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Renowned Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is set to showcase his upcoming documentary "Around my Island" this St. Patrick's weekend at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. The documentary focuses on Dolan's record-breaking attempts to sail solo around Ireland's coastline. The screening of the documentary will be part of the Irish national holiday celebration and will provide a unique insight into Ireland's stunning coastline.

See the YouTube trailer below.

The documentary follows Dolan as he sails around the 700-nautical mile stretch of Ireland's coastline, passing through historical landmarks that serve as milestones of his journey. The film also delves into Dolan's personal journey, from his unlikely rise to the pinnacle of sailing to the people who know him best and understand what drives him to undertake one of the most challenging feats in the sport.

The film includes interviews with leading commentators, including W M Nixon, who documented Dolan's round Ireland speed record attempts on Afloat. As regular Afloat readers will recall, Dolan's second attempt was dashed by Storm Ciaran last November.

The screening of "Around My Island" will be followed by a discussion session with Tom, where he will share his experiences and insights on the journey. The session will be conducted in both English and French, and early booking is essential due to limited availability. 

Published in Tom Dolan
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Tom Dolan halted his latest Round Ireland speed challenge on October 31st  due to worsening weather  forecasts off the South and Southwest coast. It was a disappointing decision for him and his team and a great many readers who had been avidly following his record attempt.  Afloat's coverage of that decision included commentary based on a Tom Dolan Racing Team press release that caused Tom and his team upset, which was never  Afloat's intention. We are, therefore, very grateful to Tom for bringing clarity to a number of our assumptions while touching on some of  the many factors that led him to conclude he needed to retire to Dingle Harbour. 

In light of the recent article on Afloat, I want to respond to comments that were incorrect or based on incorrect assumptions. As the sailor concerned, who had the best available weather and forecasted sea state information at the time, who has known that coast since I first went offshore and who ultimately made the decision to stop with no external influences, I feel it important to clarify a number of assumptions in the original article.  

Safe Havens 

The phrase that  was included in the Tom Dolan Racing Team press release - "Dolan 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 - I think was misunderstood or taken out of context. 

The intention was not to suggest that the South and Southwest coast of Ireland doesn’t normally have safe places to shelter. What we wanted to convey was that the tidal and weather conditions on the night in question had rendered it unsafe for me in the given circumstances, as can happen in many regions (Northern Brittany is a good example). 

I have included an example for one of the ports mentioned in the Afloat article, Cahersiveen, below, which is dredged at 1.9 metres. 

Cahersiveen

Below is a tidal graph for low tide on that night. 0.33. (Let’s call it 0.4)

a tidal graph for low tideTidal graph for low tide

1.9 + 0.4 = 2.3  Metres 

Draft of Beneteau Figaro 3 = 2.5. Metres 

This example shows that using this port was simply not possible. The same was the case for many of the ports mentioned, apart from Knightstown.  

There was an amazing full moon during the entire trip, and there were exceptionally big spring tides, with a tidal coefficient of 96, meaning a larger-than-normal range. 
  
The forecast for the night at the Fastnet was 35 to 45 knots GRIB, meaning possible gusts of over 50, especially during the passing of the cold front, with a swell of 4.5 increasing to 4.9 metres and higher with a 7-second period.  The period is a very important factor here. 

A gale warning for strong gale force 9, as well as a heavy swell warning, had been issued by Met Eireann. 

The north harbour of Cape Clear was mentioned in the Afloat article. By the time I would have arrived there, there would have been 35 possibly gusting 45+ knots of wind from the West-Northwest. 

Dropping the sails and then tying up any boat safely in the north harbour of Cape Clear in these conditions, at night, at low tide, is extremely dangerous, and I would argue almost not possible. It is important to call attention to the dangers of a lee shore. 

In addition, I needed somewhere to shelter the boat not only for the night in question but also for the following week or more as there was a storm that was arriving with its associated heavy swell.  

There were many factors to consider: Firstly, and most importantly, the height of tide. Secondly the wind and sea forecast for that night. Thirdly, the forecast for the following week or more. 

So I reiterate, and stand completely by our statement, that there were no safe ports for me to shelter in. This is a statement of fact, given my evaluation of the conditions forecast for that night. I have the competence and experience to make that evaluation. 

