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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

It’s a cruel scenario, the final wind-lacking 70–miles of Stage 3 of the Solo URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain across the Bay of Biscay to Saint-Gilles in the northwest of France’s Vendee region writes W M Nixon. We may feel the pain for Ireland’s Tom Dolan. He was looking at fifth place with Smurfit Kappa at one brief stage during the small hours of this morning. But then he lost the pace to slip back to 14th. Now, however, he is looking better. On a nice angle in a private breeze, for the moment there’s hope.

But overnight leader Thierry Chabagny’s fall from grace has been pretty well total during this Tuesday of Tribulations. The 46-year-old veteran of 17 Figaros has only once got on the podium after taking a stage place in the 2006 race. Yet he keeps coming back for more. For long enough it looked as though he could just possibly dream of a stage win. Even his opponents hoped for it. But currently he’s at 25th, out on his own to the north of the fleet, and with options closing as they crawl towards the turn at the Ile d’Yeu, the chances of getting back in the hunt lessen by the hour.

That said, there’ll be many hours when unicorn events may occur, judging by any of the weather predictions which all agree on light breezes or none at all, with the possibility of zephyr-like direct headwinds in the night. Spinnaker skills, untested on this leg thus far, may not be needed until Ile d’Yeu is astern. Meanwhile, at Saint-Gilles the Mayor, Francois Blanchet, has officially opened the Race Village, which will be heaving with conviviality for the next six days, as the final 165-mile sprint stage starts and ends at Saint-Gillles before the overall winner is declared.

It emerges that His Worship the Mayor is a former sailing journalist. What were we saying about unicorn events? If a sailing journalist can become the First Citizen of a coastal township, then all things are possible…….

We go into Night 4 with the highly-tipped Sebastien Simon back in the lead, but he’s at less than three knots, and there are a dozen boats within five miles of him, some of them currently going faster. Even as we’ve been writing this and wondering how we’d look in a Mayoral Chain of Office, Tom Dolan has got back up to 11th. But alas the gallant Joan Mulloy, having staved off the Scottish challenge for 300 miles, has now been passed by Alan Roberts who is 29th, while the Maid of Mayo is 31st.

Race tracker here

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With a hundred miles still to race this morning to the finish at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Biscay coast, the shortened 410 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain is even more of an endurance test of light wind skills and patience than was anticipated when the 36 boats finally started – after delay by total morning calm - at 1343 hrs on Saturday afternoon writes W M Nixon.

Back then, it was anticipated that it might take as long as 72 hours to complete the leg. But having come through light winds and fog off the northwest corner of Spain, while they may have been rewarded with some reasonable windward sailing on Sunday, it was in the knowledge that a slack high pressure area sat in the northeastly part of the Bay of Biscay like a giant spider’s web, yesterday making it an area of ever more flukey and often lighter winds from forward of the beam the nearer they got to the finish.

At an early stage of the long cross-Biscay transit, a small group led by Thierry Chabagny (Bretagne CMB Performance) which broke away to north of the fleet were doing best, and until this morning Chabagny was overall leader. But the experienced favourites in the tight-knit southern group – which includes Ireland's Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa – were playing the long game, and this morning they have seen Chabagny’s lead steadily whittled away until now it has evaporated, taken by Sebastien Simon.

Currently, star of the southern show, Sebastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance) showed a sudden burst of extra speed early this morning to put a two mile gap between himself and the rest, who are so tightly packed that Tom Dolan – currently shown as 12th – is only four miles astern. Such gaps can open and close remarkably quickly as local breezes briefly freshen and then fade, and during the past 24 hours Dolan has seen himself up in 5th place, while mostly he has been between 8th and 11th.

As they slowly near the French coast through today, late summer onshore sea breezes may become another factor in the final stages, as the Bay of Biscay is currently well clear to the south of the Jetstream which is currently making Ireland’s weather so Autumnal. Off the French coast by contrast, summer continues as the localised high pressure system seems to have life in it for a while yet.

While Tom Dolan has the stimulus of being among the leaders, 14 miles further back Joan Mulloy of Mayo in Taste the Atlantic may be placed at 30th overall, but she has seen herself in distinguished company during this long battle, and currently she is ahead of both the highly-regarded Scottish sailor Alan Roberts, and his fellow-challenger Hugh Brayshaw.

Race tracker here

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan has seen his position move between 7th and 12th this morning as he features frequently in the Top Ten with the Solitaire URGO Figaro fleet racing in difficult headwinds across the southern Bay of Biscay from Northwest Spain to St Gilles in France writes W M Nixon. An area of slack higher pressure in the middle of the Bay has seen all but two of the fleet hold to the east of the base course line in the hope of finding firmer breezes indicated closer to the coast of North Spain. But at the moment it is one of the two boats which have struck out to the north, Thierry Chabagny’s Gedimat, which is shown as current leader of Stage 3.

