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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

They’d optimistically talked of “a week and a day” when the 54 solo sailors in the Production Class set out on 1st October in the 1350 miles La Rochelle to Las Palmas Stage 1 of the Mini Transat 2017 writes W M Nixon.

But current leader Valentin Gautier still has 74 miles to sail this morning, and ten days of racing will have soon elapsed. With speeds seldom enough staying above the 5 knot level over these final miles, it continues to be a slow-finishing light-air business as they close in on the capital of the Canary Islands.

The pace may have been slow for the past 24 hours and more. But place changes have been rapid as first one group and then another has been favoured by localised breezes. Ireland’s Tom Dolan, at one stage up in ninth, currently finds himself in 13th with 121 miles still to race, and a current speed of 3.7 knots.

He is indicated as exactly neck-and-neck with 12th-placed Mathieu Lambert and showing the better speed (Lambert is on 3.4 knots), so Dolan may move up a place or two very shortly. But equally he only has a narrow margin ahead of Vedran Kabalin and Germain Kerlevo, both of them skippers of note, so the weary struggle will continue to the very end.

Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing

The extensive area of calms and light winds north of the Canary Islands did provide some gratefully-received local zephyrs last night for the Mini-Transat 2017 fleet writes W M Nixon. But although at one stage Ireland’s sole entry Tom Dolan had worked his way up to ninth place in the 56-strong Production Class, this morning a line of favourable breeze has been found by Remi Aubrun, and he leads at 3.9 knots with 150 miles to go, while Dolan has slipped down to 12th and is 30 miles astern, struggling in this morning’s lineup at just 1.1 knots.

But nearer the still-distant finish line, Erwan Le Droulac has found much the best local bite to the breeze, and is shown on 5.6 knots and only 2.4 miles astern of leader Aubrun. Overall, this marks a severe reversal of fortune for several-times-leader Clarisse Cremer, as she has cascaded down to 10th place, less than a mile ahead of Tom Dolan, and is making only 1.2 knots.

At the moment the race is such a lottery that the top priority for the lone skippers is not to finish too far astray on the main bunch. This is because the final placings in the Mini-Transat, after it has been completed with the second stage to the Caribbean, will be based on an accumulation of the elapsed times from Stages 1 & 2.

Nevertheless the fact that Tom Dolan is currently battling with Clarisse Cremer, who at one stage was so clear ahead that she’d a gap on the next boat of 16 miles, shows how astonishingly well the Irish skipper has recovered from his initial place at the back of the fleet a couple of hours after the start at La Rochelle nine days ago.

The prospect is for the winds maybe to firm in around the Canaries later tomorrow. But there’ll be hunger for wind – and just plain old-fashioned hunger for food, which may be running low by this stage on some boats – for a day or so yet.

Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing

Solo Sailor Tom Dolan has again moved up the placing in the 1350-mile Stage 1 of the Mini-Transat fro La Rochelle to Last Palmas in the Canaries, as the leaders grapple with light and fluky winds in the final 300 miles writes W M Nixon

Dolan’s tactic of holding to the west has taken him over towards Madeira, where his speed this morning of just 4.7 knots is slightly better than many of the widely spread front runners, and he has moved up five places from yesterday’s 16th.

Clarisse Cremer’s Production Class lead of yesterday had been narrowly regained by Erwan Le Droulac, but now she is back ahead with 6 miles in hand, making 3.7 knots to Le Draoulec’s virtually becalmed state of 0.9 knots, with 227 miles still to sail.

Race tracker here

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Clarisse Cremer, continually rising star of French women’s offshore sailing and a formidable performer in the Mini-Transat fleet’s Transgascogne Race at the end of July, is currently the leader in the 1350-mile Stage 1 of the Mini-Transat from La Rochelle to Las Palmas in the Canaries writes W M Nixon

At one stage Cremer had opened out a lead of 15 miles with less than 400 to go. But currently with 337 still to be sailed, Cremer at 5.7 knots in a nor’easter is seeing her lead being eroded by Erwan Le Draoulec, just three miles astern and logging 6.1 knots.

clarisse cremer2At one stage Cremer had opened out a lead of 15 miles

There are still many holes in the wind between the leaders and the finish, indeed an entire area of calm may yet settle between the fleet and the finish. Out to the westward, Ireland’s Tom Dolan has had some slippage from his placings yesterday, when he was up around the tenth to twelfth mark. He has dropped back to 16th, but currently is making a better 6.3 knots, and hoping to benefit from a different line of wind.

