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Tom Dolan's second attempt at a Round Ireland speed record has ended off County Kerry, at the end of his second day at sea (Tuesday) because of the imminent arrival of Storm Ciaran off the southwest coast. 

Tonight, Dolan is tied up in Dingle Marina, citing safety at sea as the first and only consideration for him and his team.

“I am gutted, I really am because it was going so well and I was quick with some really high sustained speeds around the NE corner where there was flat water,” said Dolan in Dingle. “I was getting gale Force 9 warnings on the VHF radio, and it was getting worse. 24 hours ago, it was looking difficult but doable but not now.”

Tom Dolan ties up in Dingle Marina. He has had to stop his solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Kerry, despite being more than 80 miles – or about 10 hours - ahead of the existing record pace after having sailed more than half the 688 miles course on his boat Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Photo: Gary DelaneyTom Dolan ties up in Dingle Marina. He has had to stop his 'faux' solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Kerry, despite being more than 80 miles – or about 10 hours - ahead of the existing record pace after having sailed more than half the 688 miles course on his boat Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Photo: Gary Delaney

The difficult decision was made to abandon the attempt after some record speeds down the west coast had been achieved and head for Europe's most westerly marina in County Kerry on Tuesday (October 31st) afternoon.

“I will take stock in a while but immediately, I need to look after the boat. But there are worse things going on in the world and for sure there are worse places to be than Dingle”, he added.

Dolan said he was not prepared to take the risk on his 36-foot Figaro Beneteau 3, particularly 'with no safe havens to shelter in on the SW and S of Ireland'.

Eagle-eyed observers had already twigged the development when Dolan's track was spotted inside the Blasket Islands on Kerry's coast, contrary to the record course rules.

After making the Blasket Islands in 48 hours, the tracker shows Tom Dolan heading for shelter at Dingle Harbour ahead of Storm CiaranTwo days into the challenge, the tracker shows Tom Dolan heading for shelter at Dingle Harbour ahead of Storm Ciaran on Tuesday, October 31st

Dolan had made impressive times over the past 48 hours since setting off from Dublin Bay on Sunday afternoon and was running well ahead of the existing double-handed and solo times. 

He had made the County Mayo coast in 24 hours and was averaging 7 knots, and only needed to average 4 to beat the record, but weather forecasts indicated he would be challenged by 30-knot headwinds up to the Fastnet Rock tonight.

 Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat  (Above and below) Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat  Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat 

Dolan's reference times to beat were the 2005 solo record by Kleinjans aboard a Class40: 4 days, 1 hour and 53 minutes and 29 seconds and the doublehanded record set in 2020 by Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt on a Figaro3 of 3 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds, meaning he had until Thursday, 2 November at 11:32:12 to beat both. Instead, Dolan and his onboard media man, Andrew Smith, arrived in Dingle Harbour at 5.30 pm today.

As regular Afloat readers know, Dolan's southbound attempt in May fell short when he encountered a foul tide and light winds on the Irish Sea. 

It remains to be seen whether it will be third time lucky for the County Meath man and if he can make another Round Ireland attempt before the end of the year.

Published in Tom Dolan

On stand-by in Greystones, County Wicklow for his second attempt at a Round Ireland speed record since early October, Tom Dolan will set off this afternoon for the Kish lighthouse startline on Dublin Bay.

After some final weather discussions with Marcel Van Triest, the famous router, the skipper of the Figaro Bénéteau 3 in the colours of Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan has confirmed that he will set off on Sunday between 1500 and 1600 hrs UTC. 

"Dolan hopes he will be sailing downwind practically from start to finish"

“I’ll be taking advantage of a SE’ly wind to set sail. The wind is expected to back Easterly and then NE’ly as I make my way around the island, which should mean I will be sailing downwind practically from start to finish, with just a short tricky stretch on Tuesday afternoon around the Fastnet, due to an area of light winds, but which should not last,” explained the Irish sailor, who will set off anti-clockwise around Ireland.

“If the weather forecast is right, I would hope to cover the 698 miles in three and a half days,” said Tom, who, respecting Irish shipping rules, must keep a permanent watch and remain alert. He will be accompanied by Andrew Smith, a media man who of course will not be involved in the performance of the boat. “It all seems to be falling into place, which means I am optimistic. In any case, I must not hang around as a nasty weather system (gales) is due to sweep across Ireland on Wednesday,” the sailor concluded.

The outcome of his latest bid will be known on Tuesday.

