Pip Hare at the Horn, “Finally It Is Done”
Britain’s Pip Hare made her first ever passage of Cape Horn at 0156hrs UTC this Tuesday morning on Medallia. Her elapsed time from the start is 64 days 12hrs 36 mins, so 9 days 12hrs and 13 mins after the leader at the time Yannick Bestaven and 10hrs and 21 minutes after Jeremie Beyou.
Finally it’s done. I have rounded Cape Horn, had the full experience, close enough inshore for photos and spoke to the lighthouse keeper and his wife of him. But then I was crawling past the island at about 4 knots so I had time to be a tourist.
Yesterday was one of those Vendee tests. It was a day that ground me down from the very start, a day that started full of promise as the day I would pass Cape Horn, but then quickly descended into something just short of despair at it’s worst.
The breeze was difficult all day, the sky full of squalls and lulls. I just didn’t have the boat speed to stay in the more consistent breeze and so slowly fell back into the weaker breeze, which in itself was enough to frustrate. But I was battling with bigger issues as well, in the form of a leak from the rudder bearing on the side that I changed, which yesterday rapidly worsened and at it’s peak saw me in the back of the boat every hour bailing out over 40l of water that was washing from side to side so impossible to pick up with a bilge pump.
We think that one of the seals in the bearing may have dropped out when I changed the rudder and so the water is able to come into the back of the boat. All day I have been in and out with a bucket, trying to work out whether the leak was stable or getting worse. Each time bailing out the compartment and then crawling in with a torch to inspect every surface to ensure I knew where the water was coming from. Just to cap it all off, on one of my expeditions I forgot the remote control for the pilot and a squall came up behind us. We took off fast and I could immediately feel that the wind was shifting as we started to roll to windward. I scrambled to get out of the back but it’s a hard job, crawling through a whole in a bulk head that is bisected by one of the tiller bars. It’s a very small hole and requires some contortion to get through, the larger members of my team cannot manage it. I was too late. Medallia crash gybed (my first one of the race) as the pilot in compass mode
is not able to react to the squall. I was thrown across the back of the boat and then had to climb out of the hatch into the cockpit with the boat pinned on it’s side, mainsail against the backstay, code zero flapping and wrapped around the forestay.
It took me two hours to sort the mess out. Luckily nothing was damaged and I was able to get the zero down relatively easily, though it is now not furled and so I won’t be able to use it again until I get a windless day to put it up and furl it properly. In the time it took me to get the boat back on it’s feet and driving again the back compartment was once again full of water. It’s like someone is repeatedly knocking you over. Every time you stand up another blow comes. Will this be the one that keeps her down? I have been knocked down hard today.
In the moment it feels wretched. Cruel even as the problems layer one on top of the other. But there is only one way out of and that is forwards with positive energy, facing one problem at a time. I have been sailing Medallia fairly conservatively, to keep the pressure off the rudder and make my life easier as I carry out repairs. Then after consultation with Joff and a lot of bailing out I have created a taller and more robust temporary boot to go around the rudder and stop the water from getting into the back of the boat. Then when conditions allow I will laminate a more permanent solution in place.
Sailing close to Cape Horn after this terrible day was just the tonic I needed. It made me smile despite my exhaustion and disappointment, it reminded me of just what I have achieved so far in this race and the possibilities of everything that has to come. It was incredible to see it up close and I will remember that vision for the rest of my days. For me I think the Capes are named the wrong way round, because this one definitely brought me hope.