Race tracker here

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The leaders of the Mini-Transat 2017 are now at the latitude of Lisbon, but well offshore in trying to keep in a line of the fading north to northeast wind writes W M Nixon.

The pace in this first 1350-mile stage (from La Rochelle to Las Palmas, Canaries) of the Mini-Transat 17 had become swift and purposeful as they carried the traditional strong northeast winds down past Cape Finisterre. Since then, last night saw Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan recover even more impressively from his setback at the start, which had found him in last place three hours after the race got under way.

His extraordinary upwards progress since, through a fleet of 56 in the Production Boat Class, saw him in tenth place for a while last night. But this morning it has stabilised at 11th as he takes a stab westward in the finely calculated business of tacking downwind in a fading breeze which provides the challenge of crossing an area of light breezes – or even calm – before he can avail of an area of fresher nor’easters which are flowing southwestwards from southern Portugal.

But the finish at Las Palmas is still 670 miles away from Dolan and his group, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for racing, with other areas of slack winds move across it.

At the moment Erwan Le Draoulec and Tanguy Broullec are neck and neck for the lead, with Clarisse Cremer third and Yannick Le Clech fourth. But with 630 miles for this leading cohort to cover to the finish, any predictions for them – and the entire fleet - are still somewhat premature.

Except, that is, for the half dozen boats which have temporarily dropped out after a succession of equipment failures. They are currently in various ports along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, and out of the racing in Stage 1. But shore support teams have been arriving to get them race-ready again, and down to Las Palmas to be prepared for the main event.

This is the true 40th Anniversary Mini-Transat, from Las Palmas to Martinique in the Caribbean. The fleet will be back up to full strength for a start which is currently penciled in for November 1st. But it’s not set in stone, as the organisers wait for the current extra-vigorous hurricane season to work itself out on the west side of the Atlantic before they set the final date for early November

Tracker here

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A large area of lighter winds and calms currently developing around the Canary Islands may hamper the closing speeds of the Mini Transat fleet as they near the finish of their 1350-mile race from La Rochelle through this weekend and beyond writes W M Nixon.

But this morning the leaders are well offshore from Portugal, streaming towards the southwest in a good line of northeast winds. Inshore towards Portugal, however, lighter wind may emerge today, but the leading group out at sea are hoping to carry their brisk favourable winds well south before they have to consider how best to deal with the developing situation towards the finish.

Their slow progress out of the Bay of Biscay at the beginning of the week since Sunday’s start may make estimates of seven days to reach Las Palmas in the Canaries optimistic. But at the moment, leader Remi Aubrun is past the halfway stage, and is making 9.8 knots with 793 miles to go to the finish, while the consistent Erwan Le Draoulec in second is less than two miles astern at the same speed, with Yannick Le Clech third and Clarisse Cremer fourth.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan has made a remarkable recovery from his setback at the start when – having been in the lead - he’d to re-trace his steps in exceptionally poor visibility to round a mandatory turning point. This very briefly had him back in last place in the 56-strong Production class, but he has now milled his way up to 14th, an astonishing achievement, and is currently battling with top star Pierre Chedeville.

As expected, though, the benefits of being first out of the Bay of Biscay to enjoy the strong favourable winds down towards Cape Finisterre ahead of all rivals gave the leading group an enormous boost, and they’re currently sitting on a lead of around 40 to 50 miles on the Dolan/Chedeville group.

But the possibility of erratic wind patterns over a wide area at the Canaries could upset the rankings. In times past, major events of the calibre of the Vendee Globe and the Volvo Ocean Race have seen major place changes while negotiating the passage through or round the islands, and the fact that the Mini Transat fleet have to reach a finish line in the heart of the islands further increases the challenge.

Meanwhile Mini Transat life continues to inter-act with the outside world. There was a sweet moment on Tuesday when the Mini Transat organisers contacted Tom Dolan’s girl-friend Karen to wish her a happy birthday and confirm that he was working his way up through the fleet in the trademark style of the “Flying Irishman” – l’Irlandais Volant.

Race tracker here


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Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan and the other contenders in the leading group in the Mini Transat have finally been able to start exiting the Bay of Biscay at better speeds this morning as new east to nor’east winds have finally set in writes W M Nixon. And once they’ve finally emerged into the open Atlantic to shape a course down Spain’s west coast and on towards Portugal, speeds should become very impressive as the famed and favourable “Portuguese trades” do the business.

