyone else do a bit of testing on our behalf,’ added Hare.
The 2020-21 Vendee Globe saw a real mix of hull shapes and foil concepts – much wider than in previous editions of the race.
Whilst Charlie Dalin’s Apivia, with its massive foils, was the first boat to cross the line, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée II [now Hare’s Vendee 2024 IMOCA 60 Medallia] was the second, with just over four hours between the two skippers.
Hare said although Medallia will be three generations old in the 2024 race, the IMOCA 60 will still be ‘competitive.’
‘We do need to be a bit realistic as by 2024, the boat will be three generations old. But, it came first in 2016; it came third in 2020, and that was with Louis having to stop halfway around [he pulled in at Macquarie Island in the Southwestern Pacific to make repairs to the mast track and other repairs]. This is a strong boat. It’s a great platform for us to develop. I think it’s still going to be a competitive boat. And we’re going to have the scope to make it more competitive along the way,’ explained Hare.
She said preparation was key to her success in 2020.
‘I really felt that we had thought of everything for 2020, and I want to carry on with that level of preparation. For me, performance wise, I think there’s a lot of work to do with different coaches, particularly with a foiling boat. It’s a lot more technical and so I’m looking forward to spending more time to learn that.’
Hare said she made ‘some errors’ in 2020, particularly navigating the return leg up the Atlantic, and she didn’t take into account how big events, like changing the rudder [she had a cracked port rudder stock, which she replaced], would affect her mentally, but ‘now I’ve seen it,’ she said, ‘and I will definitely be giving myself more time to recover in the next race’.
In 2020, Hare knew that winning wasn’t an option on such as old boat. Has this now changed?
‘I don’t think you ever enter a race without wanting to get the best result you possibly could, and I don’t like answering that question. I want to be the best I can possibly be. And if that’s a win then, that’s a win, and if it’s a 5th or a 7th, then that’s what it is but, I’m definitely not going to be taking my foot off the gas.’
Hare has always said it was a two year campaign, with her sights set on the 2024 race, but she isn’t ruling out a possible third.
‘I really wouldn’t say no. This is the most awesome sport.I have fought for 30 years to get here and I’m not just going to go “Yeah, done it!” and hang my boots up.
‘I do question my age sometimes; I’m going to be 50 when I start in 2024, but actually I am super fit. I’m confident, and I think I’ve got what I need now [to do the Vendee] and I don’t think I would have had that when I was 25 or 30. If I finish the next one and there’s another one in me then, hell yeah, I’ll do it!’ added Hare.