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With just over 100 nautical miles to the finish line of the 655 miles Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro at 17.00hrs French time this late afternoon, the leading group are tightly packed, the solo skippers doing all they can to sniff out the best of the breeze.

Light winds and a patchwork of calms have now prevailed for 24 hours since the leaders slowed first, punching first into contrary tidal current at the Occidental du Sein and the big, beautiful Audierne Bay. The chasing pack came down on the remaining breeze and after a beautiful, almost glassy evening yesterday by this morning, there were less than five miles between first and 16th.

Three solo racers have largely profited inshore, closer to the Vendée coast. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) wriggled clear of 20-year-old rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) around lunchtime, making between two and five knots through periods of the day, almost 20 miles further east than the main peloton and is the nominal leader.

Dolan and Bourgnon were still holding first and second places but their boatspeeds were a crawling 2.5 to 3kts each while their rivals offshore seemed to have the new breeze and were making more than seven knots. The inshore duo still had three miles in hand but it appears the breeze offshore , perhaps thermally enhanced, did not appear to have rolled in far enough for them to profit.

The top three French skippers in the peloton have been glued together since before the turning mark at the Channel Islands on Monday evening, Achille Nebout (Amarris-Primeo Energie) leading rookie Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) and Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) being less than 0.2 of a mile apart as they hunt together as a pack.

The first boats are due into Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, Thursday morning after an exhausting leg which started Sunday afternoon from Port-la-Forêt, Brittany and has taken the 32-boat fleet to the Channel Islands, to Eddystone and now back down the Brittany and Vendée coasts.

A NW’ly breeze should in theory push in the late afternoon heading a bit to West-North-West at 5 to 10 knots and by evening the leaders should be sailing downwind, under a North-Westerly flow increasing to 8 to 13 knots, off the Charente coast. But the forecasters say this wind will weaken again back to 5-10kts with stormy showers close to the land but by morning, this North-Westerly should be reasonably regular for the finish into Royan.

Published in Figaro
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Irish solo racer Tom Dolan remained in a positive, upbeat mood in the post-race sunshine of Port La Foret, Brittany after finishing 14th on the first 559 miles stage of the 2022 La Solitaire du Figaro. Racing Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, he sailed a very strong opening half of the race, lying second and pacing France’s pre-race favourite Tom Laperche to the most northerly turning mark of the race, which started Sunday afternoon from Saint Nazaire.

But almost the entire 34-boat fleet regrouped in calm airs yesterday morning spread between the Scilly Isles and Lands’ End. The Irishman’s fortunes fluctuated a few places here and there, but he was always within the tightly packed peloton, keeping true to his pre-race strategy of staying with the pack and trying not to make mistakes.

Tom, and the peloton around him, could do nothing to respond when some of the lower placed solo sailors gambled and went to the west in search of a new, strong northerly wind behind a frontal system. While they profited and took many of the top 10 places, Laperche squeezing into ninth, Dolan lost a few spots in the early morning coming into the finish line in the scenic Breton haven which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is one of the centers of elite solo and shorthanded racing in France.

Speaking before heading for some much-needed sleep Dolan said: “I did say before the start that this would be a typical La Solitaire du Figaro leg, where we all worked our backsides off and we would all restart in the same place, and that is what happened yesterday. It was incredible. We were all catching up with the front, so there was this big cloud line going towards France and we were at the same speed as it and so all the boats lined up, it was mad. After three days of hard work, we all end up in the same place except for these boats which went west. I am happy enough with the result. I controlled the controllables as they say and sailed well enough. I had a bad phase this morning when I lost some places but I had good speed I think. It was cool to be up the front with the other Tom (Laperche) and watch him to see how he does stuff, how much he sleeps. On the long reach when we were neck and neck for hours I was too excited, trimming and trimming and trimming. He did the right thing and said ‘there is not a lot going to happen here’ and went to rest and eat. He seems to go quickly when he is resting. I need to look after myself better, and I ran out of water again!”

Ireland's Kenny Rumball (IRL, Offshore Racing Academy) finished the stage in 29th place : “It was tough. The start and the light stuff I did not get free. And then I caught back a few times but it was not enough. I had a lot of electrical problems after the TSS at Ushant and could not rely on my autopilot at all. I hand steered from Ushant and though I thought I would have ten to 15 knots I had 25 to 30! I am totally bollocksed".

