Fiercely independent, completely at home on the water alone and utterly determined to achieve her goal of sailing solo around the world, Miranda Merron is now past halfway and on her way home.

The 51-year-old British sailor who is far better known in France than in her native land, is refreshingly honest about her views on life and is certainly not one to be drilled by PR teams or an overly-controlling sponsor.

In written answers – beautifully presented without one single typo despite being tapped out in the Southern Ocean 620 miles due south of Tasmania – the Campagne de France skipper, spoke of the experience of total freedom she is enjoying.

“I have no idea what day of the week it is,”she told the IMOCA website, “no social distancing here (apart from in the absolute sense), no rules imposed by people I haven’t voted for."

“I take responsibility for my boat, myself and my actions. My world is my boat, the sea and the sky and the notion that there is land not too far away – Australia – when I look at the chart.”

We asked her about conservation and the importance of the health of the global oceans. She gave an interesting and entirely honest answer from a lone sailor whose priorities right now are focused on travelling another 12,000 miles safely and competitively, not worrying about pollution and global warming.

“When I look at the ocean, it’s more power and majesty than anything else,” she said. “It’s easy to talk conservation when you are warm and dry and safe, quite different when you are at the mercy of the elements. But these are pristine waters which man has not managed to totally wreck as yet. The oceans are the last place of absolute freedom,” she added."

Merron has no music on board her 2006-vintage Owen Clarke design (which, incidentally has the biggest rig in the entire fleet, something she would have liked to have changed if she had the money) and has three books to pass away the time. But she hasn’t even opened them. “I never tire of watching the ever-changing sea, the sky, the albatrosses and many other birds,” she said.

Merron has been sailing competitively for 25 years and the Vendée Globe has been a dream and goal for many of those years. Now that she is doing it, you sense she is relishing an experience that she has so thoroughly prepared herself for and grateful to those who helped her to make it happen.

“I am proud to have got this far,” she said, “delighted for my sponsors Campagne de France, for Halvard (Mabire her partner) who worked so hard to make it possible for me even to get to the start line, and the many people who support our project. I am lucky to be out here. However I am keenly aware that there is still a very long way to go, and I have to look after the boat to get her all the way round.”

This is Merron’s first taste of the Southern Ocean solo and she has approached it methodically. But she was still not prepared for the shock of her first storm in the big south. “The first Indian Ocean blow was quite frightening,” she admitted. “Big seas, big unpredictable gusts. I hadn’t ever sailed the boat in those conditions. It was a convincing demonstration and reminder from Mother Nature. I felt (and do often feel) small, inconsequential and vulnerable. Never underestimate the sea.”

Sailing in the Southern Ocean, Merron says she tries to anticipate what is coming up and think through all her manoeuvres in advance. She puts a lot of effort into comparing her routing and weather files to what she is actually experiencing and taking account of the sea state, not just wind conditions. “I am trying to sail fast and correctly without getting into trouble with varying degrees of success,” she said. “I feel I know the boat reasonably well now.”

Merron has had some technical issues to deal with – mainly hydraulics and electrical problems which, she says, is not her strong suit – but has dealt with them with help on WhatsApp from her shore team. She says WhatsApp at sea has been a huge asset and she enjoys being part of a skippers’ group where sailors keep in regular contact. She also enjoys a regular “virtual beer o’clock” on Friday evenings with her fellow Brit, Sam Davies, who is about 1,100 miles behind her after stopping for repairs in Cape Town.

Currently in 23rd position, some 3,750 miles off the leading pace, Merron is firmly focused on her own personal goal. “My primary aim is to finish,”she said. “But I am doing my best to race properly. I didn’t feel on top of it in the Atlantic, but hope that I have improved as the race goes on. I hope that everyone is enjoying following not just my enormous adventure, but the whole race.”

Ed Gorman