Published in Tom Dolan

Noted marine climate expert and weather router, Chris Tibbs has commented that the Round Ireland Ireland Record poses one of the most intriguing yet manageable sailing challenges on earth. And it's particularly so when you're doing it in a mono-hull in the 30ft to 40ft size range, when your maximum potential speed is such that you're likely to experience the effect of at least two weather systems coming in from the Atlantic, whereas boats like the multi-hull record holding MOD 70s and the mono-hull Titleist Rambler 88 could do it in the one fell swoop of fairly consistent weather conditions.

With smaller craft, the ideal is an unusually prolonged period of either west-to-northwest winds, or southeast-to-east winds, with a bit of cunning required as to when you're in the different arcs of wind direction. Beyond that, it's generally agreed that any windward work - though it should be as little as possible - is best done on the east coast. And over and above all that, it's generally agreed that the sooner and more crisply you can deal with the long stretch through the North Channel between the South Rock Light and distant Malin Head - in the midst of which the tides are at their most ferocious at Rathlin Island - then the better it is for the overall project.

In looking at this midweek's developing southeast-to-east wind pattern, many seasoned observers had assumed that solo sailor Tom Dolan with his foiling Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, would head off today bound northward, to time his arrival at the South Rock in order to maximise the tidal boost all the way to Malin Head in a strengthening fair wind.

"Things don't look good at all for rapid progress from Tory Island back to Dublin Bay"

For sure, a boat like this minimises the effect of tides. But they matter nevertheless, particularly as regards sea state, and being west of Malin Head in minimal time with a prospect of the wind drawing more from the east to favour rapid progress south down the west coast seemed a sensible idea, with the only unknowable being just when he would begin to feel the initially adverse effects of the new weather system bringing in wind from the south.

If he had made good southing going anti-clockwise while the easterlies lasted, he could have been well along the coast of Kerry or even West Cork as the southerly established itself, and that would then give him fair winds all the way back to the Kish. But as it is, although he certainly looks very likely to get to Tory Island extremely quickly, things don't look good at all for rapid progress from there back to Dublin Bay. That's according to wind forecast charts for Friday, though of course he has until 06:00 hrs on Sunday to break the four-day barrier. And despite his initially slow progress off the Wicklow coast, he is now past the Tuskar and already ahead of Michael Kleinjean's established time, so clockwise or widdershins, Round Ireland is as fascinating a challenge as ever.

See the tracker below

Published in Tom Dolan

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 1800hrs: As Pam Lee and Cat Hunt continue to make good progress on Ireland's west coast northwards towards Connacht with light to moderate winds in the easterly sector, the developing weather for their Round Ireland Female Two-Handed Challenge could well produce a really remarkable time in any context, and not just in their basic ambition - under the auspices of the World Sailing Speed Record Committee – of setting an indisputable time for a Two-Handed Female Crew.

For sure, they're the first to do it in this way, and whatever time they eventually set will immediately have a special status. But nobody sails round Ireland in a vacuum. There are many who have made the circuit before in various crewing configurations, and the complexity of the story first became evident after the late Steve Fossett, Con Murphy & Cathy MacAleavey and others set a seemingly unbeatable record with the 60ft trimaran Lakota in September 1993.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

It was reckoned that a significant peak had been reached - and it had, as the record stood for a clear 23 years. To mark its establishment, the National Yacht Club – Con and Cathy's home club – staged a gala dinner to which everyone who had ever achieved a significant round Ireland sailing time was invited, and a historic list was compiled which traced circuiteers as far back as 1889.

At the time it was reckoned there must have been some intrepid voyagers before 1889, but nobody knew of them until determined maritime researcher Wally McGuirk came up with a special book published in 1983 which was based on the logs of a mid-19th Century Dublin Bay sailing man called William Power. The collection included incontrovertible proof that he sailed his 25-ton cutter Olivia round Ireland in 1864, just four years after the great "Kingstown to Queenstown Race" from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour in 1860 had seen the first indications of modern offshore racing.

Yet there's something about sailing round Ireland which makes those who do it for the first time feel like complete pioneers, while those who have done it more times than we can remember – whether racing, cruising or record-setting – never fail to be delighted by its apparent novelty each time round.

Thus it's something very special. And as we contemplate the determination of Pam Lee and Cath Hunt as they face into their second night at sea, knowing that once Slyne Head is abaft the beam they're past the halfway mark and already in the homeward leg with a record inside four days within sight, it's surely timely to respond to readers who have requested that we outline vaguely comparable performances which have emerged from the forty years of the Round Ireland Race.

Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times

Kirsteen Donaldson & Judith Eastwood

In particular, readers have drawn attention to Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood from Hampshire, who have done no less than four Round Irelands in the two-handed division in Kirsteen's X332 Pyxis. They've also done several Fastnets and other offshore races, and in general they're the kind of quiet enthusiasts who are the backbone of the RORC programme. But while they've been in the frame in several other races, the sheer challenge of Round Ireland is revealed by the fact that their best elapsed time, achieved in 2018, was 5 days 20 hours 5 minutes and 3 seconds.

Yannick Lemonnier & Aodhan Fitzgerald

A more pointed two-handed performance was achieved with the special doublehanded division's introduction in 2004, when Yannick Lemonnier and Aodhan Fitzgerald with the new Figaro 2 Do Dingle went round in 4 days and 6 hours.

Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.

It still stands as the two-handed record for the Round Ireland Race. And much and all as it's invidious to make comparisons between a race at a pre-set time and a carefully-planned record attempt, it gives us an impressive time to consider as we admiringly monitor the remarkable progress of Iarracht Maigeanta around our eternally fascinating coastline.

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 1400hrs: The Great Foze Rock has come and gone well to starboard at 12.15hrs today in the lengthening litany of marks of the course as Pam Lee and Cat Hunt continue their impressive campaign to set up a Two-Handed Female Crew Round Ireland Record. The most westerly outlier of the Blasket Islands and therefore the most westerly point of the orthodox circuit course, the Great Foze is completely unmarked by any navigational aid for day or night, and has been the bane of many a Round Ireland Race navigator's life as he or she tries to keep clear of it in the dark, while not causing the crewmates to sail one inch further than is necessary.

As it's not specifically named in the circuit specifications, when Lloyd Thornburg's Mod 70 Phaedo was setting up a new record in an anti-clockwise direction in 2016, they went inside the Great Foze as it provided their helicopter crew with fantastic footage through mixing it a bit more with the dramatic scenery of the magnificent Blasket Islands.

Subsequently, in order to preserve the sanctity of Phaedo 3's new record, on April 1st 2017 declared that the rock had become Grande Ilheu de Foze, and was now officially not Irish at all, but had become part of Portugal's Arquipelago dos Acores (Azores Archipelago).

Way way far back in the day, however, the lonely rock was treated as being very Irish indeed by the late Chieftain of Inishvickillaune Charlie Haughey. On one exceptionally calm summer's day with the Atlantic like glass, he and his family and guests on Inishvickillaune ventured out to the Great Foze, where they managed to get ashore and have a party, and in departing they thoughtfully left behind a bottle of Cork Dry Gin and several glasses to enable the next visitors to do the same.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

Such thoughts will have been far from the minds of Pam Lee and Cat Hunt as they sail north with the wind well forward of the starboard beam and making between 7 and 8 knots, but with things looking good for a further veering of the now moderate breeze to give them more pressure and a better slant to make faster progress towards the coast of Connacht.

But before leaving the Great Foze altogether, let's hear it for Pippa Hare who, in the stormy Round Britain & Ireland race of 2018, actually remembered to take a selfie with that loneliest of rocks in the background. It really is there, folks, and all you navigators who sweated blood making sure you avoided it weren't wasting your time.

Pippa Hare and the Great Foze Rock in 2018Pippa Hare and the Great Foze Rock in 2018

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 0900hrs:  The Magenta Round Ireland two-handed record challenge Record campaign from Dublin Bay by Pam Lee and Cat Hunt of RL Sailing and Greystones has logged an excellent start in its first 24 hours. They put the Fastnet Rock astern at 0400hrs this morning, and at 0745 hrs – just 24 hours after they started from the official records Kish Lighthouse-Dun Laoghaire Pier line in Dublin Bay – they were passing Dursey Head, the first headland of the majestic Kerry coast.

Having made many good miles in sometimes boisterous but always favourable northwest to northeast wind, they are now facing lighter conditions off the southwestern seaboard, something which had been predicted as the breeze veers until eventually, it's hoped, it will settle in more firmly as an easterly to give fair winds as far as distant northwest Mayo, when it's even possible another veering will provide a reach across to Tory Island.

Pam Lee and Cat Hunt at 0945 this morning off the County Kerry coast. Scroll down for live tracker belowPam Lee and Cat Hunt at 0945 this morning off the County Kerry coast. Scroll down for live tracker below

That's some time in the future. Meanwhile, the Magenta Shore Team, headed by Kenneth Rumball, are well pleased by the relatively steady progress past the often tricky stage from the Fastnet to Dursey. And while at Dursey Head itself there was a slight pause as speed fell back to 5.5 knots, they'd soon found the veering nor'easter had settled in with more vigour to give them better than 8 knots, and comfortably on track for the next course adjustment at Skellig Michael.