I accept that we could perhaps have added "for the night in question", or "with the current forecast" or even simply "tonight" in our press release but I hope you will understand the fatigue and disappointment I was feeling at the time. 

The main objective of this record was to showcase the beauty of the Irish coast while creating an event that would appeal to the general Irish public who are not sailors. Everybody loves a record! 

I would never criticise any part of the coast and to suggest so was quite hurtful to both me and my team. Imagine my disappointment at having to pull out, especially added to the fatigue of a long and difficult racing season during which I have spent the equivalent of almost 150 days at sea. 

Shore team 

The Afloat article also suggested that decisions about safe havens and weather forecasts were made by my “shore team – particularly in France”, and described my team as “Franco-centric in their outlook, opinions and decisions”.

There were no French people working with me on the weather. There was one Irish, one Spanish and one Dutch person advising me. One of whom is the best of the business and has won multiple Jules Verne trophies and Volvo Ocean Races. None of them advised me to stop or to go on - this is not how on-land routing functions. 

The only person of French nationality in our team for this project was managing social media, and he does not sail. 

So I disagree with your suggestion that we are "franco-centric" in our decision-making process. We are professionals, and the decisions we make are based on years of experience. I consider myself lucky to work with a great diversity of nationalities (7 different) , and I see this as a huge strength, as in any high-performance sport or business. In fact, strategy building and decision making at sea is a methodology based around a hierarchy of factors that are always changing and which are the same in whatever country you are sailing (sea state, synoptic wind, tide, local effects, racecourse geometry etc.....)
  
I and I alone made the decision to halt the record attempt due to the dangerous sea state forecast along the Southwest and South coast of Ireland. It’s a decision which I stand by. 

There were absolutely no outside influences or pressures from anyone, including my sponsors.  

Tom Dolan on his record run Photo: AfloatTom Dolan during his Round Ireland record run Photo: Afloat

The dangerous sea conditions, which were pushed from the Atlantic by the approaching Storm Ciaran, had been a concern since before we left Greystones , so this was NOT a sudden or "abrupt" decision. I was ahead of the record, but actually 5 or 6 hours behind the routings and thus slightly too late for the safe window that I had targeted to get around the SW corner of Ireland before the sea state and wind forecast deteriorated. The forecast for wind and sea state along the SW and S coast had been worsening at each update since I started and on all GRIB files. In meteorology, it is important to follow tendencies as they are often a sign of the evolution of what is to come.  

Strong wind by itself is not really a problem, and the boat is designed and maintained to a standard that allows for it. I always set the limit at conditions less than might cause a capsize by a breaking wave.

This significant wave height and the reduced wave period (I must reiterate the wave period being the key point here) combined with the direction of the swell from the SW and wind from the WNW causing a crossed sea are definitely very relevant to the decision. It was not safe to sail into these conditions, so I took shelter in what I felt was the only suitable port.

There were absolutely no communications coming to me from anyone to suggest that I was putting myself or the project in danger. I have the experience and competence to decide this on my own. 

The conditions encountered at the start of this year's Fastnet race and those forecast for the night in question are simply not the same. Comparing courses that are held during the summer months, like the Round Ireland and Fastnet Races, to ones done in November is unbalanced as weather systems do not evolve or displace at the same rate.

Attended marinas 

Your Afloat article also claimed that “The setup of a solo sailor in a voluminous 36ft Figaro 3 with foils to be protected means that the only reasonable berthing option is a proper marina, with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night”. 

I don’t know of any marinas in Brittany, or western France, that are open 24/7," with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night". They are not private companies in France, but public bodies run by local town councils so the attendants go home at 6 o'clock and they have great holidays. 

The marinas can also be quite cheaper, but even during the day, you will struggle to find an attendant to take your lines. 

The foils are actually the toughest part of the boat, numerous start line tests have been done. They are designed to generate 300 kilograms of maximum vertical lift.  

Please see a photo of a Figaro 3 on a mooring buoy for your records. It is easily possible, actually quite easier than larger cruising boats with a higher gunwale and a heavier displacement. We even have two anchors on board. 

