#ClasseMini – A County Meath sailor has launched a Mini Transat solo sailing campaign for 2015. Tom Dolan has announced his intention to participate in the 2015 Classe Mini Offshore Racing Championship, culminating in the renowned Mini–Transat Race starting on September 19.
The first qualifying race is the 150–miles double–handed Lorient Bretagne Sud Mini race on April 11.
Dolan, who says 'he was never part of a yacht club, never went on sailing holidays and didn't get lessons as a child' only began sailing when his father spotted an old wooden dinghy in the "buy and sell" and the two of them set about fixing it up. He first set sail on the local lake in County Meath age ten.
Starting 'at the bottom' he worked as a volunteer with the Glenans sailing school, which gave him access to bigger boats as well as the open ocean. He has been working professionally in sailing since 2007, in Ireland, France and the Caribbean, accumulating over 10,000 miles at sea.
His CV includes French, Irish and British qualifications and he first crossed the Atlantic at the age of 21. Now he has his sights keenly fixed on offshore racing.
The boats are the smallest ocean racing class in the world, measuring in at 6.5 metres, while carrying almost 100 square metres of sail. The spirit of the class is to make solo offshore racing accessible to every-day people. In modern times it has become a stepping stone into the world of professional offshore racing. I have managed to get my hands on a Pogo 2, one of the most popular brands of Mini 650s, which I hope will give me an even playing field in the class.
The 4000 mile Mini Transat race, which has been running since 1977, is considered by many as one of the most extreme in sailing, due to the combination of the size of the boats involved and the distance covered by them.
Writing in the latest edition of the Beacon, the newsletter of the Baltimore Maritime Centre, Dolan outlines his plans for next season:
'The race starts from Brittany on the western coast of France and is divided into two legs. The first leg involves crossing the infamous Bay of Biscay, known for its mountainous waves which are thrown up as the continental shelf meets the oceanic abyss and depths shoot from 4000 metres to 100 over a distance of a couple of miles.
Once the NW point of Spain is rounded, it's a drag race down the Iberian coast across the mouth of Gibraltar, dodging cargo ships, to the pit stop in Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.
Following a short stay to await the end of the hurricane season, the race sets off into the vast Atlantic ocean for three weeks (all going well!) at sea, trying to negotiate the best route across on the back of the one way rollercoaster that is the westerly trade winds with no chance of turning back.
Tom Dolan sailing on his Mini 481. Photo: Tom Dolan Sailing
The finish is the tropical Island of Guadeloupe, in the French Caribbean.
In order to qualify, there are certain challenges that need to be met:
• Complete 1000 race miles in the season
• Complete a 1000 mile solo non-stop qualifying passage from La Rochelle to the Coningbeg buoy and back.
• Complete at least one solo race
Should I manage to qualify, I will be Ireland's third ever entry, and Meath's first!
An intense winter training programme will begin in January at the "Centre d'Entrainement Mini de Concarneau". There I will train alongside 10 of my counterparts in preparation for the season which kicks off at the beginning of April with the "Lorient BSM" race. Before the Transat, there are 6 races in the season, all of which are run along the Breton coast. I aim to do them all but a lot will depend on the budget I will be able to put into the project. So that means throwing on my nice shirt and tie and knocking on board room doors either side of the Celtic sea in the hope of gaining support. The sailing will be the easy part!'
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