The Finish

After 19 days and the weather systems from hell, finally the finish line seemed tangibly close.

174 miles to go and over the last four days I had been battling with Hugo and Ysbrand a race within a race, I gained some miles then they did; it was intense.

According to the text books the final approach to Salvador is cool sailing with the big kite; surfing those beautiful blue waves, dreaming of the finish line, a shower, a beer.

When I received the weather bulletin forecasting a cold front for our approach; gusts of 40 knots, violent seas, lightening, it was a slap in the face. Nature flexing it’s muscles a final time, showing me who is boss.

‘I know!’ – I know already that the sea is mightier than I am, I really felt that this was not deserved and unnecassary. I was tired, the boat was tired it felt like luck had run out.

The last 24hrs of the mini transat were hard; the front gave us everything it promised, the sea was messy and aggressive; in the squalls visibility was down to one boat length; My gasket for the pilot arm which reaches from the rudder to the inside of the boat, lost it’s water tight seal and litres and litres of water arrived in the boat, I was having to bail out a bucket full every half hour, worried all the time the water would reach the level of my fuel cell and kill it.

Hugo dropped behind, Ysbrand was hot on my heels and gaining. That 15th place that I coveted so much was sometimes within grasp, sometimes it seemed to be falling to Ysbrand.

I hand steered for ten hours, only leaving the helm to empty water from the boat, navigate and give my position to the accompanying boat.

Tensions were high as Renaud that morning had ended up on the beach and I was warned again and again to stay away from the shore.

The final approach to the harbour was the most nerve racking i have ever made in my life.

In the dark – 28 knots from behind, surfing the waves to a lee shore – focussing on a waypoint in the gps, unable to leave the helm, looking for a buoy I never saw and to be honest terrified and just hoping it would all come together.

I found my way through the inshore passage of the sandbank – I rounded into the harbour. My eyes were blinded by lights, I was searching for the finish line – the wind was blowing hard and my boat was still going too fast into the black.

I found the line and there was a committee boat too.

They started to take photos and i was ashamed as I knew that the boat was a mess – ropes everywhere, backstay flapping in the breeze – I had too much on to be tidy.

Then I crossed the line.

I yelled.

I was collected and towed into the dock – they let off fireworks when I arrived, the music was blaring – on the balcony of the club mini sailors were waving and cheering. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.

Kisses and hugs, fresh fruit, caiparhina, so many arms and voices and hugs.

I have finsihed the mini transat.

This race has been the most challenging of my life. The conditions have been hard, the boat is hard, the competition is never ending and fierce.

To arrive at the shore and hear all the other stories – we really had no idea what was happening, two boats lost, dismastings, boats on the beach, countless rudders broken or damaged, medical emergencies. This is testament to how tough it was.

I have had to draw on every skill I have, the sailing has been technically difficult and physically hard. The mental challenges have been immense. The physical discomfort has at times been close to unbareable but one thing is for sure………… there were a couple of moments when I struggled to find the pleasure in what I was doing; nature had me on my knees.

But with my hand on my heart I can honestly say that I enjoyed this race – I always wanted to be out there, competing sailing, night and day; I was completely where I wanted to be.

This has been without doubt the most positive experience of my life to date.

Thank you just does not cover how grateful I am to my sponsors and supporters; you all gave me the opportunity to do something amazing and that is a unique gift, I sincerely hope that I can give back to you some of the value that i have earned through my experience.

Before I finished this race I had already decided that I will compete again in 2013.

I will search for sponsorship to cover a full time campaign and I will compete again in series class, this time aiming for a podium position.

Over the next few days, when my laptop arrives from England I am going to sort all my videos and photos, and I will be writing a proper account of the race once my head has cleared which will be a available to download from my website maybe in a couple of weeks.

Now I must sign off, Bruce Gailey is about to cross the finish line and it is his turn to be hugged.

BREAKING NEWS

It is now official, Pip did finish 15th (not 16th) in Serie Classe Leg 2.

Overall Pip is currently SEVENTEENTH overall in Serie Classe There are more boats to finish but Pip’s overall position is very unlikely to change.

An awesome result considering Pip’s race campaign and preparation started over a year later than most. Also conditions were tough in Leg 2 with 9 retirements and one more imminent, many competitors will be pleased just to finish.