Ireland's third entry in the race Conor Fogerty from Howth retired with a series of technical issues. 

Stage 1 results provisional:
1 Fred Duthil (Le Journal de Enterprises) finished 10:04:59hrs in 3 days 18hrs 24mins 59secs
2 Davy Beaudart (Nauty’mor) 10:06:00hrs 3d 18h 26m 00s + 1min 1 sec
3 Philippe Hartz (Marine National Fondation de la Mer) 10:09:05hrs 3d 18h 29m 5 s + 4mins 6 secs
4 Jorg Riechers (GER, Alva Yachts) 11:10:36hrs 3d 19h 30m 36s +1 hr 5 min

Irish placings:

14th Tom Dolan 12:00:15, 3h 20m 20s +1hr 55min 16secs behind the leader

29th Kenny Rumball

Retired  Conor Fogerty

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With 150 nautical miles still to complete of the Stage 1 course shortened to 559 miles Swiss skipper Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) has established a break at the head of the 34 strong La Solitaire du Figaro lead after he made a big gain by sailing to the east of the Seven Stones traffic separation zone at Land’s End, very early this morning.

Whether by virtue of extra wind pressure or favourable tidal current, the 35-year-old Swiss racer who is on his third La Solitaire du Figaro, made a sizeable advance when he led a posse of five skippers to the east of the no-go zone whilst the main peloton stuck together out west and drifted at the Scillies in next to no breeze.

In the light downwind conditions this Wednesday afternoon Palmieri – winner of last year’s Two Handed Concarneau Saint Barths race with Julien Villion – was more than four miles clear of the second and third placed skippers, French rookies Romen Richard (Passion Santé-Trans forme) and Laurent Bourges (Unis Pour L’Ukraine 56-Devenis Partenaire).

But while Palmieri appeared to have banked his initial dividend the forecasts still show a high pressure ridge of light airs in front of the fleet which may yet prove a barrier to progress tonight, whilst the meteo experts still expect a new breeze to come in from the west.

Long time leader Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) has dropped to tenth alongside ninth placed Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) of Britain and 13th placed Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who are all in a very tightly packed group about ten miles further offshore from Palmieri.

Laperche reported this morning: “I imagine that there are people behind who have gone to Land’s End. And how it looks here, where we are, well it could be almost favorable but I don't really know. Here we are with no wind at the Scilly Isles and of course I got here and ran into the calm first. I lost my lead. I had 3 miles yesterday afternoon. I expected that there would some kind of regrouping which was not going to be easy to manage. Fortunately the current is helping us for the moment in a good way. We'll see how it goes today after we get a little wind. I am waiting impatiently for the the broadcast of the weather report of the day but it seems like it is all restarting.”

An engaging final night at sea is promised and – as many skipper predicted before they left Saint Nazaire last Sunday – there seems every chance this marathon leg will be decided in the last miles into Port La Forêt where they are expected Thursday morning. As veteran Figaro skipper Alexis Loison warned the Figaro class website today, “But in a northerly wind at the end of the night a windless bubble could very well be present at the coastal level and the race might restart once again.”

Published in Figaro
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Pre-race favourite Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) and Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) are leading the 644 nautical miles Stage 1 of the 2022 La Solitaire du Figaro into the second day of racing since leaving Sunday afternoon’s start off the mouth of the Loire heading to Port-la-Forêt via a mark off the SW of Wales.

The 34-strong fleet were approaching the Chaussée de Sein this evening where the three first boats to pass a virtual mark will pick up a time bonus of five minutes, three minutes and one minute respectively. As it was shaping up, sprinting at some 6-7kts towards the line extending from the La Sein west cardinal mark, Laperche – winner of all three main solo races leading up to La Solitaire – looks set to collect the maximum time bonus, although Dolan – marginally further offshore to the west – was just one-third of a mile behind. After a career-best third place finish on the final stage of last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro race Dolan has made an impressive opening to what promises to be a complex leg with many stops and starts. But over recent hours he has matched Laperche’s pace exactly.

