Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan
Delighted with the warmth of welcome in Kinsale and the interest shown in La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro and his project Tom Dolan, solo skipper of Smurfit Kappa, put to sea this afternoon on the 545 miles course to Roscoff.
See Bob Bateman's report of the Kinsale Figaro race departure here
A last minute course change did not concern Dolan any more than it did the 44 other solo racers. The decision not to take the La Solitaire racers north to the Isle of Man in potentially difficult 35-40 knots winds which were predicted for Tuesday was only announced at 1130hrs this Sunday morning. Dolan immediately fell in step with his team's new weather and strategy briefings for a stage which will now take the fleet into the English Channel where much more sedate, even light winds are promised.
As he left the dock in Kinsale Dolan smiled, "The stop has been short, intense and with a lot of things to do, seeing old friends and so on, which has been lovely. But it has been so great to be here and be able to be doing something which should gain a bit of interest in the sport in Ireland. It is nice and there has been such enthusiasm in Kinsale it has been lovely."
The 530-mile course goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles then up the Channel to the Needles by the west point of the Isle of Wight before racing back down the Channel to Roscoff. Winds along the southern English coast are set to be light to moderate, dropping for the rounding of The Needles in strong tides.
" This last-minute change is because of the tough weather forecast over the next few days in the Irish Sea. It would have been a bit rock and roll with more than 25 knots of wind, especially in the St. George channel where we also had to deal with the traffic separation schemes, sandbanks, and ferries and that would require us to do more gybes. We know that the seas can get big and messy in the channel in the strong currents. I understand the decision of Race Direction even if all the homework and preparation we have done here in the last two days goes in the bin. We have to start all over again! Dolan adds " And the last 24 hours I had really got into my head the course, thinking about the long upwind and looking forwards to the downwind. But there you have it. You have to adapt, roll with it."
The Irish skipper admits he is as unfamiliar with the Channel as he would have been racing up around the Isle of Man, as planned,
"It will be quite new to me, I do not know the South coast of England that well at all. Now we are expecting a lot of reaching in 10, 12, 13 knots of wind and then we sail into this low-pressure system which is off England, so it could be quite chaotic going across the Channel. I would say it will be one after the other and then at the end it will be light, like the end of the last one, tide, wind all over the place. I am grand. After the result I got in the first leg I just want to be back out there with the counter set to zero and going again. I took a bit of a kicking on the first leg and so I want to get out and do better."
The second stage started in perfect conditions off Kinsale, 12-13kts of westerly wind and sunshine. Smurfit Kappa was in the middle of the 45 boat fleet as they headed towards Bishop Rock after a characteristic conservative, safe start. Two boats collided on the start line. Alain Gautier, a previous winner, was heading directly to Roscoff with damage to his boat. That's part of the game, however, and it's the same for everyone, "
There was to be no glory for the Irish skippers as they sailed into home waters in the back end of the Figaro fleet into Kinsale this morning.
County Meath's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) finished in 39th, ten hours after the winner. The talented Irish sailor was in the top group off the Brittany coast but chose to go west with many of the top seeds and paid a heavy price.
"It is good to be in. But I did fairly badly. I went the wrong way, simple as that. At Belle Ile I don't know what I was doing, I was in the lead group and going well. I kind of woke up from a nap and made a stupid decision. I saw a group going north of the island and thought 'oh yes, I need to go north of the island'. It was a stupid mistake and after that, I went west in the Celtic Sea and that was it." Dolan explained on the dock.
Similarly, Joanne Mulloy (Businesspost.ie/Believe In Grace) was competitive early in the race but faded and lost touch with the main body of the fleet, classified as 'abandoned' before the finish.
It was a tired and disappointed Tom Dolan who arrived in Kinsale early this morning, completing the first stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro in 39th place. After showing excellent speed and tactical nous in the early stages of what proved to be a marathon four days and four nights, 545 nautical miles leg from Nantes via the Fastnet Dolan made one costly strategic error.
His option taken to go west, offshore, early on in the Celtic Sea was one also taken by some of the most accomplished top seeds, surely running their chances of overall victory.
