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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

A hard-earned 12th place in the final coastal race (Sunday) was small consolation for Irish solo racer Tom Dolan. Added to his 13th from Saturday’s light wind windward-leeward circuit Dolan, skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan finishes the first major race of his 2022 season, the Solo Maître Coq in 19th place.

The solid short course results buoyed Dolan’s mood slightly after last week’s massively disappointing 330 miles long opening offshore race. He tore his spinnaker beyond repair midway down a long downwind leg and had to race on under small spinnaker. Desperately short of power he haemorrhaged places before picking up a few positions in light winds on the approach back to Les Sables d’Olonne. He was subsequently also penalised 10pts under the Figaro Beneteau 3 for having to swap to a replacement spinnaker for the remaining two races.

Dolan did finish with his best race today, largely holding his own around the 34 nautical miles coastal course off Les Sables d’Olonne. With good upwind speed he was 10th at the last windward turning mark but lost a couple of boats on the final run due to a problem with his spinnaker halyard.

“All in all I am fairly happy with the way I sailed. I seem to be very fast upwind which is good and the key for me is that my boat on boat stuff – which was my weak point – was OK, and these were shorter courses, like today’s which have been my Achilles heel.” Said Dolan today on the Vendée Globe pontoon in Port Olona, Les Sables d’Olonne.

“Having to sail 60 miles with no big kite on the offshore was painful, and terminal as far as a good result here is concerned. I was just sailing along and it just exploded in two. Looking back I think now that we were doing outside gybes, that is to say where the sheets run across the sail and I think that had weakened the sailcloth. But really the whole fleet passed me. It was hard but I just kept at it.”

Dolan was sanguine about the consequent rules penalty which is designed to stop sailors with big budgets develop multiple different spinnakers for different wind strengths and angles. He takes a 10% places penalty so drops to 19th overall in the 33 boat fleet.

“Them’s the rules but I felt I like I was penalised enough by losing so many places. But you have to take it and move on.” Dolan said. “But today was good it was a perfect day to work through the ranges and do loads of manoeuvres and the changes of sails.

While the wind was so light and unsettled on Saturday that just one of the two scheduled windward leeward races could be completed, today’s coastal was raced in a solid 15-18kts of breeze. The race was won by Briton Alan Roberts who Tom Dolan pairs up with for early May’s new Banque Populaire Grand Ouest Trophy for the Route des Iles du Ponant.

Published in Tom Dolan

A long, comprehensive spring season of training and preparation comes to an end Tuesday as Irish solo offshore sailor Tom Dolan takes on the first major solo race of the 2022 season. The Solo Maître Coq is the traditional curtain raiser, the opening event of the season long French Elite Offshore Championship and it has attracted a strong field of 33 entries.

The format has changed this year, reversing the order of events, so that the 340-nautical miles long offshore race is now first, starting Tuesday, followed by two shorter days of racing. Dolan completed his last training block three weeks ago now – intensive sessions, fine tuning boat-on-boat racing skills, starting and manoeuvring at mark rounding – and then raced the Plastimo Lorient Mini 650 two handed Mini650 class race with the up and coming Japanese skipper Federico Sampei, Dolan now says he is itching to be back racing solo on his Figaro Beneteau 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, not least to put all his learning and training improvements into action on the race course.

“I think I can safely say I feel like I have never been better prepared for a race. Training has gone well and I feel quite confident based on what I have seen and learned through the winter.” Said Dolan on Sunday on the famous Vendée Globe race dock Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast.

“I feel I have really worked on my weak points through this winter and my all round game has improved. We did the speed work earlier in the winter and it has been less of a fixation and I have really been working on getting off the start line well and making better starts into the races as that is what let me down too much last year.” The Irish skipper summarises.

Tuesday’s 340-mile race between Belle-Ile, Ile de Ré and Ile de Yeu is followed by coastal courses of around thirty miles out of Les Sables d'Olonne. At three days before the start the weather situation looks complicated as the different weather forecasting models do not agree with one another.

“We will just have to take it is it comes. I have done this course four times I think and so you get to know it a bit. But while I am confident in the work I have done and don’t feel there is anything I could have done more, it is always important to get out there and validate what you have been doing. And it is important to me to make a good start the season to come away with a decent result.” Smiles Dolan who had to withdraw from this race with an injured ankle in late March last year.