A Figaro 3 on a mooring buoyA Figaro 3 on a mooring buoy

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a fridge, and the toilet arrangements are far from ideal so extended stays can lack certain comforts. 

Published in Tom Dolan
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A statement from Tom Dolan Racing, issued at 07:54 on the morning of Wednesday, November 1st after his anti-clockwise Round Ireland Campaign from Dublin in his Figaro 3 had been abruptly brought to a halt at Dingle on Tuesday evening (October 31st), when it had seemed to be very successfully on track, has since been causing controversy with a comment about the availability or otherwise of safe havens on the coast of southwest Ireland between Dingle and Kinsale.

Tom Dolan’s anti-clockwise Round Ireland challenge this week had been going so well. After starting on Sunday afternoon, he’d hurtled along in a cleverly-chosen weather window to such good effect that he was on course on Tuesday afternoon to be furthest west, at the Blaskets, just 48 hours out from Dublin Bay. At that stage, the winds he was experiencing were being fed by a new low developing immediately west of Ireland, which would move slowly northwest away from Ireland, briefly clarifying its identity before eventually absorbing with other systems.

The complexities of sailing non-stop round Ireland are well illustrated in this recording of tracks sailed during the 2018 Round Ireland Race from WicklowThe complexities of sailing non-stop round Ireland are well illustrated in this recording of tracks sailed during the 2018 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow 

FAVOURABLE CONDITIONS APPEARED TO BE DEVELOPING

Yet although the winds being provided by this un-named low would involve a windward slog from the Blaskets to Dursey Head, at the time the immediate predicted winds in his sailing area were not shown as getting above 30 knots, and some areas were much less. As well, once the Blaskets were put astern, he could have found periods of smoother water by tacking into the mouths of the rias of the southwestern seaboard while the southeaster continued.

Then the later further freshening forecast for the latter end of Tuesday evening would come with a frontal system associated with that new western low, bringing a period of possibly strong but favourable southwest to west winds – an extremely helpful direction for the Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan Dolan Round Ireland Project at that stage.

Admittedly all these winds were giving greater pressure than their speeds indicated, thanks to the exceptional denseness of the current air quality. But having been sustained for weeks and months by the marvellous images of the French J/133 Pintia and her 77-year-old skipper Gilles Fournier thundering to windward to the Class 1 victory in 40 knots of wind in July’s Fastnet Race, we never doubted for a moment that a Figaro 3 could take it and more off the coast of Kerry this week as the wind direction looked to become more helpful

Vive la France! The spirit of French offshore racing at its best in July 2023’s Fastnet Race: the Fournier family’s J/133 Pintia slogging to windward in strong winds in open water, with 77-year-old Gilles Fournier helming on the way to the Class 1 win. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethVive la France! The spirit of French offshore racing at its best in July 2023’s Fastnet Race: the Fournier family’s J/133 Pintia slogging to windward in strong winds in open water, with 77-year-old Gilles Fournier helming on the way to the Class 1 win. Photo: RORC/Paul Wyeth

THREE DAY CIRCUIT?

And it would have brought the Dolan boat back to Dublin Bay by early Wednesday evening in conditions admittedly windy and squally, but in such a favourable direction by then that some of us were even musing on the possibility of Tom breaking the three day barrier.

But in France, where Tom’s previously very accurate routing adviser appears to have been based, emphasising the more distant Storm Ciaran was in the national sailing establishment’s best PR interests. It needed to put the most favourable spin on the fact that only one class in the supposedly all-oceans-challenging fleet of boats racing the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Ultim mega-trimarans, had managed to get completely away from Le Havre on time and on track at noon on Sunday, while two others – the Ocean 50 multihulls and Class 40 mono-hulls - had simply nipped round the corner inside Ouessant, and gone into Lorient as a handy hurricane hole.