But the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa arrived home in Ireland bleary-eyed but determined to take the positives from a brutal leg which saw multiple different successive weather transitions and no fewer than nine different leaders.
After having been fighting in the top ten of the 47 strong fleet of solo racers during the passage up the French coast from a southernmost turning mark 57 miles after last Sunday’s start, Dolan’s decision saw him slide down the fleet with no chance to fight back when the wind shifted to favour the two groups which had elected to sail a more easterly track.
“I feel bad coming in because I did not do as well as I should have. I went the wrong way, it is as simple as that. Initially I woke up after a nap at Belle Ile and saw a group going north of the island and thought it was the thing to do, but the time I realised it was too late to do anything about it.” Recalled Dolan in the early morning sunshine, “I was doing well before that but then in the Celtic Sea I went west. So there you have it. You learn loads.” Said Dolan who had run out of water because the light wind leg proved to be more than 24 hours longer than expected.
“It was a long leg. For sure it was. I was left in no wind trying to get round the Fastnet. But next time I come to Ireland I’ll maybe make it by plane. I was not easy at all, it was very complicated. Now I need to find my mother who has never ever seen any of the boats I have raced on.” Smiled Britanny based 32-year-old Dolan who left his native Mells, County Meath to pursue a sailing career.
Remarkably it is less than ten years since Dolan was teaching sailing in nearby Baltimore and saw the Figaro fleet racing round the Fastnet.
“I am sorry I did so badly.” Dolan offered his friends who greeted him on the dock, “There were some good guys back there with me. The weather forecast and our briefings said, west, west, west, but the first time I got Met Eireann forecast, the Irish sea area weather service, it said north north easterly and I knew that was it. When we got the ranking then the leaders were 40 miles ahead of us. And we were 30 miles from the Fastnet, that was it. But it was tough, the wind never, ever stopped shifting.”
Dolan is now recovering and making ready for the second stage which starts Sunday and races to Roscoff in Brittany via the Isle of Man.
From the highs of a top ten position earlier this week hopes have faded for a strong home waters finish for either Irish entry in the opening leg of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro into Kinsale. Tonight Tom Dolan lies 39th and Joan Mulloy 44th in a fleet of 47 with approximately 40 miles to sail to the finish.
Meanwhile, the three-way battle to stage one deliverance at the Old Head of Kinsale was won by overall winner in 2016, Yoann Richomme who was doing all he could to hold on to a lead of just under half a mile late this afternoon, seeking to close out what would be a well-deserved victory on the first stage of the Figaro.
"Richomme, 35 from Lorient, was being chased by talented, hard driving 21 year old rookie, Tom Laperche"
First around the Fastnet Rock at 1229hrs local time, Richomme, 35 from Lorient, was being chased by talented, hard driving 21 year old rookie, Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) and Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environement) as they race towards the finish line of the course which is to be shortened by 11 miles at the Old Head of Kinsale. There was nothing between the three as they traded gybes and a stage which has lasted four nights and four days since starting from the bay of La Baule near Nantes, hangs in the balance.
Deliverance from one of the longest and most challenging Solitaire legs of recent years will doubtless feel magical for the top trio who were 15 minutes clear of the fourth placed solo skipper when they rounded the mythical rock in very light winds. But since the turn they have made decent speeds under spinnaker and should cross the line at around 1900hrs local time this evening.
Richomme, outstanding winner of the Route du Rhum in Class 40 last November, has come into this race feeling none of the pressure heaped on some of his rivals. After Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Charles Caudrelier seized an opportunity to become co-skipper of the Gitana Ultime, Richomme was drafted in as a late replacement for Caudrelier for whom he started out in the Figaro as preparateur.
He and Leboucher led a group who took a middle course off Ushant and then stuck with it across the approaches to the Channel and over the Celtic Sea. Their choice allowed them to gain relative to a strong pack who went offshore to the west, which ultimately suffered last night when the wind swung more to the north.