A fantastic achievement.

So near yet so far!

Pip Hare has been in an ongoing duel with Hugo Lavayssiere to secure 16th place in lLeg 2 of the 2011 Mini Transat.

At 20:40 (CET) Pip was in 15th place with only 36 miles to the finish line in San Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Pip’s ambition for a top 15 finish has almost been realized.

Oh, what a night/ Early November back in 2011/ What a very special time for Pip/ ‘Cause we remember what a night!!

09:00 (CET) – It looks like Pip had a sleepless but highly energized night.

Over the last 9 hours Pip has slashed 20 miles off the gap to Benoit Lenglet in 15th place in the Series Class and also taken a tighter hold on 16th place by building a gap of nearly 4 nm to Hugo Lavayssiere in 17th.

90 miles to GO GO GO PIP

Mini Transat 2011 Series Class starring leading lady Pip Hare

Pip Has now converged closer to the bunch of the fleet tracking in 9th position in the Série Classe and continues to star as the ‘Leg 2 Leading Lady’. The Italian Suzanne Beyer follows close behind in 11th place ahead of the next lady, Christa ten Brinke from the Netherlands, in 27th place.

Lady of the Night

The conditions were tough In the vicinity of the Canaries. The wind strengthened from the north/northeast to 20 knots with sudden gusts of 30 knots or more in some areas coupled with a very choppy sea-state. This put extra strain on the boats which are still in ‘heavy mode’ comparatively weighed down with the majority of their food and drinking water consumables still intact.

Pip and two others were commended in the official race reporting for their skill in taking a course through the Canary Island Group which involved night sailing in difficult conditions. Pip identified in her blog that she thought gains could be made overnight as many of the opposition tend to have a night sailing regime which is less attentive than during daylight hours. This approach certainly paid off and Pip jumped over 10 places during this phase of the race.

More Fleet Damage

During the difficult Canaries phase of Leg 2 there was yet more serious damage reported.

Andrea Caracci (ITA 757 – Speedy Maltese) and Tiziano Rossetti (ITA 542 – Una vela per Emergency) both dismasted but safe ashore in Palma. Sergio Frattaruolo (ITA 769 – Bologna in Oceano) put into Candelaria and Giacomo Sabbatini (ITA 554 – Scusami Spall) into Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Guo Chuan (487 – Vasa) the Chinese entry is safely ashore at La Gomera after breaking a rudder. Renaud Chavarria (FRA 596 – Béziers Méditerranée) is dismasted and sailing under jury rig south west of the island of Hierro (Canary Islands).

IGNORE THE REST – I AM GOING MY WAY

For Leg 2 it looks like Pip has a creative game plan and is sticking to it.  Over night Pip and Chuan Guo (China)  were the only two boats to track between Palma, and Tenerife.  Palma is the eastern most island in the Canaries group and the rest of the fleet passed to the east of Palma. This caused Pip to drop down the rankings but at 10:00 (CET) she was tracking at over 4kts faster than the ‘bunch’ which includes the current leader Eric Llull (France).

Pip is now heading to east of the island of Hierro which is suffering from the effects of an offshore underwater volcano. The erruptions have been continuing since last Monday and 600 people have been evacuated from the southernmost town of La Restinga.  The effect on the sea is shown in this video clip: Hierro Offshore Volcano

Decision making continues to be difficult as the conditions are un-seasonable and the fleet is banned from carrying met equipment to give a longer term prediction so it is not practical to make quick decisions to move to apparent better air near by as Pip found out the hard way in Leg 1.

It willl be fascinating to watch Pip’s plan unfold particularly when the fleet approach the doldrums

What did Pip get up to in Madeira?