Speaking (in French) to the race control boat this afternoon, Dolan said, “I have slept well, ate well; I got changed because we were a little wet after the start yesterday. I am side by side with the other Tom, and it is always good to be in contact with a good competitor. I am nicely surprised to be so well placed. But from the start I knew I wanted to go west, and I'm glad it has worked out. I think we around 7 p.m - 7:30 p.m. (French time) at the Chaussée de Sein, and from then that we will have a choice of route to take to pass the Ouessant TSS. I'm starting to have my own little idea in my mind..."

His sometime co-skipper Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) – the Irish-Anglo duo paired up for the key double handed races this year – is lying fourth and will be pushing to pass third placed Robin Follin (Golfe de Saint Tropez-Territoire D’exception). The multi-skilled Follin from Sainte-Maxime in the south of France – who has raced Diam 24s, GC32s, the 2017 Youth America’s Cup, is a match racer, and an SB20 and J/70 World Champion – led through the first night before falling prey to Laperche when the fleet tacked through a trough just before nine this morning. Roberts was only 100m or so behind his French rival.

Laperche was on good form this afternoon, “It has been going well since last night. All is well, even if it is all a little grey! I managed to rest a bit. I was able to sleep this morning upwind and a little on this main tack which now takes us up to the Occidentale de Sein. The wind is quite stable and I'm in front, 27 miles from the mark right now. There, there will be a choice of route to be made which will depend on the wind we will have when passing. We will make our choices. Right now I have a few boats, about fourteen, which I see at the AIS (Automatic Identification System).”

Up ahead the passage of Ushant and the Traffic Separation Scheme there will require a strategic choice to be made. Before the start Marcel van Triest, who advises the Lorient Grand Large squad, said, “There is a very binary choice which side to go of the TSS and Ushant and that will have big ramifications on the ensuing stage to Bishop Rock. Most likely they will leave the TSS to the west however the danger is they go between the TSS and Ushant and if that is late at night the wind gets lighter towards the French coast, if the current is against them the breeze it goes too far left all of a sudden they struggle to get that far down. So I think early on the danger is to go between TSS and Ushant and the straightforward choice is to leave the TSS to starboard.”

After they get clear of Ushant they cross the Channel towards the Scillies and then Skokholm Island off the Welsh coast. For the climb across the Channel they will see 15 to 18 knots with gusts which could reach 25 knots as a front passes. Behind the front the wind will back to W and SW losing some strength. Passing Bishop lighthouse in the morning, they will cross the Celtic Sea on port tack towards the island of Skokholm.

Published in Figaro
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The 34 skippers of the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro and their Figaro Beneteau 3s left Nantes on Saturday, August 20th lunchtime and to sail down to Saint-Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire. They docked there for the night making ready for Sunday’s start off Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef at 1540hrs local time.

Winds for the start of the 644 miles Stage 1 north to Skokholm island off Wales Pembroke coast look set to be light, the precursor to what looks like a complicated leg with many transitions and several small weather features to negotiate.

As previously reported, Ireland is fielding three (not two as reported elsewhere) for the marathon solo race.  French-based Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) moved to France 12 years ago to pursue his dreams of top level solo racing. He scored a fifth overall in 2020, the best finish by any non-French skipper for nearly 20 years and is looking to go better this time after a disappointing 16th last year.

Dun Laoghaire’s sailing coach, sailing school owner Kenny Rumball (Offshore Racing Academy), 35 is back for a second attempt after racing as a rookie in 2020. And Howth entrepreneur and amateur offshore racer Conor Fogerty, 51, (Immunex365.co.uk) is out to complete La Solitaire du Figaro for the first time as a learning experience.

Yann Chateau, 43, is the new Race Director of La Solitaire du Figaro taking charge of this edition after the baton was passed from Francis Le Goff with whom he served as Assistant for many years.

Yann Chateau says, “The conditions will be quite calm at the start with a moderate to weak wind flow from west to southwest between 6 and 10 knots. The boats will move west and west of Sein with a first night that is still fairly calm. Then, they will progress a little more quickly towards the Celtic Sea in winds of 10 to 15 knots. For the moment, there is a little uncertainty on the return with a transition phase which is not well modelled".