Around three miles behind Richomme, veteran Loïck Peyron, the elder statesman of the course at 59 years old will be happy to hold on to the sixth place he was in during this afternoon's sunny slide east along the Irish coast to the finish line. Peyron is returning to La Solitaire for the first time since he was sixth overall in 2003. He had his 'roaring 50s' rivals Michel Desjoyeaux, 53, less than a mile behind in ninth place and Alain Gautier, 57, in 12th. Peyron said at the Fastnet: "I'm 30 miles from the finish. It's not bad to avoid the last vagaries of the wind on this coast to get finished tonight "
Highly fancied favourite Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) may have rescued some of his chances of a good finish overall by recovering from being among the back markers on Tuesday to be 13th on the reach in this afternoon, but the same might not hold true for the group of top seeds who went west, led by three times winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel). Eliès - who led during the second day of racing - was nearly three and a half hours behind at the Fastnet Rock.
Admirable recoveries appear to have been achieved by international skippers Justine Mettraux of Switzerland on course for 14th and Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who was 16th, both around one hour behind the leaders.
As stage one of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro completed its first 24 hours at sea, racing 553 nautical miles from Pornichet to Kinsale, Ireland, leaders Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature Pas de Future) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) were fighting hard to contain a pack of pursuers who were threatening to pass on both sides to their west and to their east.
Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) read the breeze at the island light winds crossroads better and, at one point, had got himself up to ninth. This afternoon he was 12th, less than 2 miles from the leaders, and racing closely with three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel). And by 8pm the County Meath man was as high as sixth place,
Dolan, who is racing just his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, reported today: "It has been a long day with a lot of time spent pulling on ropes and driving under the blistering sunshine, but it looks like we are just about out. In general, we are a bit late. I have eaten but at the moment I am trying not to sleep, you can drop off and then suddenly all your little mates are gone.”
Hardy, who is from Nantes – the official start city for this historic edition - is a former French 420 dinghy champion and Mini class racer. As the skipper who won this passage to Ireland when it was last sailed in 2010 – when the fleet raced from Brest to Kinsale - he knows this course from the west of France well.
Since he first raced La Solitaire in 2008, Hardy has won stages in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and was runner up last year to Sébastien Simon. Accompanied by the wily silver fox Desjoyeaux, who has won the multi-stage solo offshore race overall three times, the duo largely survived a big slow-down this morning and early afternoon in light winds at the Ile de Yeu, NW of Les Sables d’Olonne, as a messy ridge of high pressure engulfed the fleet. Speeds among the 47-strong fleet were less than one knot at times.
But during late afternoon on Monday, almost exactly 24 hours after the stage started in a blaze of glory under gennakers on the bay of La Baule, a group lead by the tenacious, talented Mediterranean rookie, Achille Nebou (Le Grand Reservoir) had made gains inshore in a more settled breeze and favourable current and cut the leaders’ margin from nearly one mile to just a few tenths of a mile. And on the other side, to the west, Pierre Quiroga – also a former top French dinghy racer from the Mediterranean – was posing an equal threat to the two pacemakers.
The first 24 hours have seen a real mix of fortunes for the international, non French sailors in the fleet. The biggest disappointment is the highly fancied Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who seemed to get stuck off the bottom of the island in the very light winds, dropping right to the back of the fleet. Roberts, who holds the record for the highest overall finish by a British sailor with his ninth place in 2015, was fighting back on that easterly, inshore flank this afternoon but was 11 miles behind the leaders.
Also on just his second La Solitaire, England’s Will Harris (Hive Energy) is mid fleet in 25th, with several top seeds around him. Harris reported this afternoon that he has lost the use of his wind instruments at the top of his mast.
“It has been a really complicated start for me. Last night my wind instruments completely crashed and broke I think there is some water damage up at the top of the rig and so now I have no wind instruments that makes it a but more challenging to race as I now only have compass, so it is hard work to keep up with the others. But I am happy to be out racing and I am enjoying being back on La Solitaire. It has been really close from the start of the race and I got a bit preoccupied trying to fix the boat, but it was an amazing start, so many boats around, a really cool place to start a boat race from. It has been tricky because I did not have the best of starts, then I caught up a bit and now lost a bit again so I think it will be like that over the next three days. Let us see what the rest of the day brings."