Things were very different from Ireland off France’s north coast on Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in that mass of spray and more solid water is Pamela Lee off Greystones at the helm of the Class 40 Engie-DFDS-BrittanyFerries in the early stages of the special Le Havre to Lorient leg in the Transat Jacques Vabre Race 2023. Photo: Thomas DeregnieauxThings were very different from Ireland off France’s north coast on Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in that mass of spray and more solid water is Pamela Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Class 40 Engie-DFDS-BrittanyFerries in the early stages of the special Le Havre to Lorient leg in the Transat Jacques Vabre Race 2023. Photo: Thomas Deregnieaux

IMOCA CLASS REFUSAL

As for the mighty world-girdling IMOCAs, they had flatly refused to go to sea at all, with the few who said anything remarking that they hadn’t built extremely expensive specialist 60-footers to race in the Great Southern Ocean for the silly purpose of being seriously damaged in freak conditions in the Bay of Biscay. Thus it looked as though they’d make their start a week late tomorrow (Sunday), on which the PR men can of course put a favourable spin by claiming that Le Havre is getting two TJV starting festivals for the price of one, but now it seems the 40 IMOCAs won’t be sent on their way until Monday

STORM CIARAN APPROACHES

That’s for consideration later this weekend. Meanwhile, back on Tuesday, the steady and accurately forecast journey of Storm Ciaran towards the western end of the English Channel was dominating all meteorological and public thinking and the international news media. But already it was being made clear – and was subsequently borne out as the weather pattern unfolded - that only the extreme south and southeast coasts of Ireland would be affected, and not until early Thursday morning. This would eventually bring adverse easterlies and possibly nor’easterlies to those areas, but had Tom gone on, he would already have been past the Kish and into port when those headwinds arrived.

When the going is good, the heavily-sponsored lone skipper presses cheerfully on. But when conditions begin to become extreme, he may come under added pressure for caution from his shore team, and possibly even from his sponsors too. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienWhen the going is good, the heavily-sponsored lone skipper presses cheerfully on. But when conditions begin to become extreme, he may come under added pressure for caution from his shore team, and possibly even from his sponsors too. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

IRELAND’S METEOROLOGICAL ISOLATION

For in these particular weather circumstances, Ireland was a long way from France and even southwest England. We were experiencing our own weather stream of average early November weather, whereas southwest and southern England and northwest France were to bear the full brunt of Storm Ciaran on Thursday. But as he has been based in Brittany since 2011, Tom and his team tend to be Franco-centric in their outlook, opinions and decisions.

Thus although those of us who have sailed round Ireland many times were looking at the local conditions with hope on Tuesday afternoon, in France everyone was pumping up the big glooms. In that atmosphere, the French mindset saw the coast of southwest Ireland as the toughest frontier of all against on oncoming super-storm. And it was their meteorological service that named it Ciaran as though to emphasise the Irish involvement, such that Tom began getting communications to the effect that he was putting his project and team at seriously dangerous risk if he continued.

The frequently spooky appearance of the Blasket Islands can have an adverse effect on the thinking of a lone skipper already under pressure from his shoreside team.The frequently spooky appearance of the Blasket Islands can have an adverse effect on the thinking of a lone skipper already under pressure from his shoreside team

SPOOKED BY THE BLASKETS?

It cannot have helped that he and his accredited media man were approaching the Blaskets at the time. Most people have a vision of the Blaskets as a sunny and exotic kind of place, for those are the photos that are usually circulated. But having frolicked in a notably able boat in and out through the Blasket Islands in an extremely grey and freshening easterly, I can assure you that this can be one very spooky place indeed, and we were extremely glad to get safely into Port Magee and snug in front of the stove in The Moorings Inn that evening.

DEFEAT SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

Thus in trying to understand why a hitherto successful project saw defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory at the north end of Blasket Sound with the seemingly sudden decision to divert into Dingle and call off the challenge for now, we have to realise there were many factors involved that do not apply to independent skippers making their own decisions.

With high-powered Irish-based international sponsors, Tom Dolan is always under pressure to produce successful results, but a disaster is something to be totally avoided Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienWith high-powered Irish-based international sponsors, Tom Dolan is always under pressure to produce successful results, but a disaster is something to be totally avoided Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

We have to accept that in the world’s current ultra-febrile state, big time international corporate sponsors do not want to be associated with what will be seen as unnecessary risk and possible tragedy linked to what most of the general public will see as a very arcane challenge of only specialist interest. For if things went wrong, the tunnel vision of popular media would immediately raise associations to the 1979 Fastnet Tragedy happening in broadly the same area, thereby further stretching the Dolan support team’s crisis management resources.

