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The Vendée Globe 2020: 7 Lessons From The World’s Toughest Sailing Race

16 February 2021

The Vendée Globe 2020: 7 Lessons From The World’s Toughest Sailing Race


“This race challenges every aspect of what it means to be human…”

24,000 miles and 95 days, totally alone with no assistance and no turning back. Day after day battered by gale force winds, wall after wall of unrelenting swell in the world’s most dangerous oceans, battling sleep deprivation and extreme isolation. Could you do it? Also known as the Everest of the seas, the Vendée Globe is the greatest sailing race around the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance. SunGod Ambassador Pip Hare has just completed this race and she shares with us everything she’s learned from this adventure of a lifetime…

1. Proactivity is everything.

To succeed in a challenge like this it is essential to be proactively and diligent in all aspects. If something is not quite right, if you are a bit off the pace, if there is a funny sound or if the sky looks ominous, then you have to act. I didn’t have much downtime to be honest, between sailing the boat, interpreting weather forecasts, plotting my course, checking and repairing things, and of course eating and sleeping, there’s not a lot of time for other things! This is a tough race and the self discipline required for good performance is everything. The moment you slack off is the moment you drop off the pace or worse!

2. As humans, we’re capable of more than we imagine.

The lowest low of the race was probably when I realised the rudder stock had cracked, and I realised the enormity of the challenge of replacing it'. I had gone through the rudder replacement process in the dock with my technical director Joff before I set sail, but doing it alone in the middle of the Southern Ocean was quite a different experience - I was scared and apprehensive. The conditions were far from ideal, but once I was committed to doing it there was nothing that was going to get in my way. There were some tough moments and I had to plead with my boat and the ocean a couple of times but I did it! My heart was in my mouth for the whole time - I think it reaffirmed to me that as human beings we’re capable of more than we imagine!

3. There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

I think there’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. At one point I was closer to people on the international space station than anyone on land and that is pretty humbling. I never felt isolated though, I have an amazing support network who would feed me messages from back home and from the social community, which was incredibly uplifting.

4. Your body isn’t a machine.

In life, we don’t give ourselves enough slack and I learned this in a big way! I tend to treat myself mentally and physically like a machine. I don’t give myself much slack and just expect to plod on regardless. For example, there was a definite energy debt to pay after I had changed my rudder. I was physically and emotionally drained and I did not realise how long it would take me to get back on form. With the beauty of hindsight, I know I would play the whole ten days following my rudder change in a completely different way!

5. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Hearing about Kevin Escoffier’s rescue really brought it home how unpredictable this race can be. That was scary to witness and also a couple of moments in my own race, including both mast climbs and a rudder change, were pretty frightening. I have found that in the midst of any situation on board, whether it’s a storm, a leak or replacing the rudder, you quickly lose sight of the big picture. I guess you need to have your head in the detail to manage a crisis but it’s important to remember to zoom back out when you lift your head again. No matter what life throws at you, don't forget that storms pass, the weather changes, problems are managed and you move on.

6. Preparation is everything, but there’s no substitute for the real thing…

This race was always going to be a learning experience for me. I only got my boat, Medallia, 2 years ago and this is my first Vendée Globe. Of course I did all the preparation I could, but that’s no substitute for racing in the Southern Ocean for the first time, experiencing that weather and isolation, and learning how hard I can push the boat and myself. This is great preparation for a more competitive campaign in 2024’s race. What did surprise me however was how competitive Medallia and I were and our position in the fleet – it was a dream.

7. Adventure can teach you to be the best version of yourself.

This adventure is everything I dreamed it would be and more. I’ve always said I love solo racing because it pushes me to be the best version of myself. When alone in the middle of an ocean there is no easy option. You must face every problem head on and find the solution from within. The Vendée Globe is more than just a race, it’s every skipper dealing with their own problems, all of us fighting to stay in the game. I am proud to be one of this number. I am proud to be a solo sailor who has completed the Vendée Globe. I can’t wait to come back in 2024…

At 47 years old, Pip is living proof that with the right motivation, training and dedication you can make the dream happen, even if you come to it at a later stage. We’re beyond proud and totally inspired by her incredible achievement and we cannot wait to see how she levels up in the years to come to take on the Vendée Globe 2024. Watch this space!