Battling to escape a ridge of high pressure, there could be a big gain for those who can wriggle free first. The general strategy is to get out to the northwest to meet a new breeze first. The balancing act is whether to push out west earlier to find the wind but sailing extra miles, or to wait for the new wind to fill in and sail a more direct course.
A new depression is deepening off the south of Ireland, bringing a SW’ly wind. Tail enders may struggle to get free of the light zone and there is a risk of them being left behind. Tonight and in to early Tuesday morning the wind will swing back to the SSW and so there will be better downwind sailing conditions from Tuesday.
That new breeze is forecast to build, according to the race meteorologists MeteoConsult, with gusts over 25knots as a cold front passes on Tuesday bringing crossed seas. The choice of passing to the west or east of the infamous Ushant traffic separation zone may prove critical. And inshore the tidal currents are stronger. As usual the winds behind the front will be unsettled in strength and direction but the long term objective seems to be to get west.
It looks like heading home to Ireland is all the motivation Tom Dolan requires as the County Meath solo sailor has moved up from mid fleet last night to 10th place in the 47-boat La Solitaire du Figaro race fleet this morning.
Dolan and County Mayo sailor Joan Mulloy (currently 39th) are the two Irish sailors competing in the 50th edition of the race that is expected into Kinsale this week, the first port of call in a month long race.
Irish solo racer Tom Dolan stuck to his game plan on Smufit Kappa and made a solid start to his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro today as the 47–strong fleet started from the Bay of La Baule in the west of France in 12 knot south-westerly winds heading for Kinsale via the Fastnet Rock and is mid-fleet in 26th place tonight. County Mayo sailor Joan Mulloy is lying 45th.
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Under grey skies on the Bay of La Baule, at the mouth of the Loire river in the west of France, Morgan Lagraviere (Voile d’engagement) lead an early breakaway trio at the head of the 47-strong La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro fleet during a showcase first hour of the 553 nautical mile, three day first stage across the Celtic Sea to Kinsale, Ireland.
Lagraviere, who has twice finished on the overall podium for the Solitaire, the annual multi-stage solo classic offshore series, and sailed on the 2016 Vendée Globe in the colours of Safran, races this 50th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro with no major sponsor.
He sailed smartly on the first two-mile sprint leg to round the first mark and forge a small escape accompanied by Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) and Adrien Hardy (Sans Nature Pas de Future) who also competes without a major partner.
Thousands of spectators lined headlands, seawalls and beaches around fashionable Pornichet and the bay itself to watch the 11 mile opening circuit unfold in 10-13knots of south-westerly wind, seeking their first glimpse of the new foil assisted Figaro Bénéteau 3s in full La Solitaire race mode and some of France’s best known, most successful offshore sailors going head to head.
While the little breakaway trio held their early advance to pass the Radio France Buoy in the lead, wily fox Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird) did not disappoint onlookers as he climbed through the fleet to pass the Radio France ranking buoy in fourth.
Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in the middle of a big pack of boats in 19th at the first ranking mark.
But while the opening skirmish under gennakers gybing around the bay was the perfect start to what promises to be the most competitive Solitaire for many years, there are many challenges in store, even during the first night at sea.
Initially a rich-get-richer scenario is anticipated favouring the leaders, but a messy, not too active cold front is due to pass over the fleet just after dusk. The winds are expected to be unsettled, changing in direction and strength with some light rain on the first 57-mile stage down the Vendée coast to the Bourgenay southernmost turning mark, set by design off the home town of the boats’ builders Bénéteau.
The key stages after that mark are entering the strong tides of the Raz de Sein, passing the Traffic Separation System off Ushant – off the western tip of Brittany – the Scilly Isles, the approach to the Fastnet and the final 50 miles in to Kinsale which looks set to be light.
Well placed mid fleet was Will Harris, (Hive Energy). As a Brit he is largely unique in the field as an overseas, non-French racer who is taking on only his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. But after winning the top rookie or ‘bizuth’ prize on the 2016 La Solitaire, the 25-year sailor from Weybridge in Surrey, England has managed to secure the support of an English based leading solar energy company.
