Exclusive: Pip Hare’s funding woes for Vendée Globe

Pip Hare peers from her boat as she considers her funding dilemma

In mid-April Pip Hare, one of MIN’s favourite IMOCA skippers, made the shocking announcement that her team was facing the reality of having to halt preparations for this year’s Vendée Globe. It was, and is, facing funding woes.

“What happens after June is at risk unless I can bring more funding into the campaign,” Hare says. The top teams in the IMOCA circuit spend around €20m euros over a four year period and while she acknowledges she is definitely not at that level, she hedges that her campaign runs to ‘millions’. She has retained her title sponsor, Medallia, but both her team’s second tier sponsors have recused themselves due to ‘world economics’. Now she is seeking partnerships to take their place.

Pip Hare’s funding crunch

“It was a really hard thing for us to decide to talk about this,” Hare says, but with the Vendée starting in November, she’s looking for substantial support, and quickly.

“We are delivering our intended programme until we get back from the New York Vendée – which starts 29 May. By the time I leave New York I need to have made some pretty big decisions. . . There’s no point in me finding a big bag of money two weeks before the start [of the Vendée proper], because we won’t have anything to do with it.”

Hare’s already hitting hard deadlines, like decisions about what her pre-race refit looks like. “That’s the point of no return,” she says. The options for that mark a step-change in her aspirations – and other peoples’ aspirations for her.

“Everyone is used to my story of before . . . desperately trying to get to the line and to get around the world. We have really changed gear on terms of who we are and what we are delivering. This is about us achieving our potential, it’s not about me getting to the line at all costs. We’ve created a professional team from scratch in the UK – we’ve developed, we’ve pushed. We’ve gone from beginners to having a place in the top ten of the world’s racing teams. So the funding we need is about finishing that off, and achieving the potential we know that the campaign is capable of achieving.”

Hare’s aiming to demonstrate performance, to grab a top ten position and to be the first woman in the world to finish two Vendées. The refit’s scope will have a huge bearing on that – minimum or performance.

“By the time I get back from the US I need to have decided what that refit looks like. Whether it’s the bare minimum – take the keel off, replace the keel bearings, put everything back together – or whether we can actually do a load of work inside the boat to make my life more comfortable.

“If you look at all my competitors, they’ve all got these incredible ergonomics inside the boat, they’ve thought about how to keep the skippers safe. I’m bouncing around on a beanbag on the floor.

“We also need to make some decisions around our sails. We’ve significantly changed the performance potential of the boat and yet I’m still using sails that are designed for the slower boat that I had in 2022. Coming into this year it was always my intention to have a new set of sails for the Vendée. When you think about the race you want to take every opportunity to make things reliable and robust and have back-ups. To make my life as easy as possible.”

Hare needs time on the water – and funding to get that

Aside from refit funding, she also needs sailing time. “Every time I take the boat off the dock it costs us money. We are a team now and my wage bill every month is significant. I need to have a training budget.

“I’ve worked so hard to create an opportunity to perform at the highest level I possibly can. This has been four years of pushing and driving but if I don’t get the time on the water to practice with this boat before we go, I know we won’t have given it everything.”

Pip Hare's boat surges through the sea

Performance campaign for Vendée Globe

Hare’s delighted that Medallia is still onboard as title sponsor. But, she says: “The deal with Medallia was never a deal that would cover all our costs. I’ve not taken the easy option, I could have agreed with Medallia to have a less performance-based campaign, could have decided not to put the big foils in the boat, but that was never what this campaign was about.

“I’ve been round the world on an old boat, I’ve demonstrated that I have potential to create a high performing team and that’s what I wanted to do this time. And when we made all of our decisions around what performance looked like, of course we budgeted it out and of course we weren’t making leaps which we couldn’t afford. But neither of those two second tier sponsors envisioned they wouldn’t be with us until the end.”

The opportunity is ripe for any company which is striving to embed the philosophy of genuine equality, Hare says. “When we’re on the water, the IMOCA class is one of the few sports which really, really demonstrates equality because men and women race in equal terms and we are judged on our actions on the water more than anything else.”

Sponsoring Hare offers genuine value

As the team is experienced at working with partners, Hare believes it can offer genuine value. That includes capacity for branding and networking opportunities, for corporate hospitality and tailored social media, and in-house communications.

“I provide a proper return for my partners. We’re not about taking people’s money, sticking a sticker on the sail and then walking away. It’s about a meaningful partnership. We can’t exist without them and we need to make sure they get the same return from us.”

Pip Hare stands proudly on her IMOCA which she hopes to fund in the Vendée Globe

And, to be fair, it feels like the return on helping Hare with her funding woe should be worth it. Hare’s videos made the cut day in, day out, in MIN‘s Vendée coverage and was shared far and wide. She was engaging, honest and determined and it was her human story – or as she terms it “the rubbish stuff that happens to us when we are out there” – which really captured imaginations.

“It’s not great for me personally, but whatever happens to me out there on that race, there will be an incredible story to follow.

Daily micro-stories

“There aren’t many other sporting events like that. If you get knocked out in the early rounds, your story doesn’t get carried. But on a race like the Vendée, where we have these micro-stories every single day, challenges and tests of humanity. Whatever I have to deal with that is going to be an engaging story.” She’s right. Like the day she became ‘nasty, painful, lumpy’ after a suspected jellyfish sting, Hare has that compelling ability to take people on the journey with her, the ups and the downs.

That journey will be published soon. She’s written an account of her first Vendée – In my element – which is due to be published by Bloomsbury shortly. “I had to go back and read through all of my blogs and my text messages and it was such a good thing to do now because it really took me back there and made me engage with it in a thorough way and I started to remember how I felt and what it was like. It was the best three months of my life.”

Summer of sport incoming

Hare’s also right when she says that when the amazing summer of sport ahead tapers off, and everyone’s in the Doldrums over the winter, there is going to be something else really engaging going on.

“I’ve been working my whole life to create this, this is 32 years of graft down the dock. And I am so close to the race and I know, I know, I’ve got this huge ball of potential and I don’t want not to give this everything we possibly can. Whatever happens I will love it, but the frustration is that right now we have created the amazing potential and not to be able to ice the cake is quite sad. I’ll never stop trying but it will just be sad if we weren’t able to give ourselves the best opportunity when we hit the start line on 10 November.”

Pip Hare
Waves crash over Pip Hare's IMOCA which she is getting ready for the Vendée Globe

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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