In 2020, British solo skipper Pip Hare will strike out alone to compete in the Vendee Globe Campaign, the world’s toughest yacht race. Fewer than 100 people have ever managed to sail non-stop, solo and unassisted around the globe. Of those 100 or so sailors, fewer than 10 have been women.
In the midst of her final year of training and fundraising, we caught up with Hare, who will be a speaker at Aspire’s Trailblazing Leadership Conference, Dec. 12 and 13 in London, to find out how she got here and how we can all find that confidence to live out our dreams.
It was finally realising that it all had to come from me and there was no point in waiting for somebody to open a door for me or give me permission to take the first step or give me a break. It had to do with my age and looking around at what I’ve got in my life. I suddenly realised that actually, I have got everything I need to make the first step. I had such a terrible lack of confidence to promote myself that actually no one else was going to believe in me because I didn’t project in a way that would allow that to happen.
You can aspire for the first step to be this fantastic, amazing thing and the right step but actually the first step should be what you’re physically capable of doing in that moment. I realised I actually had a boat I lived on and there were races out there I could do. So my first step was just to take a deep breath and just force myself into giving it a go.
It completely was. It’s a really difficult thing but deep down I always, always, always knew that I did have the right skills and I knew it was the right thing. It’s just that I was absolutely terrified that I might be wrong. The only way I was ever going to find out is by doing it. Since taking that first step, I’ve developed a strategy that has enabled me to keep going and going. The first step is always proving to myself.
Pip Hare of Pip Hare Racing | Image Courtesy of Pip Hare Racing
I always need to know why I’m doing it. It comes enormously into everything I need to do. I need to be in it for the right reasons. If I’m met with a challenge and the end objective is really clear to me then the challenge gets absorbed by everything else around it and it’s just a moment in time. You break it down into tiny, tiny, tiny little pieces and you hack away at each tiny bit, one bit at a time but you always know why you’re there and why you’re doing it. If it’s the middle of the night and I’m in the middle of the ocean and I’m trying to fix something in the dark; I’m really tired; my fingers don’t work, but I never even consider not moving forward because if I don’t fix it then I’m not going to finish my race.
I’ve found I’m needing to employ the same mindset for the challenges around building my current campaign because at the moment I’m having to go into boardrooms and pitch, which is something I hate doing. I’m being taken into all these environments where naturally I would run a mile from them but this for me now is part of the race. This is my middle-of-the night moment. With each new challenge, I’m literally doing exactly the same thing I’m breaking it down and understanding which bits I can do. I’m being very focused on the fact that I need to get through it. It’s not necessarily focusing on the challenge itself but it’s focusing on what’s on the other side of it.
I’ve done a load of endurance running as well and I read a book about the psychology of running up hills actually. One of the key things from that was that you don’t ever run up the hill, you run over the hill. It’s very important that you are very thoroughly completely locked into what’s on the other side of that hill because otherwise the danger is you stop just short of the top because you’re so focused on only running up it that actually if you run over it, then the hill actually decreases in size because there’s something on the other side.
"One of the amazing things about human beings is that we can and we will carry on to improving ourselves in our entire lifetime. It’s just that what you do changes. I don’t ever believe I’m going to ever stop wanting to know more; to be better; to find out what I as a person can do. We need to - and it’s a nice thing to do - to give ourselves time to train, to learn new things, to get better at things"
Definitely, a lack of support. What I’ve been doing for the last 10 years has been entirely alone, without support. There has been a kind of support network in the U.K. for the sailors who want to do what I’m doing but almost exclusively that support has been for young men. I am 45 years old and started doing this when I was 35. I don’t think anybody really looks at a woman in her 40s and looks at her as an elite endurance athlete especially not somebody just coming into it. Although nobody has been overly negative to my face, I pretty quickly learned there just hasn’t been support.
In a way that has been quite empowering. It made me really focus. It would have been so easy to give up and nobody would have blamed me because I am seriously doing this against the odds. Yet this is something I have wanted to do my whole life and now have given myself the genuine opportunity to try. Now I genuinely believe I am really good at it. For me to say that, it doesn’t come lightly. I now realise I have to back myself to make this work. Every single step of the way, I have made happen. Now what is happening, in my 10th year, and with the Vendee on the horizon, I am starting to get quite a bit – still not support from conventional sources – more support now because people are really latching onto that story. I’m running my programme with volunteers, other competitors have staff. It’s hard work. It’s really amazing people that believe in what I’m doing enough to give up their time to come help me it’s humbling.
Initially, I figured it out myself because I felt stupid talking about my ambition to anyone. I figured everything else myself and then I did reach a bit of a pause in about 2015 and that was when actually, I attended the Aspire conference in London. On the first day we had to sit down in groups and answer a load of questions about why we were there and what we were hoping to gain from it. That was definitely a pivotal moment that got me moving again because I was definitely suffering from inertia. Being a part of that conference and really being forced to think about what it was that I really wanted to achieve was one part of it.
At that Aspire conference there was a person who absolutely blew me away: Linda Cruse. She was talking about her relief work but her point was just do something. Don’t wait for someone to tell you the right way to do something; don’t believe that you’ve got nothing to add. Just get on a plane and do something. That is so obvious yet so powerful. You always think you need permission but it’s actually the only person you need permission from is yourself.
I’ve got a year to go. I need that year without a doubt. I am really looking forward to it. It’s actually hard to describe just how I dreamed of this as a kid. It was a dream and now it’s real. It’s a big thing to come to terms with. I absolutely cannot wait. It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be terrifying. It’s a huge mix of emotions but without a doubt it’s going to be the greatest thing I have ever achieved in my life.
Oh no, there will be something else. I’m never done, ever.
*Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.
Pip Hare of Pip Hare Racing | Image Courtesy of Pip Hare Racing
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