He is pleased the long offshore race starts this year’s programme:

“I'm always more comfortable on the long race than on the coastal ones. This will give me time to warm up! I am objective and just want a fair result as this Solo Maître CoQ has not been good for me before. The first time I kind of had a bit of a mental blow up and the second time I hurt my ankle. This time, I want to finish well and finish happy with what I did on the water” he concludes.

“Most of all at this stage it is about going out and executing and building confidence so I feel at my best going into La Solitaire du Figaro.”

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Published in Tom Dolan

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 exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France's Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland's Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

Tom Dolan in thoughtful mood after his 2021 season ended on a real highTom Dolan in thoughtful mood after his 2021 season ended on a real high

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan was in fine form last night (Friday) in Saint-Nazaire at the awards ceremony for the 52nd Solitaire du Figaro, winning the Vivi Trophy for the best-placed non-French skipper in the demanding fourth stage, and taking third place in the fleet of 34 boats. After the frustrations and setbacks of the earlier stages, Dolan found new reserves of performance and endurance within himself for the challenge of a long final race from Morlaix round the Fastnet Rock (where he was narrowly leading overall) and then southeast past western Brittany to the finish at Saint-Nazaire, where he’d staved off multiple challenges to hold onto third slot.

Such is the level of competition in the modern Figaro Solo that the Vivi Trophy - presented to the Figaro organisation by Marcus and Megan Hutchinson of Kinsale and Brittany - has become a coveted award in its own right, and this - together with the prized third place in the fourth and final stage - was a much-needed boost for the Dolan team.

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Tom Dolan with Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan threw aside the earlier frustrations of the Figaro Solo 2021 by taking third place at the conclusion of the final stage at the finish off St Nazaire tonight (Thursday). Having been in the lead in the turn at the Fastnet Rock a couple of days ago, Dolan has been in the unenviable position of fighting off challenges from the 33 other boats in mostly light winds which meant that, at any one time, it looked as though half a dozen other boats might have snatched his lead in their own private breezes.

Almost inevitably, Pierre Leboucher and Xavier Macaire took their chance when it was available, and were ahead coming into French waters and at the finish.

But In racing of remarkable intensity, the “Flying Irishman” managed to stave off the challenge for third place from his Transatlantic Race shipmate Gildas Mahe, and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was a heart-stopping two and a half minutes ahead crossing the line.

First Round the Fastnet Rock

After leading the 34 boat fleet around the Fastnet lighthouse at 0240hrs early on Tuesday morning, in dirty, wet and very dark conditions, Dolan,34, held out resolutely, duelling with Macaire down the 370 miles downwind passage to the finish line, finishing only 11 minutes and 40 seconds behind the French skipper Macaire– who finished runner up overall. Macaire crossed the finish line just over four minutes behind Stage 4 winner, French Olympian Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose). The race’s longest leg, at 687 miles, started on Sunday from Roscoff and returns to Saint Nazaire where the race started on Sunday, August 22nd.

After a promising tenth on the first leg, Dolan had two finishes he was disappointed with, 22nd on Stage 2 and then Stage 3 into Roscoff stinging him most, not just with the resulting 19th place but losing another three hours on his rivals after becoming stuck in very light winds and a strong contrary current within sight of the finish line.

Joy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro RaceJoy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro Race

Dolan is placed provisionally 15th overall.

A tired but elated Dolan smiled, “It’s great to get that first podium on La Solitaire but the cherry on the cake was being first-round The Fastnet, that was a bit special for me. It was cool. I did really just stick to my plan in the English Channel I had seen there was more breeze in the west. And there was some herd mentality going on with everyone sticking together. I spent that whole night on my own not really knowing where anyone was in the thick fog then about six in the morning it got light and there was a break in the fog and I could see the whole fleet to windward.

Coming back it was tricky. I ended up sticking with Xavier a lot and I ended up being convinced I was furthest west and south. You have no AIS, nothing so on the Figaro you know nothing.

It ends the season on a high. It shows what I am capable of when I can get to the front. I feel great, just delighted. I am a bit tired, but I really feel good. I can’t wait for next year. I have to have more confidence in myself. The second leg I was just not good and into Roscoff it was bad luck, bad timing to get stuck like that.”

Published in Tom Dolan

Having led the fleet round the Fastnet rock, Ireland's solo sailor Tom Dolan is in third place and vying for a stage four win this lunchtime in the closing stages of the 2021 La Solitaire Du Figaro off Saint Nazaire, France.

The leadership of the decisive Stage 4 was in the balance as the top group passed 82 nautical miles offshore of the NW tip of Brittany heading for the final finish line in Saint Nazaire on the Loire-Atlantic coast.