CALL-OFF CAME FROM EXTERNAL PRESSURE

Under such pressure, Tom’s decision to call it off with the faint hope of having another go before Christmas – despite the harsh nights becoming grimly longer with every passing day – sustained those of us who had been rooting for what had seemed an exceptional performance, even though we couldn’t understand why he hadn’t at least gone on past the Blaskets and continued to give it a try until conditions really did oblige him to put into a handy port.

The sudden alteration of course into Blasket Sound on Tuesday afternoon, and then on into Dingle, was confusing for those followers who reckoned that Tom Dolan was well on track for a record despite the prospect of some windward work off the Kerry coast. Their confusion was heightened by the official statement about withdrawal not being issued until Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to note that at the time of withdrawal, the wind arrows were indicating a fresh southeasterly wind, which would have offered the option of occasional smoother sailing in the mouths of the Kerry and West Cork rias while beating towards the first easing of direction at Dursey Island, and beyond that the wind was expected to veer to the southwest and then west.The sudden alteration of course into Blasket Sound on Tuesday afternoon, and then on into Dingle, was confusing for those followers who reckoned that Tom Dolan was well on track for a record despite the prospect of some windward work off the Kerry coast. Their confusion was heightened by the official statement about withdrawal not being issued until Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to note that at the time of withdrawal, the wind arrows were indicating a fresh southeasterly wind, which would have offered the option of occasional smoother sailing in the mouths of the Kerry and West Cork rias while beating towards the first easing of direction at Dursey Island, and beyond that the wind was expected to veer to the southwest and then west.

Thus we were all on his side and very understanding until he issued his official report, and one statement in it was so out of court that the Dolan Support Movement in Ireland was, for a day or so at least, holed below the waterline. Here is the update in its entirety:

“Dolan halts Round Ireland record challenge in Dingle

Because of a rapidly worsening forecast, Irish sailor Tom Dolan has had to stop his solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Dingle, 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.

Winds to storm force 9 and 5 metre seas with a very short, confused wave period are about to hit the SW of Ireland and Dolan 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.

"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 when he was safely tied up 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."

"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."

THE HAVENS OF SOUTHWEST AND SOUTH IRELAND

We cannot allow the slur on the havens of southwest Ireland to pass un-challenged, particularly as it is not a direct quote from Tom himself. For Tom Dolan, having first sprung to prominence through his outstanding showing as a sailing beginner and then an instructor with Glenans in Baltimore, is surely well aware of the string of wonderful natural harbours – safe havens every one – that are there to be found between Dingle and Kinsale.

 (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available

Consequently we feel that some of the statement’s assertions result from communications misunderstandings between Tom in Dingle and his shore teams in France and Dublin.

INDEPENDENT ANCHORING ABILITY VERY USEFUL IN POPULAR SOUTHWEST CRUISING AREA

The fact is that, for any well-found cruising boat in the southwest area, it’s simply a matter of having proper and more-than-adequate ground tackle, and efficient means for its convenient deployment, retrieval and stowage, for which chain is still the best of all, as it’s self-stowing when given a proper vertical locker directly under the windlass.

But this emphatically doesn’t apply to a Figaro 3. Have you ever seen a photo of a Figaro 3 lying to a mooring, let alone swinging gently to her own anchor? Me neither. They are One-Trick Ponies, built exclusively to be raced short-handed from one fully-furnished and 24/7 staffed marina to another, with all shoreside facilities – preferably in a town or village – available in every case. They are not built to lie to their own anchor or a mooring, though if you were trying to avail of the latter, you’d find it easier to come to it stern first.