But talk of a “leading group” is a very loose term, for although there are dozens of the 56 competitors astern of Dolan – some of them very far indeed behind him – he in turn got on the wrong side of a gate mark and also the wrong side of a couple of shifts during the very frustrating beat from La Rochelle’s Sunday start. However, his regular sparring partners Erwan Le Draoulac and Clarisse Cremer, together with Remi Aubrun and Yannick Le Clech, seemed to know exactly when it was right to transfer to the to the north of the rhumb line in order to be first to avail of the long-forecast but slow-to-arrive change in wind direction.

mini transat guys2Let’s just get started….Erwan Le Draoulec, Francois Jambou and Tom Dolan in the pre-Mini Transat shoreside stage

As it is, Dolan had been doing very well in steadily working his way up through the fleet from a very frustrating first 24 hours. He’d been leading in the early stages, but after realizing in the very poor visibility that he’d missed that gate mark, he had to take the medicine and go a seriously long way back to have him re-start in 54th place. But then he put in some really hard work, and by Tuesday he was being recorded as around 12th to 14th overall in the Production Boat (Serie) Division, at distances of between 9 and 12 miles behind the leaders.

But last night, with the leading group in the area off the majestic Cabo Ortegal, the final and definitive wind change arrived. Yet it did so very unevenly, and stretched out the front runners, with the leaders being most favoured. This morning Erwan Le Draoulac and Remi Aubrun are neck and neck in the lead, crossing the bay off La Coruna, and making between 8 and 10 knots with Yannick Le Clech and Clarisse Cremer 2.1 and 3.3 miles behind respectively, but logging similar speeds.

This leading foursome have got very clear away, as fourth-placed Ambrogio Beccarria is all of 14 miles behind the two front runners. And this tendency to stretch the margins the further you go down the fleet is reflected in Tom Dolan’s location, for though he’s currently on 8.8 knots, and on track speeding past Cabo Ortegal well offshore, he’s lying 17th in class and is 30 miles behind the leaders.

Running hard in the Portuguese Trades is demanding of boats and sailors, but Tom Dolan has shown he can thrive in such sailing in times past – he’ll be looking forward to it. And now at least, the sun shines, and the horrible headwinds and miserable rain of the first day are a very faded memory.

Tom dolan at start3After sunshine the day before, Sunday;s start was in dispiriting condtions. Tom Dolan (IRL 910) pacing with Jerome Lhermiette (FR 891)Race tracker here

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The weather played a sly hand on Sunday morning in the Bassin des Chalutiers and it has not been kind to Ireland's solo sailor Tom Dolan who is at the back of the pack aftter the first 14 hours of the 2017 Mini–Transat.

The persistent drizzle and low cloud did little to cheer those Mini sailors feeling the pressure as they cast off. Ultimately though, there was a sense of relief all round that they were finally getting going with their race, a moment they've been working towards for the past two years. After a lively start for the first few hours, it promises to be a fine crossing.

For all that, the first few miles of this Mini-Transat La Boulangère will be far from restful. With upwind conditions and rough seas with a substantial south-westerly swell, the solo sailors' stomachs are likely to be finding things tough this evening.

tom dolan transat startCounty Meath sailor Tom Dolan Photo: Oliver Blanchet/Facebook

Current predictions suggest that the upwind conditions should be succeeded by some boisterous downwind sailing as the fleet close on Cape Finisterre, according to Christian Dumard, the weather guru from Great Circle. Essentially, to the south of this headland, the Mini sailors can expect stronger winds in a corridor spanning around a hundred miles offshore of the coast of Galicia and Portugal. As such, the competitors will have to choose between distancing themselves from this corridor, by gaining headway to the west and potentially having to cover extra miles away from the direct route, or hunkering down in a bid to escape the worst of the wind up ahead. However, the solo sailors aren't there yet. Between now and the north-west tip of Spain, things could play out in a number of ways.

It was in a persistent drizzle that the fleet took today's start in a W to SW'ly wind of 10 to 15 knots. Almost perfect conditions then, save for the zero visibility in the squalls.

Three competitors are unfortunately having to make a stopover in La Rochelle to effect repairs. The first to announce his return was Fred Guerin (, whose hull was holed in a collision with Elodie Pedron (Manu Poki & les Biotecks), she too retracing her steps. Finally, Gwendal Pibot (Rossinante) announced that he would also be returning to the Port des Minimes after breaking his stay.

Race tracker here

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Irish Sailing President Jack Roy was on hand in Bassin des Chalutiers, La Rochelle today to wish sole Irish entry Tom Dolan good luck in tomorrow's Mini Transat Race start.

An eve of race Irish reception with the Cultural & Sporting Attache from the Irish Embassy was held in the National Yacht Club sailor's honour. Roy was among a number of Irish sailors in France to wish the intrepid County Meath sailor the very best for his Transatlantic Race ambitions.  

