AFTER two days of dodging squalls in the doldrums, Poole sailor and British Vendee Globe Skipper Pip Hare crossed the Equator at the front of the chasing group.

It’s the first major milestone in the epic 24,000 mile race around the world, non-stop and singlehanded.

Now Pip starts the next stage of the race – heading across the South East trade winds to the infamous Southern Ocean.

Pip said: ‘We’re finally in the Southern hemisphere. It’s a momentous occasion – I’m really happy to be here.

“And to be in 20th position as I cross – when I’m in one of the oldest boats in the fleet - is brilliant.

‘So far it’s been a race of ups and downs – literally. I’ve had to climb the mast – something I hate doing, I’ve had some fabulous, fast sailing, and I’ve battled through the doldrums.

It’s the eighth time Pip has crossed the Equator and sailing tradition demands some sort of celebration.

For Pip, it was a party on deck with some Brazilian tunes and a blow-up parrot for ambiance while she opened her first letter from home – hidden on her boat by her shore crew before she left.

Pip added: ‘The hardest part so far has been the lack of sleep over the last few days.

“The doldrums is an area notorious for having no wind, but is peppered with nasty little squalls that bring strong winds from random directions, so you’re either rolling around uncomfortably, or running about on deck changing sails and setting a new course when the squalls come over.

“So there’s no time for much sleep and I’m exhausted.

Having now got through the doldrums, Pip is now on her way further south until she reached Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost point before heading east towards the Indian Ocean

“But now Medallia and I are in the South East trades and flying South, said Pip.

“We’re having a nice little race with three other boats, which is helping to keep me focussed.

“I’m determined to enjoy this next stage before we enter the Southern Ocean – somewhere I’ve never been and which is known for its storms, cold temperatures and big waves.

“So it’s time to conserve some strength, make sure Medallia is in a good condition and prepare for some challenging conditions ahead.”

The Vendee Globe race started from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday 8 November.

In its 31-year history, fewer than 100 people have completed the gruelling 24,000 mile race – and only six of those have been women.

Pip aims to add to this number and hopes to beat Dame Ellen MacArthur’s 2001 female course record of 94 days, 4 hours and 25 minutes.

Supporters can follow Pip’s progress on her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, or use the Vendee Globe race tracker.