Published in Figaro

Are you interested in shorthanded offshore racing? Do you want to experience it at the highest level?

If so, come and sail in the Figaro Nationals in Lorient, France, this Autumn with the Offshore Racing Academy and Vivi Resources.

Kenny Rumball and Marcus Hutchinson are delighted to offer a fully inclusive package for individuals and teams to come and experience the pinnacle of offshore shorthanded racing in the Figaro 3 Class at the Figaro Nationals in Lorient, France, from the 7th-9th of October this year.

Offshore racing at the highest level in the Figaro classOffshore racing at the highest level in the Figaro class

The Nationals at the end of the season encompasses a mix of inshore and coastal courses with four persons per boat. Marcus and Kenny offer a complete package that only requires you to get yourself and your team to Lorient. The Offshore Racing Academy team will organise logistics, allowing you to experience an in-depth exposure to the world of shorthanded offshore sailing in the hub - La Base Lorient.

the world of shorthanded offshore sailing in the hub - La Base LorientThe world of short-handed offshore sailing in the hub - La Base Lorient

The Figaro Nationals end-of-season event is the only fully crewed event with four persons on board the powerful Figaro 3 to sail in an exciting mixture of windward-leewards, round the cans and a long-distance coastal race circumnavigating the Ile de Groix. A great social life and entertainment are also a significant and guaranteed part of the package!

There will be three days of on and off-the-water coaching before the event led by Kenny Rumball, who has accumulated three full years of experience in the highly competitive class. Coaching will run from Tuesday the 4thto Wednesday 6th October. There are direct flights with Ryanair to nearby Nantes airport from Dublin on Monday 3rd October.

The complete turnkey solutionThe complete turnkey solution

This is a complete turnkey solution; no logistics to organise other than bring your oilskins and boots. Marcus and Kenny will arrange race-ready Figaro 3's, complete with sails and their envious streamlined backup service both on and off the water. We have several boats available, all in full 2022 class specifications and ready for the event.

This is an incredible opportunity to meet and participate in the world's highest level of offshore One Design racing for anybody interested in shorthanded offshore racing.

For more information, please email Kenny Rumball of the Offshore Racing [email protected]

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Here I am on the ferry back to Ireland, absolutely shattered after another month of intense offshore sailing in France at the highest level, there is a lot to reflect on as always and more importantly build upon!

If you prefer a video, full video log here

We headed out for some last-minute sail testing and short course practise ahead of the Solo Maitre Coq, the first solo offshore event of the year for the Figaro Class at the beginning of the month. The time flew by and before we knew it after some rig tweaks and changes of battens in our jib, we were off up to Les Sables d’Olonne to line up for the first time this year against the rest of the fleet.

We had glorious weather for the few days of boat, sailor and meteo preparation for this event. I was very lucky to have Paddy Hutchings an experienced preparateur and future Figaro rockstar join me to make sure the boat was 110% ready for the races. Paddy was busy checking lines, re-splicing and swimming in the boat daily to make sure the underside of the hull was as clean as possible for racing! Timothy Long who had done some sailing with me as part of the Academy was also on hand to help out as he was learning all about the preparation that goes into these boats before we head to sea for a race!

Solo Maitre Coq Kenny RumballKenny Rumball in the Solo Maitre Coq Regatta Photo: Vincent Olivaud

Our racecourse was largely unchanged with the notable exception that we would be omitting the Birvedeau lighthouse from the course as there would be military firing exercises in that area while we would be racing. It would mean rounding the Island of Belle Ile would be the most northerly part of the course! As for the weather, it was looking pretty straightforward, upwind there, downwind home, a windward-leeward just 330 miles long!

The race started off as predicted by the weather with a light 10-13 knots of wind from the north, the race committee gave us a short beat to ensure the fleet got away evenly before we headed off downwind to Ile d’Re. The wind was coming from the shore and initially, those the dared go as close to the exclusion zone on the shore as possible were the early boats to gain, of which IRL 20, Kenny was…

Not more than three hours into the race, we had our first shutdown and weather transition with the new wind coming from the North West. This saw a small reshuffle of the pack but nothing to worry about. This new wind was to build for the rest of the day and shift back to the North East overnight, which it did exactly! Coming around Ile d’Re we were quickly sailing upwind in demanding conditions short tacking as close to the coast as possible, moving the 90kgs of stackable weight on every tack! Tiring work but working hard here separates the fleet!