Dolan's aim is a podium place, and he has been on that podium or near it in almost every race this past summer. But now it’s down to the moment of truth tomorrow, to race the 1,350 miles to Gran Canaria, about a week of sailing following which there’s a pause while they wait for the current very vigorous hurricane season to end, and then they race the 2,700 miles Transatlantic miles to Le Marin in Martinique.

Read Afloat's Mini Transat Race preview with a special focus on Tom Dolan by W M Nixon here.

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In the days when sailing was a seasonal sport, a few main pillar events dominated the international programme. The Sailing Olympics. The America’s Cup. The Fastnet Race. The Dragon Gold Cup. The Sydney-Hobart Race. The Whitbread Round the World Race. And maybe a few others – we all had our favourites writes W M Nixon.

There weren’t many of those key events. Yet in a more leisurely era of primitive communication, they were enough to be going along with, and people became accustomed to the long intervals between them, intervals when we could concentrate obsessively on our own local and national sailing at events which were of little interest to anyone else.

But the advent of the Internet has changed sailing as it has changed everything else. Instant 24/7 communication demands a fast-running stream of narrative with images to match. In this new environment, the former pillar events find they are just part of an endless tapestry, and they have to take their chances with everything else to gain attention.

Time was when the fundamental changing of boat types in the America’s Cup would have been a matter of major interest, blowing every other sailing headline off page and screen in a big way, and for a long time.

But we’ve comfortably taken in our stride the recent gradually-released information that sailing’s peak event - the oldest international sporting challenge in the world - is reverting to mono-hulls, after three editions of supposedly setting the world a-fire with hyper-fast catamarans.

americas cup2So, farewell then, catamarans in the America’s Cup……Oracle unsuccessfully defended against Emirates New Zealand in Bermuda in June.

Here and there, devoted pot-stirrers found it difficult to provoke anyone to break sweat over the matter. Maybe in the core of the America’s Cup community – if there is such a thing – there was a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But among the rest of us, there was sublime indifference. We knew there’d be time enough to consider the new boats as the outlines of the next challenge became more clearly defined. And if there’s litigation in the meantime, that will be entertainment. Meanwhile, there’s a busy Autumn programme of major international events, several of which have a significant Irish interest, and that’s where our attention is focused.

Currently, the top story still has to be the confirmation of Annalise Murphy as a crewmember aboard the Volvo Ocean Racer Turn The Tide On Plastic. The sense of excitement when she was mentioned as a “probable” was tempered by the fact that she’d sustained that knee injury during a crazy capsize in the last race on her way to becoming the International Moth Women’s World Champion, and we’d to wait for total recovery from it before the Volvo World Race chapter in her life could properly begin.

annalise on foiling moth3Game for anything. Annalise Murphy giving her all on the foiling Moth, in which she is now Women’s World Champion.

Quite what her sports physio Mark McCabe had to say about the injury is probably unprintable, for a point made about her campaign towards the Olympic Silver Medal was that it was his guidance and skill which kept her injury-free at crucial stages in training and during the Olympic campaign.

We should all have a Mark McCabe for everyday life. But for now, the Olympics seem so yesterday in the Annalise story, for what she has undertaken may be sailing, but it certainly isn’t sailing as she has known it for so many years with a Laser Radial.

But despite that capsize, clearly she could hack it with the special demands of a foiling Moth, so now she is now re-shaping her enthusiasm, basic athleticism and special sailing skills to serve a team cause. And as of this morning, it has to be the most interesting single story in Irish sailing, particularly now that the Volvo 65s and their teams are gathered in Alicante, with the entire fleet being lifted out on Monday for the final meticulous checks.

There’s a special edge to it, for this year’s race - which starts on October 22nd - will see a much greater emphasis on the Southern Ocean. So as we move steadily towards the Centenary in 2023 of the beginning of Conor O’Brien’s pioneering of the global southern route for yachts with his Irish-built 42ft Saoirse, it’s more than appropriate that there’s a significant Irish presence in the developing Volvo setup, where the Alicante Volvo Race Village will open on 11th October, and the In-Port Race will be staged on Saturday October 14th.

conor obrien4Conor O’Brien, pioneer for yachts in the Southern Ocean on the Cape Horn route.

saoirse plans5A very different sort of boat from today’s Volvo 65. The traditonal-style 42ft gaff ketch Saoirse, built in Baltimore in 1922, proved remarkably successful at running fast yet safely in the Southern Ocean. Conor O’Brien designed a rig that relied on a squaresail on the mainmast, setting a triangular studding sail and topsail