Tom Dolan making fast in the marina at Dingle in the gathering dusk on Tuesday evening. Note the special fender required to protect the vulnerable foil. Photo: Gary DelaneyTom Dolan making fast in the marina at Dingle in the gathering dusk on Tuesday evening. Note the special fender required to protect the vulnerable foil. Photo: Gary Delaney

SEVERAL MARINA FACILITIES

As it happens, there are several sheltered marina facilities of various sizes between Dingle and Kinsale - they’re at Knightstown, Cahirsiveen, Lawrence Cove on Bere Island, Dromquinna at Dunkerron on the Kenmare River, and North Harbour at Cape Clear. Elsewhere, such as at Courtmacsherry, there are small pontoons, while alternatively there are visitors moorings, though you need to be sure they really are annually serviced. And there’s an abundance of naturally sheltered anchorages that usually offer the option of an ultra-sheltered corner to hole up in if you feel the weather is really going to go crazy.

But the setup of a solo sailor in a voluminous 36ft Figaro 3 with foils to be protected means that the only reasonable berthing option is a proper marina, with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night.

The Fastnet Rock in a winter storm. The ready availability of images like this, and the worldwide awareness of the Fastnet Race Storm of 1979, tends to affect overseas assessments of what the weather in Ireland is like at any one time, and what it is likely to become in the days ahead.The Fastnet Rock in a winter storm. The ready availability of images like this, and the worldwide awareness of the Fastnet Race Storm of 1979, tends to affect overseas assessments of what the weather in Ireland is like at any one time, and what it is likely to become in the days ahead.

That latter requirement is a big ask in a place like southwest Ireland. But it’s a scurrilous libel on an entire region to suggest that the area lacks safe havens. And it’s an assertion that, if allowed to go unchallenged, will have an adverse international effect on the number of overseas visiting cruising yachts, whose presence adds so much to the waterfront scene at many small visitor-reliant ports in what is, after all, Ireland’s most popular cruising area.

Thus our assumption is that the false assertion about the lack of safe havens is not Tom’s own, but is an attempt by his shore team – particularly in France – to put his challenge termination in a favourable a context as possible. But as a result, a sweeping and completely inaccurate generalisation has been made about Southwest Ireland by someone unfamiliar with the inshore coastal details of the area, and as a result false and damaging misinformation is being conveyed to an international readership.

Published in W M Nixon

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

Tuesday morning 0815 hrs -  As he expected, Tom Dolan, with his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan, is finding the challenge of getting past the majestic southwestern seaboard of Kerry and West Cork the most demanding part of his current Round Ireland Record bid.

The local low-pressure area off Shannon Mouth and the Clare coast is losing its identity as its centre moves slowly across Ireland in an easterly direction, and any northwest winds to the west of it have faded in the face of more vigorous north-moving systems taking over the weather picture, with increasingly strong southerlies the pattern for later today.

Tom Dolan, sailing fast on his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan during his Round Ireland Speed Record Challenge Photo: AfloatTom Dolan, sailing fast on his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan during his Round Ireland Speed Record Challenge Photo: Afloat

However, while he has still been in the wind with it increasingly from ahead, he has sailed on to windward towards the Clare coast, and is now well southwest of the Aran Islands, making about six knots on a track which at 0800hrs was headed towards Kilkee.

After he has closed the land to find the smoothest water available, he then has the option of keeping it close aboard as the southerlies settle in properly. Although getting past the Blaskets may be a rugged business, once achieved he then has the choice of finding smoother windward sailing in the mouth of both Dingle Bay and the Kenmare River.

Tom Dolan is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary on his 'faux' solo Round Ireland Challenge by onboard media man Andrew Smith (on stern) Photo: AfloatTom Dolan is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary on his 'faux' solo Round Ireland Challenge by onboard media man Andrew Smith (on stern) Photo: Afloat

But with Dursey Island put astern, the coast is trending on a northwest-to-southeast axis, and he’s likely to have a real slugging match before reaching the Fastnet Rock. There, a significant course alteration to port may provide the opportunity for a close reach on track along Ireland’s south coast if the wind hasn’t backed too much to the southeast or even east as the signs of the approaching Storm Ciaran start to become more evident.

Thus, any small advantage fully utilised today will be all to the good, as Tom and his boat will be racing against the remorseless advance of the outliers of Storm Ciaran.