Kenny RumballKenny Rumball was as a high as 11th a one point Photo: Vincent Olivaud

Eventually, the fleet settled onto starboard tack which would take the fleet past Ile d’Yeu, leaving it to port and all the way up to Belle Ile. From here it was a drag race of identical boats! Sail selection, setup and time spent driving would be the determining factors on speed and ultimately position! It was the first real test of speed for the fleet in 2022!

By early morning the time spent sailing the boat hard through the night was well spent with some place gains overnight and approaching Belle Ile in a good position! The wind had not really changed with around 20-24kts all the time! We were expecting it to have died to around 15 kts for the downwind kite sail back towards Les Sables! But more wind means more speed, our biggest spinnakers up and we were off heading downwind at speed to the Rochebonne plateau. 25kts of wind, big sea state saw consistent boat speeds in the high teens all the way south…. Lots more driving required meant no time for rest or food, this was turning out to be a tough race.

By the Rochbonne Plateau, we had a big sea state and winds into 30kts, taking the big spinnaker down solo was demanding especially when there is only one of them on board and we knew it was needed later on in the race! Damaging it was not an option…

If you thought there was time for rest, the intensity continued with gennakers unfurled blast reaching back in the direction of Les Sables at a consistent 15 knots or so. At this stage, I was sitting comfortably in 11th position knowing all that was a left was a 60nm loop from Les Salbes out to a weather buoy 30 miles to the South West and then back again. How hard could it be?

As is typical in the Figaro class… Very! Approaching the weather buoy, the wind died and died and we rounded it in 0kts. 30 Miles back to Les Sables, tired, hungry and being honest, a bit emotional!

Given that in the fleet we are not allowed to carry mobile phones or have any assistance from the outside world our weather information was now 48hours+ old so it was very hard to determine where to position oneself on the beat home.

Ultimately the left-hand side of the course paid with the top back having a pretty big reshuffle as well as the rest of the fleet. Frustratingly, I dropped 9 places eventually crossing the finish line in 20th position. However, I was very content with my overall performance taking into account decision making, speed and sail selection!

We now had A FULL DAY off to recover before two coastal sailing days on Saturday and Sunday. It was a joy for me as my parents came out to visit and support the last two days of the event. Saturday was very very light winds, no more than 5kts where the race officer gave us Bannane courses which are windward-leewards. Hugely unstable light and variable winds saw one messy race completed where I was consistent finishing 19th, leaving me 18ht overall in the standings going into the last day.

For the last race, we were to have a coastal race of 30 miles with a short upwind, equally short downwind before a beat up the coast past Les Sables and then back. A good start saw me around the first windward in the mix of the lead pack and I held this on the next downwind leg. However on the 11 mile upwind I started to realise something was wrong as my speed was not as good as on the long offshore race. Post-race discussion and it would be evident I had set my mast up wrongly with too much tension in the D1 shrouds. I still managed to keep the boat moving and finished this race in 20 position, leaving me 20th overall in the event.

Given this was my first solo race in two years with a considerable improvement in performance and finishing position over my last solo race, I have walked away from the event very content.

It was now time to rest, I was very fortunate that Paddy along with some members of the Malizia IMOCA team took the boat north for me to Port La Foret where it lives when not sailing. It has been a very intense few months with the boat being lifted out of the water for the first time since January!

There is now some time off before we’re off to the UK this weekend for the RORC Cervantes race this weekend with some fellow Irish sailors. It's busy busy and important to find some rest in-between these races if only for a day or two!

Lots more to come so keep tuned for next month’s exploits.

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Ireland’s leading solo offshore racer Tom Dolan has almost finished his training phase prior to the start of the five events which comprise the 2022 French Elite Offshore Racing Championship, the season-long solo and short-handed circuit which has La Solitaire du Figaro (Aug 15th to September 11th) as its pinnacle.