It's said that any single sailor, soldier or airman on active service needs about seven people providing background comprehensive support ashore, and while the Magenta Project direct shore management team doesn't quite reach the total of 14 this might suggest, nevertheless it's an impressive international array of talent. Headed by Kenneth Rumball of Irish National Sailing School, it includes communications co-ordination by Volvo Ocean Race media veteran Brian Carlin (originally of Kerry), while tactical and strategic advice is continuously available from ashore through Miles Seddon and Libby Greenhalgh, and additional support comes from Hannah Hunt (Cat's sister) and Abby Elher of the Agenta Project.

Brian Carlin of Kerry headed the international press team on the 2017 Volvo Ocean Race, and is much involved on he shore team with the Magenta ChallengeBrian Carlin of Kerry headed the international press team on the 2017 Volvo Ocean Race and is much involved on the shore team with the Magenta Challenge

Behind it all is the benevolent but very effective presence of Big Daddy. aka Marcus Hutchinson of Howth, Kinsale and Brittany, whose exceptional knowledge of campaigning a Figaro boat is rivalled only by his access to boat resources in areas like IMOCA 60s and the entire Figaro selection. It was Uncle Marcus who came up with the state-of-the-art Figaro 3 which had made this possible, and much helpful advice and encouragement with practical support has come from him with it.

There are many other less direct supporters in technical, equipment and sail services, while the stamp of officialdom is provided by Chris Moore of Dun Laoghaire, the former National YC Commodore who is currently in the onerous role of DBSC Honorary Secretary, yet somehow finds time to be Ireland's World Sailing Speed Records Commissioner too, and thus his presence on the start line yesterday morning in DBSC's Committee Boat Freebird made it all very official.

Chris Moore of DBSC and the NYC is Ireland's World Sailing Records CommissionerChris Moore of DBSC and the NYC is Ireland's World Sailing Records Commissioner

Yet even with all the shoreside support and widespread goodwill, for much of the time, it comes down to two female sailors very much on their own out in the Atlantic in volatile weather. Although the next underlying problem may well eventually be a softness of wind strength as high pressure gradually comes to dominate the weather systems, yesterday evening there was plenty of wind about from the north as Magenta Project scooted along far at sea off the coast of East Cork, and at 1910hrs there was a sudden adjustment of course downwind and an easing of speed which caused concern for those ashore about sail or rigging damage.

But instead, it was a prudent easing of the pressure in order to change as safely as possible from the A5 spinnaker - which had carried them so well and so quickly from Dublin Bay - to the now more useful Code Zero, and in the relatively conservative approach which had underlined the first day of the challenge, this was very much the right way to do it, and soon they were back to 12.5 knots, and blasting west into the night, on towards the Fastnet.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Record Tracker

Offshore duo Pamela Lee and Cat Hunt who have announced an October bid to set a new Female Round Ireland sailing speed record now say the record run will start from the Kish Light and not as originally indicated off Wicklow.

Co-skipper Lee, says "we will actually be sailing the course set by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, which starts from a line off Kish lighthouse and can go either clockwise or anticlockwise – so not the Round Ireland Race route as originally specified", Lee told Afloat.

The record bid will be based out of Greystones Harbour in County Wicklow, Lee's home port.

Record bidders: Cat Hunt and Pamela Lee on board the Figaro 3 at Greystones Harbour Marina this morning Photo: James Kirwan/BJ MarineRecord bidders: Cat Hunt and Pamela Lee on board the Figaro 3 at Greystones Harbour Marina this morning Photo: James Kirwan/BJ Marine

The countdown is now on and the pair could be making the record anytime after October 12. 

As well as setting an inaugural female record the pair also want to have a stab at the Double Handed Round Ireland record along with breaking the outright monohull record and the under 40ft record, quite a record haul if achieved!

A rocky Irish islet in the Atlantic, a steep little place where former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and his family and friends once partied, faced being ceded to Portugal last autumn following close examination of current Round Ireland record footage. has learned that late last summer, an influential group had made approaches to Portugal in order to maintain the validity of the new Round Ireland Record as established by the MOD 70 Phaedo 3. The special group in Ireland was unaware that World Sailing Speed Records do not include the Great Foze Rock west of the Blaskets as being included in the round Ireland record course. In their enthusiasm to uphold the new record, the group was prepared to cede Irish territory to Portugal.

As a result, The Great Foze Rock – the furthermost outcrop of the Blasket Islands, and the most westerly part of Ireland after Rockall – was in future to be known as Grande Ilheu de Foze. And instead of being part of the Blaskets, it was to be included in the Arquipelago dos Acores (Azores Archipelago).

