One-ness with Pip Hare

One-ness with Pip Hare

In late 2008, I was living on board my Lightwave 395 ‘The Shed’, exploring the Atlantic coast of South America. I had forever been dreaming of single handed Ocean racing, but struggled with the confidence required for tracking down that vital sponsorship.  That summer I had eventually plucked up the courage to share a sponsorship pitch with long standing Cowes Week clients Cazenove Capital Management.  Having worked successfully with the company for five years I gave myself permission to tell them of my ambitions.


It was December by the time I heard back from the Cazenove team with an offer to sponsor my entry to the OSTAR race from Plymouth to Newport Rhode Island, starting on the 25th May 2009.


It is still hard to describe the feelings when they said yes; all of a sudden it was real. I was ecstatic and terrified at the same time.   This offer of sponsorship would unlock the door to aspirations I had been harbouring for over 20 years, however the reality of the situation was harsh.  With just six months to go I was with a very tired boat, 7500 miles away in South America and though I had crossed oceans double-handed I had never actually sailed even one single night alone in any sort of yacht.


My departure from Uruguay was set for January 2nd I estimated it would take around 45 days and leave just two full months after my arrival to get ‘The Shed’ Ocean racing fit.


I needed to plan – first to kit out ‘The Shed’ for single handed sailing then return quickly across the South and North Atlantic oceans back to the UK; minimising damage along the way.  Once there a full refit needed to be planned, my sponsorship money would allow me to by a full set of racing sails, replace standing and running rigging, strip and race prepare the hull as well as replacing rudder bearings and attending to some minor structural upgrades. 


Finding a sailmaker was one of my top priorities, I scoured the internet and sent messages to numerous lofts detailing my campaign and timelines, asking them to propose and quote for a full sail wardrobe suitable for single handed Ocean racing. Responses to my emails were un-enthusiastic if they replied at all.  Knowing I would be out of contact for at least six weeks I needed to get a sailmaker secured before leaving Uruguay, but It seemed no one was prepared to talk business with a woman who was half way around the world. It was a bitter lesson to learn; this project was the centre of my world but in reality, of little consequence to anyone else. 


Just as Christmas was looming and I felt time was running out an email arrived from John Parker head of One Sails East.  Maybe it was my East Anglian connection, maybe his passion for short-handed sailing but John said he would be like to be involved in my project and proposed a phone call to discuss a prospective sail wardrobe and time lines. 


 On Christmas eve, I rang John at his home via skype from an internet café. John was enthusiastic about the project, we talked through sail plans, timelines and costs then got onto the rest of my refit; he suggesting I get in touch with Suffolk Yacht Harbour about a sponsorship of yard space during the months leading up to the race.  I never mentioned my lack of experience single handed sailing, and he never asked. I was just blown away to be having my first serious conversation about racing sails.  I rang off happy that I had found my sailmaker and stating I would bring ‘The Shed’ to Suffolk for measurement in February after sailing it across the Atlantic.


Who knows if John really believed I would turn up and at times I wondered if it was possible.  It took me 58 days to sail from Piriapolis in Uruguay to Levington in Suffolk.  On the way I had to scale the rig alone at sea when one of my running backstays fell off, my largest spinnaker was blown to smithereens, every night another seam in my mainsail burst apart and my fingers become needle marked and bloody from sewing it back together every morning.  I had to perform surgery on myself with no anaesthetic to remove a fibreglass shard from beneath one of my nails. The output shaft coupling on my engine gear box stopped working one week into the trip so though I was able to charge my batteries I could not use the motor for propulsion and had to sail every mile instead of motoring through the calms as planned.  This breakage added two weeks onto my estimated journey time and rations became scarce so I only ate porridge for the last 10 days of my delivery.


I arrived in the office at One Sails East, having lost 10 kilos in weight, with my boat and my body both showing the signs of an arduous two months at sea.  When we had originally spoken John had never questioned my claim to be capable of racing across an Ocean single handed, despite a glaring lack of credentials.  By the time we finally met face to face I had taken 7500 miles to prove to myself I had the strength and skill to cope in an ocean on my own. Finally, I had given myself the legitimacy to front up to the world and declare myself a single-handed sailor.  


To be continued….

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