Chabagny (who still has 231 miles to sail to the finish) and the group packed tightly around Dolan (currently in tenth) are moving at much the same speed of around 6.5 knots hard on the wind. But the predictions are that the often unpredictable mid-Biscay waters will see Chabigny losing wind power, yet it really is anyone’s guess.

Ireland’s other entry Joan Mulloy currently lies 32nd after a long and often frustrating night – like most of the fleet she is to the east of the baseline, currently sailing on starboard tack at 5.8 knots.

Race tracker here

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Tom Dolan, the Meath sailor racing Smurfit Kappa in his first Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, has been slowly working his way up the rankings of the 36-strong fleet as they run across the Bay of Biscay in nor’easters in the second stage from Saint Brieuc in Northern Brittany to Ria de Muros in Northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. Having at one stage been back towards 30th after taking the less favoured western option between Ushant and Brittany, Dolan has got himself back into the hunt with good sailing through the second night at mid-fleet, getting up to 23rd.

The northeast winds are expected to persist, but the tightly-packed positions at the front have changed again with Sebastian Simon, Eric Peron and Scotland's Figaro veteran Alan Roberts doing well out of favouring the eastern side of the leading group, with Simon in such good form that he is 2.4 miles ahead of Peron in second and 4.4 ahead of third-placed Roberts in Seacat Services.

Last night’s early leader Anthony Marchand is now back in 7th, 6.2 miles astray on Sebastien Simon, as the leaders begin to shape their positions for arrival off the coast of Northwest Spain – Sebastien Simon is now only 185 miles from the finish, and half of that will be semi-coastal or coastal sailing off Spain’s Finisterre coast.

Joan Mulloy of Mayo, racing Taste the Atlantic, was inevitably last after the delay caused by her broken main halyard at the start. But she has been sailing well, currently making 11.6 knots and at the moment looking good to overtake Damiena Cloarec to take over 32nd place.

Race tracker here

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A broken main halyard at the start delayed Joan Mulloy’s departure yesterday in Stage 2 of the Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018, but Ireland’s other entry Tom Dolan is snapping at the heels of the top ten in this Stage, which started yesterday off St Brieuc in Northern Brittany and crosses the Bay of Biscay to northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. With fair mainly east to northeast winds off the French coast, the turning of the tide later favoured an inshore course , and the fleet are tacking to lee this morning off Brittany’s northwest corner, with Gilda Mahe (Breizh Cola) in the lead at Pointe de Pontuseval, 1.3 miles ahead of Stage 1 runner-up Charlie Dalin, and 1.5 ahead of Stage 1 winner Anthony Marchand back in third.

Tom Dolan’s current twelfth has him in close contact with top contenders such as Seabastien Simon (currently 7th) Hugh Brayshaw (8th) and Alan Roberts (5th). The first night has been a matter of catch-up for Joan Mulloy after her main halyard was replaced by her shore team, and she is further eastward along the coast, currently close west of the Ile de Batz and shown as 36th.

Race Tracker here

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Ireland’s solo Figaro sailors Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will be the focus of tonight's episode of RTE Radio 1’s Seascapes. Presenter Fergal Keane travelled to France to catch up with the skippers, teams, and sponsors ahead of leg 1 of La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro.

On the show will be the two skippers, Ireland’s only ever entrant in the Vendée Globe and Atlantic Youth Trust President Enda O’Coineen, we’ll hear why Smurfit Kappa decided to sponsor Tom Dolan, and Team Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson will give an insight into this incredible race.

Listeners will also hear Joan Mulloy speaking on the dock at 3am after spending three and a half days alone at sea on her yacht 'Taste the Atlantic - A Seafood Journey'. The show airs at 22:30 on RTE Radio 1 and will be available online.

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Andi Robertson spoke with Ireland's solo sailor Thomas Dolan about his retiral from leg one of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. Listen in to the recording below

Race Director Francis Le Goff commented this morning from on board the monitoring catamaran the ‘Etoile’ shadowing near the fleet on the first period of Stage 1 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, “The fleet is just a little ahead of the (predicted) routing. The only thing is the breakages which we are sorry for. But, except for Nathalie Criou, the fleet is still in a good sized group which – in terms of us keeping an eye on everyone is good news. And the fact that no one passed south of the TSS (forbidden shipping lane area). It is not surprising to see Charlie Dalin, Seb Simon or Alexis Loison at the front after they all made average starts. That really is and an indication of their ambition and their ability. Alan Roberts has proven he is fit and in the match. The big question which we will see answered in the next 12 hours is what the choices will be as the wind drops away (with the return of high pressure, and summer!). It will be complicated all the way to Wolf Rock.”