Harris said as he left the dock in Nantes: “The weather is not as simple as we might have hoped it would be tonight, there are a lot of weak and broken up fronts coming through. At Ushant there will be another front which will bring quite a bit more breeze and it will be quite challenging to get through the rocky passage there and then the exclusion zone. Day 3 is less clear with a low pressure over the UK which, depending how and when that develops, can make 180 degrees of difference to the wind as we approach the Fastnet and Kinsale. But I feel like I have a good feel for what is expected to happen, I know what to look for and what to rely on.”
Harris continued: “I am really excited to be starting. I want to go out and enjoy it. This first leg is about managing risk and not splitting away on what promises to be a very open leg. That can be your Solitaire over. Look for the small gains and coming in to Kinsale can be interesting.”
The adoption of the new boat sees the return to the 50th Solitaire of three legendary French sailors all in their 50s, set to rekindle a friendship and rivalry which dates back more than 30 years.
As the fleet left the Bay of La Baule, all three musketeers were placed in the top 12. Racing in his home waters today, in front of his house, Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe winner and three times winner of The Transat, Loïck Peyron at 59 is back as the oldest participant in a race on which he was the youngest in 1980 and won a leg in 1986.
Michel Desjoyeaux, 54, is the most successful of the ‘roaring 50s’ with three overall Solitaire wins under his belt – 1992, 1998, 2007. After a five year break this will be Desjoyaux’s 13th Solitaire and he has never finished worse than twelfth and he can recite his year by year finishes by rote. Other than that 12th and seventh in 2013, he has always finished in the top five. He remains the only sailor ever to win the Vendée Globe three times.
“I was there for the introduction of the Figaro 1 one design and the Figaro 2 and so it is natural I am here for the new Figaro 3. I knew last year I would be here,” Desjoyeaux has told the French media several times.
“I have nothing to prove on this race. I won’t say I have to be in the top 5. I am here to enjoy myself, for my satisfaction. There is no pressure,” he contends.
Leaving Nantes this morning Desjoyeaux commented on the leg ahead: “There will be a lot of shifts in the wind, it will be quite unsettled with a lot of manoeuvring and trimming, and then the leg itself is a big job. There are so many different options through the islands and round the TSS. It is really about finding the solution which is not the worst, I don’t think there is one best solution.
“That is the goal for this leg. And it is a pleasure to be heading to Kinsale, it is a lovely place and a nice finish. It is a fun boat, although not so much on this leg which will be mostly upwind. My objective here is to try not to be too bad and to be better than I have been in the first races with the boat this year. I am starting to learn the boat and I am starting to get back into this racing programme but I will do the best I can.”
And Alain Gautier, 57, is back on his 18th La Solitaire after racing twice in 2015 and 2014 when he finished 18th and 20th after a ten-year break. Gautier, who scored his first ever leg win into Kinsale in 1987, winning overall in 1989, has named his boat ‘merci pour ces trente ans’ (thanks for the thirty years) - a double edged acknowledgement to sponsors who have supported him over the years and to rival chums Peyron and Desjoyeaux who he calls ‘les enfoirés’ (literally these ‘tossers or assholes’ but veiled as a reference to 1980s French pop collective of that name).
At 553 nautical miles this first leg is the longest yet to be sailed in the new Figaro Bénéteau 3s and the gaps through the fleet are expected to become quite large on this, the most open stage of the four legs which comprise this long awaited 50th edition.
Fans can follow the race on the official website, and through the English language Twitter account, here
Official Rankings at the Radio France Buoy, 2nd June:
1-Morgan Lagravière (Voile d’engagement)
2-Adrien Hardy ((Sans Nature Pas de Future)
3-Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola)
4-Michel Desjoyeaux (Lumibird)
5-Alexis Loison (Region Normandie)
6-Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019)
7-Yoann Richomme (Helloworld – Groupe Telegramme)
8-Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire)
9-Alain Gautier (Merci Pur Ces 30 Ans)
10-Jérémie Béyou (Charal)
Keeping a cool head, making carefully assimilated decisions and managing himself to ensure he has enough energy for the second half of the four stages, 2115 miles race from Nantes to Dieppe via Kinsale, Ireland. These are the key maxims which Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan will try to adhere to as he races the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro which starts from Pornichet, near Nantes in the west of France tomorrow, Sunday.