But while it has been Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) -overall leader on the General Classification - and French former 470 Olympian Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose) - who have been sharing the lead on what should be the penultimate day of racing, the last 24 hours into the finish line look set to encounter very light winds which could well mean the pack compresses and reshuffles.

A big high pressure ridge is set to become established in the west of the Bay of Biscay but even the various weather modelling software systems cannot agree on its evolution tomorrow. The skippers' weather files they left the dock with on Sunday are now well out of date and they are entirely reliant on the very basic synopsis and forecasts relayed to them from Race Direction, their interpretation of them and what they can see happening on the water.

Top ten, leg 4,09/16/2021 

1. Pierre Leboucher - GUYOT environment - Pink Ribbon, 9.4
2. Xavier Macaire - SNEF GROUP, 9.5
3. Tom Dolan - Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan, 9.4
4. Pierre Quiroga - Skipper Macif 2019, 9.8
5. Tom Laperche - Brittany - CMB Performance, 9.3
6. Fabien Delahaye - Gilbert Group, 9.2
7. Tanguy Le Turquais - Queguiner - Innoveo, 9.2
8. Gildas Mahe - Breizh Cola, 9.2
9. Erwan Le Draoulec - Skipper Macif 2020, 9.2
10. Pep Costa - CYBELE VACANCES - TEAM PLAY TO B, 9.5

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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.

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Published in Tom Dolan

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan was placing his faith in a slightly different, more westerly strategy as he left Morlaix Bay in north Brittany this afternoon at the start of a mammoth 685 miles final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan, who lies 19th overall, had left the dock saying he expected to stick with the main group as much as possible on the 270 miles leg up to the Fastnet Rock.

“I have to be nice and patient and work hard on the climb north I would say. I am going very, very low risk on the way up, stay with the group as much as possible.” Dolan said.

After three nights of decent sleep, extended today as the start was delayed until 1600hrs this afternoon because of light winds, Dolan was in a positive frame of mind, looking forwards to seeing the Irish rock lighthouse close to where he started his sailing career as an instructor at Glenans in Baltimore, “I feel a lot better than when I came in here a few days ago. I have had some good rest and am ready for this. I often do quite well going out to the Fastnet, certainly it feels like going home even if it is only hearing the weather forecasts in a nice Irish accent and knowing the French guys won’t be understanding it! But I spent a number of happy years teaching at Glenans in Baltimore near the light. I don’t think there is any extra local knowledge I might have, it will be so light, and most of these guys have been out there a few times. But I feel good, light downwind I don’t seem to be too bad at. But I want to just stay with my ‘petits copains’ (friends) as much as I can and then see on the way back.”

Reviewing the complex weather picture Dolan concluded, “There will be a lot of downwind sailing and a lot of light wind sailing. Getting up to the Fastnet is not going to be that complicated and there might be a bit of a bend in the wind around Cornwall which you have to play right. There is not too much to be gained from splitting from the pack and taking big risks and a lot to be lost. If you are a little bit behind at the Fastnet that could turn into a big kicking, a big loss. There is a weird frontal system at the Fastnet which the first boast can get through with a nice big lead.”

The fourth and final stage of the race should finish in Saint Nazaire on the Loire-Atlantic coast late on Thursday.

Published in Tom Dolan

The disappointment was etched into Tom Dolan’s tired face as he docked Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan into Roscoff this afternoon at the end of a tough 624 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro.

Having been ninth at Bishop Rock, at the Scilly Isles yesterday afternoon Dolan crossed the finish line in 19th place more than three hours and 13 minutes after stage winner Pierre Quiroga.

The final night across the entrance to the English channel proved very tough and confounded many of the other top solo racers. The breeze was very unsettled in terms of wind strength and direction making it hard to maintain a rhythm. South of the Scillies, he lost places on the east side of the Traffic Separation Scheme exclusion zone around 0300-0400hrs early this morning when racing in a tight group and then tacked away with a group to the south in anticipation of an expected increase in the breeze and change in the wind direction.

His problems were compounded when the breeze dropped and the contrary tide started building within a few miles of the finish line, Dolan being stuck with a group of others trying to make the finish gun.

Dolan grimaced, "I feel a bit sickened really. I felt like I had sailed quite well until last night and one cross, just before the wind died and then I did not get going. It was a pretty brutal stage and right now I am pretty fed up, especially sitting out there for an extra three hours fighting the tide. I feel like I sailed better than that."

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