Well-wishers have lined the waterfront to welcome British sailor Pip Hare as she returned home, having become only the eighth woman to finish a round-the-world yacht race.
The 47-year-old, waving flares in her 60ft yacht Medallia, was given a police escort and was met by a lifeboat and other small craft as she arrived at Poole, Dorset.
Ms Hare came in 19th place in the Vendee Globe race when she crossed the finish line at Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, on February 12.
Taking the position of the first British skipper to finish, she had completed the solo round-the-world race in 95 days, 11 hours and 37 minutes while sailing in the race’s second oldest boat.
Speaking to PA, she said: “It’s great to be home, what a reception it was. I approached the coast and two boats came racing out and that was my police escort, that was joined by a lifeboat and a pilot boat and a Rib with my crew on board.
“There were loads of people with Union Jacks, waving and shouting and horn-blowing, we had asked people not to come and to stay safe but I am incredibly touched that people came out.”
— Pip Hare Ocean Racing (@pipoceanracing) February 18, 2021
Ms Hare said one of the hardest moments during the race was when the boat suffered a broken rudder in the Southern Ocean – one of the remotest spots at sea in the world – and had to carry out the repair between storms.
She said: “I never doubted that I could get round but the most important thing for me was the competition, I had the second oldest boat in the fleet and at times I was ahead of boats four generations younger than mine and any breakage could mean I couldn’t perform at the level I was.”
Ms Hare said that the solitude of solo sailing had not been a problem for her.
She said: “The main difference between my solitude and the solitude people are experiencing at the moment is that I chose it and I chose something I am incredibly passionate, for me I enjoy it.
“You are so focussed on what you are doing, you do not notice you are on your own and satellite comms are so good, I was able to contact people as much as I wanted, I had email, text message and I had a group of friends and family on shore whenever I needed them.”
Ms Hare said she had been surviving on naps to get her sleep during the race.
Describing what she had been missing most, she said: “I guess my coffee machine is definitely up there and for sure my bed, I have been sleeping on a bean bag on the floor for quite a while.
“I averaged about four hours in a 24-hour period but the main thing is you nap, you only sleep for about 30 minutes at a time. Effectively I have trained to do it, I have been sailing solo at international level for 12 years now and I had to learn to do it to start with but now it’s something I can do quite naturally.”
For her 47th birthday, Ms Hare received video messages from Hollywood actor Russell Crowe and other well-wishers organised by a local radio station.
She said: “It was one of the kindest things that anybody has ever done for me, for everybody who recorded a message, they didn’t know me but they took the time to record me a message.
“It came at a great time, it just followed a week where I was really struggling, emotionally I was wiped out and I had not been very well.”
Ms Hare said as an elite sportswoman she was not required to quarantine on returning to the UK.
She said: “My body has been through quite an ordeal for 95 days so I need to be careful, to look after myself, I think my immune system isn’t as strong as it could be.
“I will do a family Zoom and see them face to face as soon as I can.”