The classic, multi-stage solo offshore race has drawn a stellar cast, including many of French offshore racing’s top names. Dolan lines up on Smurfit Kappa among the 47 strong fleet which includes six past overall winners of La Solitaire, three of them triple victors.
For this landmark 50th anniversary edition of the race, the adoption of a new foil-assisted Figaro Beneteau 3 yacht, which is faster, lighter and more demanding than its predecessor – the Figaro 2 – has drawn many top French sailors back to this high octane, stamina-sapping one design solo scene.
After a successful career in the smaller Mini 650, Dolan moved to La Solitaire URGO Figaro as a rookie last year but spent the whole race playing catch up after a technical problem with his mast’s rigging forced him out of the first leg.
But after an excellent pre-season preparation and training with the new boat, including nearly a month alongside compatriot Damian Foxall – Ireland’s leading round-the-world racer who won the Gijon to Concarneau stage of La Solitaire in 1998 – Dolan reports that he is in great shape and will be keeping Foxall’s advice at the forefront of his mind during the upcoming three weeks of racing.
"Dolan reports that he is in great shape and will be keeping Foxall’s advice"
That careful energy preservation mode will be tested most on the first 553 nautical miles stage from France to Kinsale, where the race stops for the 20th time in its 50 year history.
Dolan, from County Meath, knows Irish eyes – and computers and smartphones – will be watching his every move, hoping for an Irish success story. “Look, it would be easy to go a bit mad and push too hard, to let it get to my head because we are coming into Ireland but I will be trying to keep a cool head.” Dolan warned as he prepared Smurfit Kappa in Nantes, “At this early stage you have to be mindful there are three more long legs after that. No good can come from blowing up going into Kinsale. I definitely learned from my first Solitaire that you have to keep some sauce for the second half, the legs on this race are long.”
The open ocean stage across the Celtic Sea round the Fastnet to Kinsale has the potential to see big gaps in the fleet open early in the race. “This stage is more like an oceanic offshore stage, which is not necessarily good for me - in the past, I seem to have been better at the rock hopping, tricky coastal stuff. But I will take it carefully and try to stay with the fleet.”
"I was up and down like a yoyo physically and mentally"
He adds: “ I learned so much from Damian. He is very calm and before I was up and down like a yoyo physically and mentally. His approach definitely instilled a bit more calm in me. I am improved there. I am focused more on doing things carefully and doing them well and making decisions more carefully, not tacking just because someone else has tacked.”
Dolan has made a big effort to eliminate unnecessary packaging from his food and drink stores on board, in line with a commitment to sustainability which chimes with the responsible policies of Smurfit Kappa. And Foxall himself is a passionate advocate for environmental responsibility who drives key initiatives in the sailing world. He offered Dolan pragmatic ideas.
“ I talked with Damian about it during the Sardinha Cup, discussing the idea of coming back with no garbage to dispose and to have left the dock with no possible garbage. That became the objective.” Dolan emphasises, “ We tried during the Sardinha Cup to be more careful, more responsible with what we bought. And besides everything else, it felt great to come back with no rubbish. And sustainability is a big thing with Smurfit Kappa.”
Onboard Smurfit Kappa now Tom uses a number of aluminium bottles, all the food goes in Tupperware boxes, the fruit is cut up and kept in small re-used plastic boxes. He has sourced Breton cheese which comes wrapped in paper and even handmade artisan chocolates, local to where he lives in France, come wrapped in paper.
"The only thing with the chocolate is that it does not seem to be sustainable at all. It all seems to have been eaten..!" Dolan jokes.
Looking at the weather for the first stage Dolan reports: “The first leg looks interesting. There is a ridge of high pressure on the first morning to get out of and away and so those who do might get away. There could be a bit of a getaway then. But then coming into Ireland there is a trough which might mean some compression. There is plenty of key points. Positioning in the Celtic Sea, to the west or east can be important.” He concludes: “I think I have made good progress this season but this is it, this is when I will found out.”