"I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud"

Thomas Dolan (IRL) Smurfit Kappa this morning in Le Havre: 
What happened exactly? 
TD: "I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud. It was not a normal thud and straight away you have that feeling inside. I did think straight away about the spreader and had Lois right beside me and so I shouted 'Is my spreader OK?' He looked and said it was OK. And then I saw the leeward shroud (which holds the mast up) banging around. It did not sink in. But automatically to save the mast like, I dropped the sails and tied on a couple of halyards. Then it settled in for me. It took a while to realise the leg is over. I rang Francis Le Goff( Race Direction) and said 'here how does it work, can I fix and go on?' and he said 'Afraid not because you have passed the Radio France buoy. You can't go back. And so I had a bit of a cry about that. As soon as I dropped the job there was a lump of metal dropped on to the deck. I thought 'that's it' I can't fix it. I took the seal off the engine and that is it. 



How did you feel then and now, the morning after? 
It is weird to come back into the village with all the flags being taken down. It is the first time it has happened to me. I did my first race in 2012 and have sailed the equivalent of a lap of the world at least, and have never had to give up. I broke a rudder one year in the Mini Fastnet but still finished. I guess if you do so many miles over the years it is going to happen, but on the first leg of your first Solitaire, it's hard to take.

The Rookie podium may be gone then? 
I guess so. That is a one-shot thing. It is more or less cooked. I will head off this evening with Eric Delamare (Region Normandie). It is such a pity for us Gildas Mahé (retired into Cowes with broken spreader too) was my coach for a while and Fred (Duthil) helped me out with sails a while ago, and so for us, all to drop out is hard to take.

What's the plan? 
I will head off this evening with Eric for a little leisurely sail to Saint Brieuc.

It is more frustrating because you were going well with a decent start? 
"I was going well, I was happy with my speed. And I saved all my sails.

Does it make it better or worse to know there are other good guys dropped out of Leg 1? 
Worse probably, I am quite close to them so it is worse. Gildas was almost first and has had a tough few years. He deserves much better.

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Unfortunately, Stage 1 of his La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro only lasted about 90 minutes for the Irish solo racer Tom Dolan yesterday. He has been forced to retire in to Le Havre because of a damaged starboard spreader. Dolan informed the race organisers that he was returning to the race start port where he is expected to repair and head directly to Saint-Brieuc to be ready for Stage 2. Abandoning the leg means his elapsed time is calculated at that of the last skipper to finish plus an additional two hours.

Listen into Tom Dolan speaking about the spreader failure on podcast here.

spreader mastDolan's broken spreader in Le Havre port last night. The breakage gave the County Meath sailor no choice but to retire and make repairs for leg two.

Meanwhile, Joan Mulloy, Ireland's first female in the race is currently lying 29th from 30 still racing. See tracker here.

The first stage of this 49th edition, La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, is the longest of the four legs and it will be something of a baptism of fire for the 36 solo racers. They may have a relatively straightforward first afternoon after the start Sunday at 1300hrs but there will be a fast crossing of the Channel under spinnaker as a fast moving and active front passes over the fleet at the start of this evening.

It will be a pretty tough, challenging first night at sea with little chance to rest. But by Monday afternoon it there will be a big change in the weather as the anticyclone re-establishes itself and with that comes a measure of uncertainty, bringing light and unsteady winds. To get to Wolf Rock off the tip of Cornwall first and then across to the Portsall mark off the Breton peninsula in good shape, up to Guernsey and in to the finish in Saint Brieuc, it looks like a long, hard and very open game.

Only six and a half hours after leaving the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro start line in Le Havre the leaders have already turned west, upwind at the Pullar mark, to the west of Owers. Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) lead at South Pullar at 1930h French time (1830 BST) being chased hard by Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola), Tanguy le Turquais (Everial), Sebastien Simon (Bregagne Credit Mutuel Performance), Eric Peron (Finistere Mer Vent), Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF )and Vincent Biarnes (Baie de Saint-Brieuc). Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is tenth at 1.3nm behind leader. The fleet now race upwind leaving the Isle of Wight to starboard. Low water at Saint Catherine's point was around 1720 BST/1820 French time and so they will be sailing against the building flood tide.

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Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan will see his dream become reality on Sunday when he starts the iconic Figaro du Solitaire race.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, will set out on his 32ft–yacht Smurfit Kappa to become the first Irish sailor in history to win the ‘rookie’ category for first-time entrants when racing begins at 1 pm local time.

The Solitaire du Figaro is among the world’s most revered solo sailing races and is renowned for making – and often breaking – the very best singlehanded racers.

While landlubbers might consider it a modern-day voyage for madmen, for Dolan just taking part will be a dream come true.

