When Steve Harris, DJ of the BBC’s Dorset Breakfast show, put a call on Twitter for a way to contact Russell Crowe, he didn’t actually expect an answer.
“I met Pip Hare on her boat last summer for a story for the radio about the Vendee Globe race and was instantly impressed by her” Steve said. “She’s a force of nature; very charismatic, and she’s made this race happen (or at least her part in it) through sheer force of will. I have enjoyed sharing her story with my listeners over the last three months, and with her birthday coming up I just wanted to do something special.
So I started approaching people to record messages for her. Sir Robin Knox Johnston was the first person to sail non stop single handed around the world – he’s a friend of BBC Radio Solent so he said yes straight away. Sir Ben Ainslie and Dame Ellen MacArthur were only a lilttle harder to track down – but as soon as their people heard it was for Pip, they couldn’t have been more accommodating. However I never expected Russell to work out…”
I was watching the Twitter thread as it built, and was amused by the ironic interaction between Steve and journalist Katie Clark:
Ha ha, we all thought. Steve agreed it was a long shot
“I was hoping that someone on Twitter might know his cousin or something random, just a way that I could get a message under his nose inside a 48 hour time frame. But I didn’t expect a reply. I mean, how many messages do even minor celebrities get asking for help or publicity for genuine good causes? And here’s me, a complete stranger, asking for him to send his best wishes to another stranger. I knew it was unlikely he’d reply.”
But then, less than an hour after Steve tweeted, I actually gasped as this popped up in my timeline:
Steve was astonished “So excited, but also a little concerned. Was he really asking if he could help? And what if my 280 character pitch wasn’t good enough? Would he just stay silent? Would he let me know he wasn’t interested?”
So he used all the space Twitter allowed and pitched his best shot:
Silence followed. Those of us watching kept checking… And then, just minutes later…
Steve was suitably thrilled – but more so for Pip than for his own success.
“It’s crazy isn’t it? I mean, Russell Crowe! If you watch the video carefully, there’s his Gladiator helmet in the background, there’s an Oscar, and a Bafta and god knows what else. This guy has been a huge deal in the international acting scene since I was in short trousers.
But it seems fitting. Pip’s story is so impressive, and Russell seems like a good egg; it’s nice that the story gets this kind of ending.”
Steve knew from previous conversations that Pip is a huge Russell Crowe fan – and withhis role as Captain Jack Aubrey in the film Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World he seemed like the perfect person to send birthday wishes to Pip after a gruelling few months at sea. Steve had planned to surprise
Pip with the message i a love broadcast on Friday morning’s breakfast show: but of course social media isn’t exactly a secret space, and the news soon spread.
As the tweeted video’s reach snowballed into the thousands, Steve feared his magnificent surprise would be blown before he had a chance to contact Pip. So he shared the motivating video with her as soon as he could, and she recorded a reply herself (which Russell Crowe has since re-shared).
Social media is often declaimed as a toxic mess of nastiness. But here it is at its finest – stretching across all barriers simply to connect people.
You can continue to follow Pip’s journey on her blog here.
Pip Hare, 46, a professional sailor from Poole, is taking part in the Vendee Globe, the toughest test in sailing. She is at the time of going to press lying in 20th position – you can read her story of the race so far in the Guardian here.