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Monday 4pm - Wind conditions with strong easterlies, "enhanced" by dense air, have been so favourable and powerful for Tom Dolan's anti-clockwise Round Ireland challenge that he has been able to downgrade the significance of favourable tides. Having breezed through the North Channel with insouciant style in the dark, at 16OO hours this (Monday) afternoon, he's 24 hours on his way and will soon be halfway across Donegal Bay at a
current average speed of between 9 and 11 knots, well within sight - were visibility better - of the northwest corner of Mayo.

Thereafter, progress south from Eagle Island, and particularly once Slyne Head is astern, will be increasingly dependent on the continuing eastward progress of our current dominant low-pressure system. Its centre is currently about 40 miles west of Shannon Mouth, but as it is part of a larger system, all of which is likely to become less clearly defined as Storm Ciaran approaches through Wednesday, Tom is acutely aware that things could get messy as he approaches the Blaskets, where the frequently confused sea state greatly increases the benefit of a good fair wind.

So far, it has all been done with an impressive flourish. But with every southward mile made good, the likelihood of a less favourable scenario increases, with the majestic coast of Kerry and West Cork being a major challenge in themselves. Thus, if the low-pressure sub-system slows in its eastward progress, it's even possible that he'll shape his course well to the west to find the more favourable winds chasing the depression.

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Monday 0900am - After 17 hours at sea, Tom Dolan is making strong progress off the Donegal Coast on Bank Holiday Monday morning, having departed Dublin Bay just before 4 pm yesterday in a northabout bid to break the solo and double-handed Round Ireland speed sailing record times. 

After Dolan's first night at sea along the north coast, his prediction that he could have favourable following winds for the entire circumnavigation is holding up. He appears to be over 60 miles ahead of Michel Kleinjan's single-handed record of four days,1 hour, 53 minutes and 29 seconds from 2004. (See tracker below).

As Afloat reported earlier, Dolan made an epic start to his second Round Ireland bid this year, but this October attempt sees the Meath sailor opting for an anti-clockwise routing.

His top speed so far is over 17 knots achieved in the tides of the North Channel last night. 

At around 0830 hrs this morning, he was already on the NW corner and ready to attack the west coast in very breezy conditions. He is expecting strong easterly winds gusting over 30 knots.

If Dolan can finish before 11:32 on Thursday he beats the double-handed record and if he wants to set a "faux" solo record (as he is sailing with a media man onboard) then he has until about 1740 on Thursday evening to cross the Kish line.

At this point, it looks very achievable because if he averages eight knots overall he will finish about midnight Wednesday and, in an extraordinary performance since Sunday's start, he has averaged over 11 knots.

But it won't be all plain sailing, however, as some forecasts now show a big hole in the wind on the west coast yet to be negotiated and followed then by some strong headwinds.

A forecast showing a hole in the wind on the west coast for Tom Dolan's Round Ireland record bidA forecast showing a hole in the wind on the west coast for Tom Dolan's Round Ireland record bid followed by strong headwinds (below)

Tom Dolan's foiling Figaro 3 craft can reach speeds of 20 knots Photo: AfloatTom Dolan's foiling Figaro 3 craft can reach speeds of 20 knots Photo: Afloat

Dolan reports from onboard, “The night was good, a bit breezy, but there was not too much sea and so it was alright. I had 40kts of wind just off Bangor. It got a bit hairy. But I have a good reef in the mainsail and have an old J3 jib up so I don’t have very much sail up and am making good speeds. I am feeling fine. I had a lot of naps last night. The wind is quite up. I have 33 kts at the moment and the wind is up at the moment. I have only the two sails up – no spinnaker – as the wind is quite dense, this cold Irish damp air is really pushing the sails. I am going to gybe in a few minutes and start heading down the west coast. All good, life is good.

Sailing counter-clockwise, leaving Ireland to his port hand side, at around 0830hrs this morning he was already on the NW corner and ready to attack the west coast in very breezy conditions Photo: AfloatSailing counter-clockwise, leaving Ireland to his port hand side, at around 0830hrs this morning Tom Dolan was already on the NW corner and ready to attack the west coast in very breezy conditions Photo: Afloat

Based on current GRIB files, Dolan's team say they expect him to complete the 700 miles in 3 days and 16 hours, meaning Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt's double handed record, in a Figaro 3 sisterhship, of three days, 19 hours, 41 minutes, and 39 seconds also appears under threat.