Dolan’s career-best finish in the championship was sixth in 2020, the year he finished fifth on La Solitaire. After six intense weeks of training he now feels his overall game is in excellent shape as he seeks to break into the top five overall on the prestigious circuit which runs from April to September.

His season with his Figaro Beneteau 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan starts with the Solo Maître CoQ (from April 15 to 25) followed by the Le Havre Allmer Cup (from May 21 to 29), the Sardinha Cup ( from June 3 to 19), the Solo Guy Cotten (from August 2 to 8) and then the famous La Solitaire du Figaro (from August 15 to September 11). A final placing inside the top five on the end-of-season rankings is the target as are top fives in each of the constituent regattas.

“The season looks good, all in all. I have set myself the goal of finishing in the Top 5 at all the races on the circuit this year but really without putting too much pressure on myself”, explains Tom Dolan, “The training has gone very well and I have had time to really look at each area closely and now even can make sure I get a little rest to ensure I start the season fresh and full of energy. I have worked a lot on my speed and to that end looking at and picking the best sails. I am especially happy with my mainsail and its setup. I think maybe before I worked well but ended up being too complacent in my speed but now I am vey happy. Lately we have worked on boat handling and boat on boat stuff and so I feel I have strengthened some of my weaknesses.”

Dolan will shortly also return to the Mini650, the class of very small offshore boats in which he cut his teeth, to sail and coach a young Japanese sailor Federico Sampei who has been selected for a training programme for DMG Mori, a Japanese talent training initiative which complements a Vendée Globe round the world programme. He will race the Plastimo Lorient Mini race April 4-10 with the young Japanese skipper.

“It is always good to be sailing on different boats from time to time. Federico is new to France and the whole scene here so it is good to be able to help him advance his skills and make him feel comfortable.” Smiles Dolan who recalls arriving in France from Ireland 11 years ago as he sought to carve out a solo racing career.

Tom Dolan has one more week of training with the Lorient group he sails with, focusing more on starts and first leg strategies – still his weakest area – before setting up for the first regatta of the season the Solo Maitre Coq in three weeks time. Having hurt his ankle during the early stages of the offshore race and retiring, Dolan is keen to put start his season on a good note.

In May he will race the Sardinha Cup to Portugal and back on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan with the English Figaro sailor Alan Roberts.

“ I think we have very complementary skills and can be good for each other. For me, Alan is one of the best starters and tactical sailors round the buoys inshore and I am maybe stronger offshore and so it should be good for us both,” concludes Tom.

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The Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is leading the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro fleet towards the Fastnet Rock with high hopes that he will be able to stay in front and lead the 34 boat fleet round the iconic lighthouse around midnight local time tonight.

The skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan made a key move early this morning when he chose to stay west, close to the Scilly Isles where he found more wind and was able to accelerate ahead of his rivals, most of whom had stuck close to the Cornish coast.

Dolan, 34, from County Meath, has had a good record racing to the Fastnet in recent editions of the annual French multi-stage solo race. Last year he also led the race and rounded third, en route to finishing fifth overall.

After two disappointing stages to Lorient and Fécamp, Dolan is hoping he has saved his best for the last leg, a marathon 685 miles leg which started from Roscoff Sunday afternoon and should finish into Saint Nazaire on the French Loire-Atlantic coast late on Thursday.

With 70 miles to sail to the Fastnet, he was more than five miles clear of the next sailor, France’s Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who led Dolan round the rock last year. Macaire, who lies second on the overall standings after three of the four stages, has been fast all afternoon and was closing miles on the Irish leader.

I was kinda expecting this ranking following my route to the west of TSS. I knew I was ahead but I didn't know by how much. It’s great to be in this position, especially when I feel like I’m heading homewards towards Ireland. I come from a small town which is in the northeast of Ireland, north of Dublin, almost on the border with Northern Ireland.” He told the race media team on board the guard boat,

Explaining his strategy he said, “I had seen from the files that it was more wind in the west, and that there was something to do. I lost everyone with the fog last night and the AIS not working. I had my doubts, I thought I was the only one going that way. But we have also Philippe (Hartz) and Maël (Garnier) I think it was them as I heard them talking in the radio. The Fastnet, I must have passed it about 50 times because I spent a lot of time in Baltimore, and we often went out there often.”