The West Cork stopover this coming week is supported by the newspaper, which is also a title sponsor of second-time Figaro contender Joan Mulloy’s Believe in Grace/BusinessPost.ie.
The Mayo native will be sailing the 600 miles to Kinsale alongside fellow Irish skipper Tom Dolan, on Smurfit Kappa, in the first leg of the renowned offshore solo race that’s been dubbed ‘The Everest of the Seas’.
The fleet is expected to sail into Irish waters on Wednesday 5 June ahead of a four-day stopover with an exciting itinerary of events (see below) expected to draw visitors to Kinsale ahead of next weekend’s SeaFest in nearby Cork Harbour.
Mulloy, whose yacht has been named after her famed ancestor ‘The Pirate Queen’ Gráinne Mhaol, will be supported by Grace O’Malley Irish Whiskey, the official spirit of the Kinsale stopover.
As one of the few women skippers competing in La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro on an equal basis, Mulloy became the first Irish woman to take part in the race last year
“I’m nervous and yet excited,” Mulloy said, while in Nantes last week preparing to begin her stint in this year’s race. “Training has been intense and these are demanding boats to race.”
Mulloy and Dolan will sail with a small cargo of special gifts given to them From Nantes for the mayors of Cork City and County ahead of the official Grace O’Malley Kinsale Figaro launch event on Friday 7 June.
The gifts mark Cork’s support for the historic stopover, which will coincide with the city’s annual Seafest maritime festival and Ocean Wealth Conference, and is expected to deliver a significant tourism boost to the wider county.
La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro is a high-profile event on the annual racing calendar with a global media reach valued at more than €18 million across print, television, radio and web channels.
Six Irish skippers have competed with distinction in the race over the past 30 years, among them Damian Foxall, Marcus Hutchinson, Paul O’Rian and David Kenefick — all of whom will be celebrated in Kinsale.
Each of the 50 skippers in this year’s La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will be supported by on-shore crew, including technicians and press officers, during the Kinsale stopover.
In addition to race organisers, this will bring the number of people visiting Kinsale for the stopover to more than 250.
The skippers will depart Kinsale next Sunday 9 June and cross for the Irish Sea before rounding the Isle of Man and returning to France, where they will complete the 630-mile second leg of the month-long race at Roscoff in northern Brittany.
For more info and to track the boats, visit the official website for La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro HERE.
Programme of events for Kinsale Stopover
Wednesday 5 June
- Dock in PM: The first boats to finish in Kinsale are expected sometime late on Wednesday June 5. Come cheer the boats as they finish the race and arrive at Market Square. Track Irish Skippers Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan on georacing.com.
Thursday 6 June
- The Figaro Historic Walk will begin at 10.30am at Kinsale Tourist Office. Participants will learn about the French and sailing influences on Kinsale through time.
- The Musique Trail will begin at 8pm at Kinsale Tourist Office featuring a guided evening of music with participants visiting live music venues and pubs in the town.
Friday 7 June
- Come aboard the Figaro Cruise on The Quays at 2pm for a spectacular tour of Kinsale Harbour with the opportunity to view the boats from the water.
- The Grace O’ Malley Pirate Queen Party will celebrate the Figaro Ocean Race Kinsale Stopover. Join us for a night of celebration.
Saturday 8 June
- The Figaro Feast will take place from 1.30pm to 4pm at Market Square, featuring a sea-feast of amazing food and drinks from well-known eateries and the chance to enjoy the many Figaro-inspired culinary delights on offer.
- Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the offshore and Irish sailors and hear about their adventures.
- Two prizes for the best-dressed sailor-themed fancy dress outfits will be on offer for adults and children.
Sunday 9 June
- Dockout will take place at 11am along the quays. Join the fleet on the water or view from ashore the start spectacle and inshore coastal race from Kinsale to the entrance of Cork Harbour and from Roches Point up the south coast around Tuskar Rock and up the Irish Sea.
Tired, slightly disappointed but nonetheless armed with a number of valuable lessons which he will take forward to next month’s La Solitaire URO Le Figaro, Ireland’s Tom Dolan finished 28th into Les Sables d’Olonne on Smurfit Kappa yesterday afternoon (Saturday) at the end of the 380 nautical miles offshore race, so completing the Solo Maître Coq in 24th position overall.