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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.

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 Ireland's leading solo sailor, the French-based Tom Dolan, is still waiting at Greystones Harbour Marina in County Wicklow for the right wind to embark on his second bid at the Round Ireland speed sailing record.

Sunday night (October 22) brought the prospect of ideal conditions for a start off the Kish light on Dublin Bay, only for a late shift in the weather forecast to thwart plans.

"We have reviewed the latest forecast and decided not to go this evening. Winds are light on Tuesday off the coast of Clare, and the LP 973 is coming in Wednesday with 30-40 knots", Dolan said.

It is now considered 'unlikely' that the right conditions will be present this week for Dolan's latest adventure to round Ireland in under four days and break the 2020 doublehanded record, according to the bid lodged with the World Speed Sailing Record Council. He is also attempting what he describes as a 'faux' solo record and carrying an onboard reporter.

Whenever the bid happens, it will be a journey of 700 nautical miles around Ireland and all its islands; his seven-sail boat can hit speeds of up to 26 knots, or 52km per hour, but averaging much less than that, about seven knots.

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Day One (start): Just coming up to 4pm on Sunday, 29th October 2023, Ireland's leading solo sailor, the French-based Tom Dolan, embarked on his latest adventure to round Ireland in under four days and break the 2020 doublehanded record according to the bid lodged with the World Speed Sailing Record Council. He is also attempting what he describes as a 'faux' solo record.

The wait is over, and at 1500 hours and 50 minutes and 33 seconds, Dolan headed north, leaving behind the starting line between Dún Laoghaire harbour and the Kish lighthouse to establish a new time for the fastest sailing time around Ireland.

Fast sailing - Tom Dolan made a great start to his Round Ireland record bid off Dublin Bay Photo: AfloatFast sailing - Tom Dolan made a great start to his Round Ireland record bid off Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Before the start, Dolan said: “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.

It’s a northabout journey of 700 nautical miles around Ireland and all its islands; his seven-sail boat can hit speeds of up to 26 knots, or 52km per hour, but averaging much less than that, about seven knots.

“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 is accompanied by Andrew Smith, a media man who, of course, will not be involved in the boat's performance. “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.

Dolan at full speed in the early part of his record bid with media man Andrew Smith documenting the attemptDolan at full speed in the early part of his record bid off the Dublin coast with media man Andrew Smith at the stern documenting the attempt Photo: Afloat

Dolan was rewarded with 15-knot winds from the southeast at start time and big following seas to sweep past the startline at full speed under spinnaker.

The forecasts say he will get strong easterly winds of 25-30kts around the north coast of Ireland before winds become westerly on Wednesday, which he hopes will carry him around Ireland entirely downwind.

This afternoon's record start time was officiated by Irish World Speed Sailing Commissioner for Ireland Paddy Boyd, who authenticated the record bid at the Kish Light.

In order to comply with the rules of Irish maritime affairs prohibiting single-handed sailing for several years, the skipper will be accompanied by a media man. Under no circumstances will the latter affect the performance of the boat, Dolan claims.

Dolan has agreed with the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) that he will attempt to break the 'Round Ireland Double-handed less than 40ft record'.

Dolan hopes to return to the Kish within three days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds to break the doublehanded record and set a new 'faux' record solo record Photo: AfloatDolan hopes to return to the Kish within three days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds to break the doublehanded record and set a new 'faux' record solo record Photo: Afloat

While the WSSC is not recording this as a solo attempt (as Dolan has a journalist onboard), Dolan says he is also seeking to set a 'faux record' by attempting to break the Belgian Michel Kleinjan's solo 2005 record time.

Reference times are 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 Figaro 3 of 3 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds.

All going well, Dolan is expected home on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning with a predicted time of 3 days and 16 hours based on current GRIBS

See the tracker below

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Great Lighthouses of Ireland

St John's Point, Co Donegal 
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Rathlin West Light, Co Antrim
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Wicklow Head, Co Wicklow
The Great Light and Titanic Walkway, Belfast
Hook, Co Wexford
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Valentia Island, Co Kerry
Loop Head, Co Clare
Clare Island, Co Mayo
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