But further research revealed a slightly confused situation between the two main round Ireland sailing projects. The biennial Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow simply states that the course is round Ireland clockwise, leaving Ireland and all her islands except Rockall to starboard, and it specifically names the Great Foze Rock and the nearby Little Foze Rock, as they are the most westerly marks of the Round Ireland Race course.

However, the Round Ireland Record as administered by the WSSR has a different set of rules (and a different course distance too, as they reckon it’s 698 miles, whereas from Wicklow it’s 704). The official record is started from a line off Dublin Bay between the Kish Lighthouse and the lighthouse on Dun Laoghaire South Pier, and you can go in either direction.

Going anti-clockwise like Phaedo 3, the officially-designated course is Rathlin Island, Tor Rock at Inishtrahull, Tory Island, Eagle Island, Tearaght Island, Great Skellig, Fastnet Rock, Coningbeg Rock, Tuskar Rock and finish.

Thus it looks as though WSSR does not think of the Great Foze Rock as being worthy of consideration as part of Ireland. But the people of Kerry need not feel personally offended by this, as up in County Antrim they have a similar grievance. The Maidens Rocks northeast of Larne, which are large enough to have a lighthouse and a couple of supporting houses, likewise aren’t mentioned as a Round Ireland Record mark of the course.

Be that as it may, the situation which highlighted the situation regarding the Great Foze arose early in August 2016, when the current record was being established. The superb film and photographic images of the record-breaking MOD 70 Phaedo 3 sweeping southwards past the Blasket Island of lighthouse-equipped Inishtearaght, then speeding on to pass to seaward of Skellig Michael, showed that in order to get the most dramatic images from being as close as possible to Inishtearaght, Phaedo 3 sailed inside the 27-metre high Great Foze Rock, which is 0.8 miles to the westward of Tearaght.

This is some of the finest footage ever shot of sailing off the Irish coast, with a couple of seconds showing Phaedo passing to the eastward of the great Foze Rock to position herself for a dramatic sail-past at Tearaght Island and the Great Skellig – followed remarkably quickly by the Fastnet itself, which was 60 miles further on.

This is no way lessened the total distance sailed to set the new record. But Round Ireland Race veterans – particularly those whose memories go back to pre-GPS days – will be well aware that staying clear outside the unmarked and unlit Great Foze was always something of a navigational challenge when sailing through what could be the roughest waters experienced on the entire course. Naturally, they were surprised to learn that this storm-tossed outcrop is not part of the Round Ireland Record course.

However, in the most windless and swell-free summer weather, it is just possible to land on The Great Foze. Many years ago, in admittedly almost unbelievably calm conditions, former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey with some family and friends zoomed out there aboard a RIB from their summer home on the Blasket Island of Inishvickillane, and managed to land on the Great Foze and have a bit of a party.

In the best traditions of Blaskets hospitality, when they headed for home they left behind a bottle of Cork Dry Gin and some glasses for the next visitors. But over the years, they never heard of anyone who had been able to enjoy the benefits of their thoughtful gesture.

Published in News Update

Lloyd Thornburg's trimaran Phaedo 3 will make another attempt at the Round Ireland Speed Record tomorrow. Westerly winds are expected to reach 40–knots tomorrow giving ideal conditions for the 50–mph craft.

News of the bid that has been circulating for some time was confirmed tonight by the World Speed Sailing Commissioner Chris Moore of the National Yacht Club

The Round Ireland Speed record was broken in style in June by the Oman Sail MOD70 that subsequently capsized this month on a Transatlantic record bid.

Sidney Gavignet's Musandam-Oman Sail set an historic new record for the fastest-ever sail Round Ireland when he crossed the Volvo Round Ireland Race finish line at Wicklow in June in just 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds smashing their own 2015 record by an incredible 2 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds.

Tomorrow's record run in the American MOD 70 trimaran is understood to include Damian Foxall as a crew member. Foxall, from County Kerry was aboard Omansail for the June record and also when Oman sail capsized this month.

The run will start sometime between noon and 9pm from Dublin Bay tomorrow. The start line will be a line from the east pier to the Kish lighthouse.

Click: Phaedo3 Round Ireland Tracker

Published in News Update

The Round Ireland Powerboat bid due to get underway this weekend arrived at its Kinsale departure point by truck this afternoon. The four man bid is scheduled for Sunday and the sleek aluminium craft must be back in the south coast harbour within 18 hours 38 minutes and 50 seconds to beat the seven–year–old record. Read more about the circumnavigation here


Published in Round Ireland Power
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