Pip had plenty to do during the Madeira stop-over. There wasn’t much time to spare but Pip and the boat seemed to leave for the start in good shape.
Pip had a problem with wind data on the first leg. She found a nick in the cable that runs up the mast to the windvane so cut the damaged section out during the passage. The problem persisted so she rang Raymarine from Madeira. They suggested that water may have penetrated the cable and so sent out a new one with Pip’s mum Mary, who arrived on the 8th. One of the auto-pilot rams broke too, so Mary also bought out one of these. We replaced the mast cable and the ram and the pilot computer and Pip got towed out on the day before the start to do the circles necessary to calibrate it all. Success !
Apart from the obvious bailing out,(lots of water gets into minis) washing kit and cleaning the boat we also serviced the winches which had started to run backwards, and checked and re-spliced the halyards and guys.
On Saturday 8th we took part in a race with about 30 other minis, aimed to give the local children the opportunity to go sailing, and we steered round the course by our very own 10 year old !
Towards the start Pips mum, Mary, did no end of printing and laminating of met. and navigation data, which saw the local printer cartridge shop do the best business it had known for years ! Her Dad arrived on 10th and was also kept very busy !
(Thanks to Ash Harris for this update)

Pip had plenty to do during the Madeira stop-over. There wasn’t much time to spare but Pip and the boat seemed to leave for the Leg 2 start in good shape.

Pip had a problem with wind data on the first leg. She found a nick in the cable that runs up the mast to the windvane so cut the damaged section out during the passage. The problem persisted so she rang Raymarine from Madeira. They suggested that water may have penetrated the cable and so sent out a new one with Pip’s mum Mary, who arrived on the 8th. One of the auto-pilot rams broke too, so Mary also bought out one of these. We replaced the mast cable and the ram and the pilot computer and Pip got towed out on the day before the start to do the circles necessary to calibrate it all. Success !

Apart from the obvious bailing out,(lots of water gets into minis) washing kit and cleaning the boat we also serviced the winches which had started to run backwards, and checked and re-spliced the halyards and guys.

On Saturday 8th we took part in a race with about 30 other minis, aimed to give the local children the opportunity to go sailing, and we steered round the course by our very own 10 year old !

Towards the start Pips mum did no end of printing and laminating of met. and navigation data, which saw the local printer cartridge shop do the best business it had known for years ! Her Dad arrived on 10th and was also kept very busy !

(Thanks to Ash Harris for this update from Madeira)

The Sailing


Leg one of this years Charente Maritime, mini transat race was complicated to say the least.

What we all signed up for was a bit of a beat out of the Golf of Gascogne, then turning the corner an into the influences of the Azores high, to set the big spinnaker and surf those waves to the finish.

Such was our luck that the Azores high was missing this year and instead had been replaced by an ever changing system of lows, high’s, ridges and troughs.

The weather reports given daily over the SSB radio by class mini always started with ‘the general situation is very complicated’ and would follow over the crackling reception with a string of number corresponding to pressures, longitudes and latitudes of various systems and times they were expected were.

We had the full range of conditions and every sail in my wardrobe got to play a part, except the storm jib, which happily remained in it’s bag; sliding around at the front of the boat.

We started with light airs, and downwind sailing. Two days of willing the boat forward; coaxing every ounce of speed out of it.

The nights were black with only a slither of moon; but sail trim in these conditions has been made a lot easier for me by the use of luminous draft stripes on the main and the jib from Glowfast.

These are something I have not ever used before and only applied to the sails just before the start; previously I had always used a torch to periodically check sail shape.

Now at night time my sails take on the appearance of a computer 3d model with some lines blanked out. I can see the shape of the sail always with no need of a torch, which benefits in two ways, one so I can trim the sail without the aid of a torch and secondly to remind me to trim the sail, as I can always see it.

I believe that night time is one of the key times to gain an advantage on your opponents so this has undoubtedly been a useful tool.

After Finnisterre and some thick fog banks, we turned south and into head winds.

Beating in a mini is just not fun. It is brutal; like riding a bucking bronco endlessly, all day and all night.

The boat must be well stacked with all of your kit and water on the high side of the boat, giving you maximum righting moment. This is a back breaking job and one I particularly hate.

With little moonlight to show us the path, night time in breeze was violent, the boat seemed to be careering through waves at breakneck speed, then suddenly halted with a shuddering explosion as it crashed into an unseen wave.

Every forecast I hung on for news of a north wind, but not until the last three days of the course did this happen.

I felt greatly relieved and justified in my decision of a smaller headsail as these conditions were exactly why I had made that decision.

Eventually when the following winds came, I got a taste of the leg to come.

Beautiful, brilliant down wind sailing, surfing waves, changing between kites in squalls; dolphins along side the boat and the absolute joy and pleasure of steering and trimming to gain every ounce of speed in these conditions.

If this is the second leg then Bring it on!