“I’ve been dreaming about doing this race for years, and it’s amazing to finally be here,” he said. “I remember looking at these boats ten years ago and never even contemplating being on the start line but here I am.

“It’s a special race – it’s not really even one race it’s four races, one after an another with no rest in between. It’s like doing three Fastnets and a bit more back to back, which puts it into perspective.”

Dolan, nicknamed L’Irlandais Volant – the Flying Irishman – by the French press for his sheer speed on the water, will be among 38 skippers including eight newcomers departing Le Havre on the first of four gruelling legs.

The stages range in length from 165 nautical miles to 570nm, and the race is scored on cumulative time.

The legs are long enough to test the skippers’ navigational skills but too short to allow for any downtime.

To make things even tougher, they all start within a few days of the previous one finishing, allowing for little rest in between.

Despite the challenge that lies ahead, Dolan says he’s ready to give his all in pursuit of his goal: to be the top rookie.

“I’m ready,” Dolan said. “There are always tiny little things you could keep doing but at some point, you have to just stop and get on with things. I’ve done a lot of miles with the boat this year – probably seven thousand – so I think I know it well now. It’s been a full-on year but I don’t regret it at all.

“My goal is to be the top rookie – that’s the dream. I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t in the top three, but the fleet is so strong.”

Dolan made his name in solo sailing in the Mini 6.50 class before moving into the larger and more competitive Beneteau Figaro class in early 2018, backed by eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.

After winning the top rookie in the double-handed Transat AG2R La Mondiale in May, Dolan has notched up a string of impressive solo results which will see him begin the Solitaire du Figaro as the highest-ranked rookie – a first for an Irish sailor.

But he will face stiff competition from a host of rivals including rising French stars Lois Berrehar and Thomas Cardrin, not to mention fellow Irish sailor Joan Mulloy.

The first leg, a 570-mile epic from Le Havre in Normandy to St-Brieuc in Brittany, will kick off at 1pm local time (12pm UK) on Sunday in favourable conditions.

“It’s looking like there will be wind,” Dolan added. “My worry was that there would be light winds, which could spell the end of a campaign just by missing one tidal gate. Thankfully it’s not looking like that will happen, and I relish better winds.”

The race timings will be as follows:

Leg 1 – 26 August

Le Havre to Saint-Brieuc – 570 miles

Leg 2 – September 2

Saint-Brieuc – Ria de Muros-Noia – 520 miles

Leg 3 – September 8

Ria de Muros-Noia – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

Leg 4 – September 13

Saint Gilles Croix de Vie – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

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First unveiled in 2003 as the new boat for the 1970-founded Figaro Solo Series, the Marc Lombard-designed 34ft Figaro 2 is a class act writes W M Nixon. But with the last one built in 2015, and replacement by the foil-sporting Figaro 3 well underway for next year, the versatile Figaro 2’s days at the sharpest edge of offshore racing are numbered.

figaro three2The Figaro 3’s foiling configuration will become a full part of the Figaro Solo story in 2019

Or are they? Though she carries a tough IRC rating, the Figaro 2 can sail up to it, as has been revealed in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. The tail-enders in that boat-breaking marathon are still struggling in light winds towards the finish in the Solent. But in the two-handed division, Volvo Ocean race veterans Benjamin Schwartz and Chen Jin Hao with their Figaro 2 El Velosolex SL Energies Group are long since finished, and they’ve made quite a clean sweep of it – first in 2-handed, first in IRC 2, and 2nd in IRC Overall.

schwartz and hao3Chen Jin Hao and Benjamin Schwartz after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race.

This made it an event to remember for Marc Lombard, as he also designed Guy Redpath’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra which won IRC overall and is also rated as the line honours winner. For although Class 40 sailed the same course with Phil Sharp’s Imerys Energy first to finish of the entire fleet, as far as the RORC were concerned it was the IRC Divisions which were the real race, and they made Pata Negra (third in fleet) the recognised line honours victor.

That in turn made El Velosolex second in line honours, But even in the complete fleet with Class 40 included, she was fifth on the water across the finishing line, a brilliant performance by two hyper-tough guys with a now classic boat which happened to be the smallest in the fleet.

This very special boat comes centre stage again on Sunday, with her final time as the boat-of-choice for the staging of the four part URGO Figaro Solitaire from Le Havre, and we’ll be looking at the prospects for Irish skippers Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan here very shortly. But for now, after the series is over, what then for the Figaro 2 after she has completed these impressive Farewell Tours??

Doubtless most of the boats have already been earmarked for new owners who will know they’re getting a bargain. Trouble is, in future seasons this will be a “No Excuses Sailing Machine”. In an open fleet against more ordinary craft, there’ll be no excuse for not doing well.

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