“Right now the sun is shining, it's great if a bit rare at this time of year. I'm afraid there won’t be much wind when I get to the lighthouse. This morning, I slept a lot and now I'm steering a lot to get to the Fastnet because I would like to get round before the bad wind arrives. I feel like I'm on the right timing I think, I have my fingers crossed, I might get some good luck from Ireland.”

In English Dolan said, “I am happy with my position at about 80 miles from the Fastnet, I think we will arrive there about midnight Irish time, it will be a bit of a pig because I was looking forwards to seeing Ireland, so I won’t see much of it this time around. I am happy to be going there just the same. The conditions are fairly good at the moment. I have around 20-24kts of wind and am under big spinnaker with a bit of swell over the back of the boat and I am pushing along at 12-13-14kts. I am happy with what happened. On the GRIB files I had seen there was a but more wind in the west and sailed very low and it seemed to work. I was a bit doubtful heading into the fog but here we are, voila, voila.

Tracker here

Published in Tom Dolan

After a promising tenth place on the 627 nautical miles first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro, Ireland’s Tom Dolan was fighting something of a rearguard battle after a modest start to Stage 2 this afternoon off Lorient.

At the exit from a challenging four leg round the buoys sprint stage, leaving Lorient, Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kinsgpan was in 24th place over one mile behind the early leader, French ace Tom Laperche.

Dolan was staying cool and planning to stick to the strategies discussed with weather guru Marcel Van Triest who advises the Lorient Grand Large group that the Irish skipper has been training with since his days in the Mini650 class. A slow down was predicted for early evening some three or four hours after this afternoon’s 1400hrs start. As the 34 boat fleet approach Belle Ile on the early part of a 100 miles downwind passage to Rochebonne light, the NE’ly wind should go light and so present some opportunity for a catch up.

But in terms of the General Classification he was in good shape, starting the 490 miles stage round Brittany with a deficit of 2hrs 15 minutes 41 seconds on the leader of the race Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) 47 minutes behind third placed Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) and within a handful on minutes of the top five.

His tenth place on the first leg as a great morale boost for him, not least as an opening benchmark in the 34 boat fleet. But this second stage passes through all of Brittany’s notorious tidal traps including Raz du Sein at Ushant and the Raz Blanchard – or Alderney Race – as well as an often challenging finale into Fécamp – and so big time gaps can be opened or closed depending on timing at these key stages and the prevailing wind strength.

As he cast of his lines from Lorient this afternoon, in bright sunshine Dolan commented,

“The weather is looking that there might be no really big tidal gates unless we are behind the routing we have. We get stuck a bit at Penmarc’h tomorrow but you never know. Because the wind has been in the North East for so long it might mess up the tides a bit in the English Channel but let’s see. The focus straight away is getting off the start line better this time and not being left behind, and not crashing into anyone. This first part has a lot of manoeuvres and so they need to be clean and then you need to be quick tonight. I know this passage to Belle ile and to Rochebonne pretty well, I’ve been out there more times than I have had hot dinners!”

“This is a good old fashioned La Solitaire coastal course. There will be hardly any time to sleep, maybe a bit of a siesta before the chenal de Four but it not like the first leg when we could sleep a lot on the upwind in the open waters of the Bay of Biscay. But with this high pressure system centred over Ireland and Scotland the thing is it will upwind almost all the way. That should, I hope be good for me as I had pretty good speed upwind, I have a little magic setting for my jib that I have worked on. That was good in the strong winds, but let us see.” Dolan explained on Saturday as he did his final strategic planning.

“It has been a good stopover for me. I feel rested even if I struggle to sleep. This morning I found myself up at four in the morning doing weather, but I kind of figure that is OK. As long as I bank sleep when I am feeling tired then I do find it is better to try and stay in the rhythm of the race.” He explained.

“The English channel will be interesting. I have two very different routings and need to see how it plays out nearer the time.”

The stage is expected to finish into Fécamp on Wednesday morning, which would in theory mark the halfway point of the four stages race.

Tracker chart here

Published in Tom Dolan
Page 1 of 11

Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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