The six-month refit of Medallia aims to give Pip Hare "a fighting chance" against the 13 new-build boats in the 2024 Vendée Globe race.
“The next Vendée Globe race is going to be huge,” says solo round-the-world sailor Pip Hare, ‘There are going to be 40 entries, which is the biggest number of entries ever. And of those 40 entries, 13 will be new builds so with a 2016 generation boat, I’m aiming to compete against new builds – some of which are going to be launched this year.
“And the way to adapt was going to be to put bigger foils on the boat.”
The six-month refit aims to give Pip’s Imoca 60 Medallia “a fighting chance” against the 13 new-build boats, costing some £8 million each, which will be joining her on the starting line of next year’s singlehanded, non-stop round the world race.
The tenth edition of the Vendée Globe, which will start and finish in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, will begin on 10 November 2024.
Dubbed the Everest of the Seas, and held every four years, the race is considered the ultimate test of ocean sailing. Only 114 sailors have taken up this sporting challenge, and more men  have walked on the moon than women have completed the Vendée Globe, which Pip says: “is all the inspiration I need to succeed.”
Pip fulfilled a childhood dream when she crossed the finishing line of the 2020/21 Vendée Globe, aged 47, in 19th place out of the 33-strong fleet which saw 25 finishers. Now she is setting her sights even higher.
Her foiling 2016 Verdier/VPLP model was previously raced as Bureau Vallée II by Louis Burton to third overall in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, having won the 2016-17 event, raced by Armel Le Cléac’h as Banque Populaire, setting the current course record of 74 days, 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Despite Medallia’s past pedigree, an overhaul of the boat design was needed to keep up with the competition. The main objective of replacing the 3.4m foils with 5.4m versions, capable of lifting the 6.5 tonne IMOCA 60 clear of the water, compared to half out – required changes to ballast and reinforcement of the entire boat structure.
Medallia’s relaunch, Pip Hare to start training
Speaking at Medallia’s relaunch event on Poole Quay last night, Pip said: “It was a big decision for a small team to go with big foils on the boat. When we first got the boat in November 2021 it was a good next step for me. I’d finished my first Vendée and I was super proud of the performance I put in, in the second oldest boat in the fleet, but I knew there was more in the tank and I desperately wanted to understand what ‘good’ would look like.
“And so with the continued support of the absolutely amazing Poole Harbour Commissioners who give us our team home here, we decided that we would go for another campaign. Medallia and Smartsheet [sponsors] decided to stay with us and we bought a boat with an incredible pedigree. We bought the boat that holds the course record 74 days, it won in 2016, and the boat came third in the 2020 race so I knew I was buying a solid boat and a fast boat but I think the writing was on the wall that if we wanted to put in a top level performance we would need to adapt that boat to be more like the new boats that are being launched this year.”
What are foils?
Pip explains: “The foils are the wings that are sticking out the side of the boat, and when the boat leans over, the effect of the foils driving through the water is like an airplane wing and effectively lifts the boat out of the air.
“Now my old foils were small, they were 3.4m long and they lifted 3.5 tonnes out of the water, so they lifted half of the boat’s weight out of the water. These new foils are 5.4m long and because they are just under double the length then they have the ability to lift the whole boat out of the water.
“And actually on our test sail last week, we did get the whole boat clean out of the water, albeit a little bit by accident!”
She added: “It’s been a really big project, we first looked into how to do this in November 2021, and then we started making decisions in February 2022, and we’ve been lucky enough to work with Guillaume Verdier, who is one of the world’s top yacht designers and one of the original designers of my hull.
“We’ve also been working with Carrington Boats down in Hythe who build America’s Cup boats, they are the UK and one of Europe’s leaders in both building technology and to work with two partners like that is just… I kind of sometimes just can’t really believe this is actually my project and I’m working with these people. It’s absolutely incredible.
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“And then from February 2022, the amount of planning that has gone into pulling this refit together with several different contractors in different countries, some in the clouds, some in France, some in the UK, for it all to be built and assembled in Hythe by our team working alongside Carrington’s and our team is still a relatively small team is absolutely incredible.”
Pip described how ‘proud’ she was of her Pip Hare Ocean Racing team, adding: “It’s not just about boat building and systems, there’s a huge amount of logistics, organisation, the financial management of it, you know, keeping all of the wheels in motion is huge. And the fact that our small team based in the UK have delivered a project that looks just like the top teams based in France, is just such a source of enormous pride for me.
“All I said was ‘I want that’ and these are the people who made it happen.”