Dolan, from County Meath, finishes almost exactly mid-fleet after the three races – two short inshores and the longer offshore which started on Thursday afternoon and took the 47 strong fleet south to the Ile de Re off La Rochelle, north to Belle Île to the NW of Nantes and back to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.
"The start cost me. I think I was fifth from last off the line and round the first mark"
A mediocre start, which left him towards the back of the white-hot fleet of France’s top solo racers at the first turning mark, left Dolan with a mountain to climb. Although he pulled up more than 20 places over the ensuing legs and spent 24 hours racing side-by-side with three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès a final finish in the top 20 eluded Dolan.
“The start cost me. I think I was fifth from last off the line and round the first mark. That is something I have to work on. I need a process, a formula to work from and stick to it. In this fleet you can’t afford to start badly.” Said Dolan on the dock in Port Olona.
“That was a proper Figaro Solitaire race, lots of transitions and you just could not afford to make mistakes. There was place changing until the end. Someone would get away a bit, there was a transition and they’d be caught. We saw Armel Le Cléac’h leading almost to the finish and then get passed on the last to legs. I was quick enough on the downwind to the Ile de Re but was out of phase with the shifts and I ended up to leeward of the fleet at the end of the first, long run which was not good and I took a bit of a kicking to there. But I felt like I kept my head, and stayed cool much more than I maybe used to and I worked back from there.” Dolan explained.
“The positives to take away from this is that I am definitely fast. I just need to now make sure I am going fast in the right direction. My manoeuvres are really good, I did some really nice work in the sail changes and I managed myself well – I slept at the right times and did not lose places – and so I don’t have too many concerns there.” He concludes.
After the long, intensive build up, working no stop since early February, rest is now a priority for the Irish skipper before the La Solitaire URGO La Figaro fleet assembles in Nantes in late May.
“I am very happy with the set up of the boat and everything, going sailing all the time now I think would be slightly counterproductive. I want to be starting the Solitaire in the best possible shape.”
With more than half of the 340 nautical miles coefficient, 4 offshore race sailed in the Solo Maître Coq Ireland's Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa is in 27th place this afternoon as the 47 strong fleet pass the northernmost turning mark near Belle Ile, north-west of Nantes.
Dolan was 30th early on in the first solo offshore race to be sailed in the new Figaro Beneteau 3, but has made steady gains during Thursday night and Friday morning. The Irish sailor was this afternoon scrapping alongside Yann Eliès who was the event leader going in to the offshore race. With just over 170 nautical miles still to sail, the race is expected to finish during Saturday afternoon. The offshore course started yesterday at 1400hrs local time, the passage taking the fleet on a loop between Les Sables d'Olonne, the Ile de Re - off La Rochelle - and Belle Ile.
"It won't be over until it the finish line is crossed. This will be a test, a bit of a dress rehearsal for a La Solitaire type course, with prolonged periods of close racing alongside other boats. My goal is to make good manoeuvres." said Dolan before he left. "I want to do well but don't feel any pressure to make a particular result right now. This is very much about learning." The race has seen something of an upset to the early hierarchy which was established over the first two inshore races Monday and Tuesday. Tanguy Le Turquais has held a solid lead with Armel Le Cléac'h in third and veteran Loick Peyron fourth.
Finish in the Top 15, it would be really good. After my round of 6th Tuesday, I know that I can do good things and it gives me confidence, but I do not forget that on the circuit of Figaro, we can do 1st a day and 40th the next day ", has commented Tom who knows that the result of this new race could largely upset the situation in the general classification, partly because it has a very high coefficient (4 against 1.5 for the previous coastal) and, on the other hand, because the most experienced sailors, especially the Vendée-Globalists like Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou or Amel Le Cléac'h, whom we did not necessarily see shine on the first two rounds, go feel more comfortable on this more offshore exercise. The proof is also given tonight since it is they who currently hold the top positions while for his part, Tom is in 30th position. But everything remains to be done and the outcome will not be known until Saturday at the end of the day.