Pip's story

“RYA training provided me with a way into the sailing world”

In 2020, RYA Yachtmaster® Instructor and Examiner, Pip Hare took on the Vendée Globe - a single-handed, non-stop race around the world sailed in the 60ft IMOCA class yacht. Her aim was to become only the tenth British sailor – and one of only seven women – to ever finish this incredible event. 

Pip’s drive to succeed has helped her become a celebrated international racer. But she says she wouldn’t be where she is today without RYA training. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the RYA training schemes, she shares her story…

Back to the beginning

“Growing up, sailing was about adventure and having fun,” says Pip. “My parents had a 24ft folk boat and we used to trek from our home in land-locked Cambridgeshire to the muddy waters of the River Deben, cramming all six of us into this tiny boat.”

As a teenager, Pip read about offshore sailing as a sport and by 17 had her sights set on racing in the Vendée Globe: “It was such a tough race and to top it all, men and women were racing on equal terms – what other sport in the whole world offered that?”

On leaving school, Pip deferred her place at University to get more sailing experience and secured an apprenticeship at a sailing school on the South Coast. “This was my first encounter with RYA Training and I’ve been a proud part of the scheme ever since,” she says.

Before the year was out, Pip had gained her RYA Yachtmaster Offshore qualification and decided to make sailing her career. “I worked for sailing schools on the Solent, instructing RYA Competent Crew and RYA Day Skipper courses, learning from teaching others and correcting their mistakes.

“This first introduction to working as an instructor taught me valuable planning and preparation skills which are still just as relevant today as I’m charging through the ocean at 20 knots in my IMOCA! Good seamanship is every bit as relevant to the ocean racing sailor as to the Day Skipper taking command of a vessel for the first time.”

Reaching the top

With no established performance pathway through the ranks of solo sailing in the UK, Pip knew that she’d have to create her own programme to get to the top and reach the Vendée Globe. She says: “I spent a couple of years training with established centres of excellence in France, and the rest of the time have run my programme alone in the UK.

“I started with the OSTAR in a cruiser racer, then jumped to the Mini 650s (a 21ft ocean race boat), from there I went to Class 40s, finally making the jump to my 60ft IMOCA in early 2019.

“It has taken ten years of focussed training and racing to gain one of the 34 places in this year’s Vendée Globe race, but 25 years as a sailing professional have gone before that.”

The difference it’s made

Throughout her career, Pip has always instructed and says it’s helped her to grow as a sailor: “The ability to direct a crew of first time sailors to successfully execute an entire passage afloat using only my voice to command them has not only given me a huge amount of pleasure, but it has also helped me to perform as a solo sailor.

“As an instructor, we break each complex activity into its components. We set out the order in which they should be enacted, we outline important preparations and the ‘what if’ scenarios - this is exactly the way I hoist the IMOCA’s 350m2 spinnaker entirely alone.”

Without RYA Training, Pip says she simply wouldn’t be where she is today: “RYA Training provided me with a way into the sailing world. I grew up in a landlocked county, I did not have access to a sailing club and had no role models in my immediate community to show me the way to progress into the sport.

“I knew how to sail, but had only ever cruised, I never raced dinghies and felt an outsider to the racing community. Learning and later teaching as part of the RYA training scheme gave me the skills and confidence to feel comfortable, first as a crew, then a skipper. It provided the platform I needed to start on the path to international offshore racing.”

The bigger picture

“Every year, thousands of people are introduced to sailing through the RYA’s training schemes,” Pip explains. “They may not go on to race in the Vendee, but like me they will be given the skills and confidence to feel like they belong on the water and in the boating community.

“The first steps into sailing are always the hardest to take and so whenever someone asks me how to get involved, I tell them to find a sailing school and book onto a course!”

Celebrating 50 years of RYA training

In 1970 the RYA Dinghy and Coaching schemes were introduced to assist clubs and sailing schools by providing a national syllabus and method of learning to sail. 50 years on, the RYA has a network of more than 2,400 recognised training centres in 58 countries worldwide and supports the delivery of over 100 different courses.

Some 270,000 people undertake some form of RYA training every year and the programme of courses is no longer exclusive to dinghies, but now encompasses everything from personal watercraft to the inland waterways, the thrill of foiling, the globally respected RYA Yachtmaster and so much more. 

To find out more about the 50th Anniversary and the history of the RYA training schemes, visit www.rya.org.uk/go/50years. For more information about RYA courses go to www.rya.org.uk/training.

You can follow Pip’s Vendée Globe journey on her website: www.piphareoceanracing.com