Test sail success
In a test sail last week, Medallia achieved over 29 knots without trying, compared to Pip’s top speed of 29.7 knots last year – using the previous, smaller foil system “while I was trying.”
Pip said: “There’s no question that we’ve made the right decision. The potential that we have added to the performance of this boat is immense.
“And now the baton gets passed back to me because as a sailor, I now need to step up and meet this incredible new weapon I am lucky enough to have in my hands.”
For the rest of the year, the team will be based in Poole, Dorset, focused on training.
Pip is gearing up for three races this year, starting with the double-handed Fastnet Race in July, sailing with Nick Bubb.
She said: “Nick is going to be my co-skipper for the Fastnet and we are the only British pairing in class IMOCA which we’re also super proud of.
“And then later in the year, we will be doing the Transat Jacques Vabre which is a double-handed race from Le Havre in France to Martinique via Brazil. And I’ll be double-handed again with Nick for that. And then once I’ve had a couple of days stopover in Martinique, I’ll be racing singlehanded back from Martinique to France at the end of the year.
“Next year, we have two single-handed transatlantic races from France to the US and back. And then in November of next year. It’s the Vendéee Globe again. We’re really happy to be based out of here. I think it’s a great training ground to be able to go out, hit the English Channel and have have some room is incredible.
“It’s also really great to be part of the community here. And as a solo sailor, I don’t think I really understood what would happen when I created the team. The wider community that has built around our team has grown into something incredibly positive that just makes me smile every time I come down to the Quay.”
‘Everything has changed’
Joff Brown, technical director at Pip Hare Ocean Racing, co-ordinated the revamp of Medallia, following “months and months” of planning.
He said: “The biggest obvious change is the new foils but that sort of spread like wildfire through the boat, so you don’t end up just changing the foils, you have to change ballast, reinforce all the structure throughout the boat, so although the net result you see now is the new foils, everything has changed.
“It gives us a fighting chance, which we wouldn’t have had if we didn’t do this. I think we would have ended up like the 33rd quickest boat or something if we hadn’t done it, and now we’ll end up in the teens somewhere.”
The skill of using foils, Joff said: “It’s mainly about knowing how fast to go because obviously, it can attain high speeds very quickly, but then you’ve got to try to figure out – are other people doing those speeds, or where’s the comfortable limit, you’ve got to sail on your own in the Vendée over 60-70 days, so that’s a long period and just trying to find the balance of pushing it, versus being competitive, that’s what you’ve got to find and that’s quite hard to do.
“We’ve got quite a sophisticated autopilot that we added last year. I think now there’s quite a lot of trimming of the keel, to try to balance the effect of the keel on the foil. Certainly watching the Ocean Globe Race footage there’s quite a lot of keel trimming going on, which we didn’t use to do, there’s probably less ballast than we used to do, but ultimately Pip is hoisting sails, she’s still got to come out [on deck]. We don’t have as much protection as some of the other boats.”
Big and small sponsors are being sought to back the campaign – from those who can splash out “hundreds of thousands”, who wish to work intricately with the Pip Hare Ocean Race team to realise their strategic or growth mindset, or to take advantage of Pip’s learnings from on board to bring into the company, such as resilience skills or internal engagement.
Lou Adams, operations director for Pip Hare Ocean Racing, said: “We’ve just launched a fundraiser on our website www.piphare.com to give people the opportunity to bring their brand on board, it doesn’t matter if you’re a small company or an individual, we want to make it accessible for everybody to be part of this campaign. We’ve got a memory board of names, so people have put their own names or in memory of people for a suggested donation of £50, names going around the world with Pip which is very exciting.
“People have made their own logos up, we’ve had a team of friends make a logo which is going downstairs in our cabin, and then we’ve got smaller businesses put their names on the boom and mast. We’re still looking for big sponsors to be part of this and use it for their strategic gain as well.”
Tom Peters, Harken UK managing director, said replacement blocks and fittings have already been supplied for the refit.
Later in the year, replacement Harken Air winch 250s will be introduced –a unique winch with a hole all the way down the middle, ultra-lightweight, developed originally for the America’s Cup – to bring Medallia up to the level of the new boats coming out.
Tom said: “It’s fantastic to be part of this. Pip is infectious, that’s the big thing about her.
“She’s performed amazingly well and if you take what she’s achieved over the years with the budgets she’s had versus all those monster French teams with huge budgets, you can’t but help want to be part of that program, and that’s very much the case for us, we want to help out where we can.”
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