King of it all for Ireland has to be Damian Foxall, who has raced or broken records round the world so often he has probably lost count, but this time he’s on the strength of Team Vestas. For Foxall, the link to Conor O’Brien is particularly special, as Damian hails from Derrynane in far southwest Kerry, and Derrynane was Conor O’Brien’s favourite port – you can see his signature in the Visitors’ Book in that superb watering hole so beloved of voyagers, Bridie Keating’s pub.

damian foxall6Damian Foxall in virtually unrivalled in his Volvo Ocean Race experience

derrynane harbour7Derrynane in Kerry – Conor O’Brien’s favourite anchorage, and Damian Foxall’s home port

But if Damian is King, Annalise is Queen, for even among the hugely talented Volvo crews, an Olympic Silver Medal – or any Olympic Medal for that matter - is rare enough. Indeed, it’s so rare that part of the fascination of the Annalise/Turn the Tide on Plastic linkup will be in how they work out together.

Annalise carries the flag for Ireland’s east coast in Alicante, while Justin Slattery will do it for the south if he turns up, as Damian Foxall expects. Others from Ireland include James O’Mahoney who’s also with Team Vestas, where Thomas John McMaw is Senior Project Manager to keep up the green jersey count, as too does VOR event contractor John Donnelly.

But as our colleague Tom MacSweeney pointed out on on Monday, it is Kerry which packs the punch in Alicante, as Brian Carlin of Tralee leads the team of OBRs (On-Board Reporters) who will be embedded on each boat, while Lucy Hunt who runs the Sea Synergy Awareness Centre at Waterville (it’s just over the mountain pass from Derrynane) is Sustainability Education Manager for this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, and will co-ordinate a schools programme.

volvo village8A long way from Derrynane….the Volvo Village at Alicante

However, for those who like to be up to speed with all in the main international sailing stories with Irish interest, some time soon there’ll be the Student Yachting Worlds in Marseilles, where UCD led by Will Byrne will be challenging for a trophy which Ireland has won in times past. Originally we were told it would be in September, but when students are running the show themselves, there’s freeform organization and timing, and the most recent date we see is still Marseilles, but not until October 17th to 22nd.

So the top up-coming interest is in La Rochelle towards the end of September, with the fleet gathered for the two-stage 4050 mile Mini-Transat (there’s a stop in the Canaries), with the race starting on Sunday October 1st. Ireland’s Tom Dolan with IRL 910 is currently fourth in the world rankings in the Mini Transat Production Boat Class, so he’s in with a good shout for a podium place. And we’re all behind him, with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy and Ireland’s Sports and Cultural Attaché in France the Guests of Honour at Tom’s party in La Rochelle at noon on Saturday September 30th.

tom dolan boat9Ireland’s Tom Dolan, currently fourth in the world rankings. His supporters will be gathering in La Rochelle in the week leading up to Sunday October 1st to wish him well when he starts the Mini-Transat, with the main party on Saturday September 30th.

Then in October, in addition to the Volvo World Race start and the Student Yachting Worlds, there’s the Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta on Saturday October 21st, just the day before the Volvo gets going across in Spain. But there’s always lots of Irish interest in this annual Mediterranean classic, with the winning Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino last year being navigated by our own Ian Moore, while this year there’s added spice with the possible inclusion of the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thomson and Nin O’Leary hoping they’ll find conditions better suited to their very specialised flying machine than they did in the Fastnet Race back in August.

mascalzone latino10The Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino being navigated by Ian Moore to overall victory in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2016. Photo Rolex

For those who look on into November, the Transat Jacques Vabre gets going from Le Havre on November 5th with a preponderance of IMOCA 60s, but for operational reasons Hugo Boss is not expected be among them. However, what’s clear is that the international programme is now non-stop, for by November we’ll be getting advance info on the Sydney-Hobart Race on 26th December 2017, which is the saving of Christmas for many of us.

autumn league howth11When cruisers battle for it - racing the Autumn League at Howth. Photo: W M Nixon

Meanwhile this morning in Douarnenez in Brittany the Figaro Fastnet Solo gets under way, and Autumn Leagues start to flex their muscles in Ireland, with Howth’s series starting today and running for six weekends, so the topline action continues at home and abroad in an unending stream.

There’s an old Arab saying which goes: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on”. It could reasonably be said of world sailing that there may indeed be dogs barking, but the purposeful rattling of camel harnesses is now virtually continuous.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 9 of 13

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