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Ireland's Tom Dolan who won Ireland's best-ever finish in the 2020 race is back on the La Solitaire du Figaro line next month.

The 52nd edition, which will start from Saint-Nazaire on August 22, promises to be quite a spectacle. Throughout the 2,400 miles to go, the 34 registered skippers include 12 rookies.

Five former stage winners will be present - Fabien Delahaye, eric Peron, Alexis Loison, Gildas Mahe and Xavier Macaire. There are no former winners of the race.

On the skippers' programme: four particularly demanding stages, stopovers in Saint-Nazaire, Lorient, Fecamp, Baie de Morlaix and famous crossing points in La Coruna (stage 1), Isle of Wight and Saint Gowen (stage 3 ) as well as the Isles of Scilly and calling to Irish waters when the fleet rounds the Fastnet lighthouse during stage 4.

Dolan appears to be on form. He is fresh from success in this month's Solo Concarneau race where he finished fifth overall in his final test before the Figaro race marathon.

As regular Afloat readers will know, Dolan earned himself the coveted Irish Sailor of the Year Award for his outstanding Figaro achievement, so the prospect of him doing better in his third bid is a tantalising prospect for Irish offshore sailing fans.

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan proved his preparation for next month’s La Solitaire du Figaro is on course when he finished a very tough, testing Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten race in fifth place from 33 starters.

Exhausted after sleeping for just one snatched hour between Thursday afternoon’s start and crossing the finish line back in Concarneau at 15:44 hrs local French time this Saturday afternoon, Dolan was quietly content that his only solo race so far this season – and the last before La Solitaire - went well and most of all that his carefully planned strategy paid off.

“My face is burning with the constant barrage of seawater over these last 36 hours, it has been quite an extraordinary race.” Smiled 37-year-old Dolan from County Meath, “In Ireland, we are maybe used to getting four seasons in one day but this race had everything from no wind to 35 knots, burning sunshine to thunder and lightning and heavy hailstones and no visibility. So it was a difficult race to stay on top of and so it feels good to come away with a result.”

Smurfit Kappa- Kignspan skipper Dolan and French ace Gildas Mahé – who sailed together on the Transat en Double race earlier this season – sought the weather strategy advice from Marcel van Triest, one of the world’s leading racing meteo experts and his ideas paid off.

“Basically we broke away to the east to stay to the north of a weather trough for as long as possible and that paid for us. At about six hours before the finish, I started to feel confident I could make a good result when the wind changed as I expected it to and I was able to see the fleet under me.” Dolan reported.

Smurfit Kappa-Kingpsan was sixth at the Birvideaux mark early in the course and eighth at the most southerly turn. “These are kind of arbitrary positions because one minute you can be third and the next 11th the fleet is so close and the angles changing all the time on a race like that. And so I really did not watch where the others were, I sailed my own race according to what I could see on the water and in the clouds. Really I tried not to focus on the others at all and that works for me.” Tom Dolan concluded, “But for sure I made the right sail choices at the right time and seem to be fast enough.”

Fifth place in this fleet matches Dolan’s career best fifth on last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan set off this afternoon on his final solo offshore race test before La Solitaire du Figaro, starting the 33-boat 380 nautical miles Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten.

After a season which so far has largely been dominated by double-handed races, the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan is relishing the return to solo sailing and looking to return a good result before the year’s pinnacle event, the four-stage La Solitaire du Figaro which starts 22nd August.

The course takes the fleet northwards to a turning mark off the island of Ushant before turning to the south and sailing to a southernmost turn at the Rochebonne Plateau, south of Les Sables d’Olonne and the Vendée coast.

Although the northwest of France has been sharing the same heatwave conditions – fiery temperatures and only very light winds – that have prevailed in the north of Europe over recent days, the weather is set to change Friday with thunderstorms as the prelude to an Atlantic low-pressure system between Friday and Saturday ushering in rain and strong breezes.

“I am really looking forwards to being solo again. I have learned a lot from both my co-skippers recently but it is time to go solo and put that into practice. I feel pretty sharp because I have sailed so many miles already this season.” Said Dolan before leaving the home port of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Concarneau.

“We might see 30 knots into the finish on Saturday but before that there will be a bit of just about everything. So for sure this race is not going to be over until the finish line and anything can happen.” Dolan explains, “And all the names are out here on this race and so it is a good benchmark prior to La Solitaire. On the one hand you want a good result to give a bit of confidence going forwards to La Solitaire, on the other hand you really don’t want a bad race at this stage as it might have the opposite effect. The main thing will to stay alert and focused.”

“The most difficult aspects are the conflicting effects of the gradient, synoptic wind (the wind generated by the weather systems) and the sea breezes (thermal winds caused by temperature differences between sea and land) and then there is a low pressure trough which we are literally sailing along rather than across and so the weather will be very unpredictable.” Dolan outlines.

The skipper told the race media, “ The main difficulty will clearly be this trough Friday morning which will generate clouds and thunderstorms and we risk getting stuck for a while. That said there might be opportunities here too. Then it will be speed more we should finish the course under a gennaker with 25 knots of wind going fast on the edge. Racing solo always adds a dose of adrenaline that I can't wait to get back to. I’m all the more motivated as I’m racing from home. I really want to sail well and finish with a feeling of a job well done. The last two stages of the Tour de Bretagne à là Voile didn't go too well for me and I don't like to be stuck with a bad feeling. With La Solitaire fast approaching, I want to build up my confidence. "

The race is expected to finish back into Concarneau Saturday afternoon. Dolan finished 14th on this race last year.

Published in Tom Dolan

A faltering wind and strong contrary tide put paid to the hopes of Ireland’s Tom Dolan and French co-skipper Tanguy Leglatin of rescuing a solid final race result on the Tour de Bretagne à la Voile which finished today in Quiberon, Brittany. Dolan and Leglatin, sailing Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, were one of the ten boats in the field of 32 which were timed out, crossing the finish line outside of the time limit today and so scoring maximum points.

This dropped Dolan and Leglatin from his intermediate standing of eighth on the General Classification after Saturday’s 25th place finish which was also scored in light and fickle conditions. “It is not the way we wanted to finish the week. We have had a tough couple of days that did not go our way. We made a few mistakes which we have learned from but ultimately in this fleet you have to be able to be consistent all the way through the week and we did not manage that.” said Dolan on the dock in Quiberon at the end of the seven racing stages which started in Saint Malo a week ago on Saturday. “We are disappointed, of course we are, but this was not a key regatta, this was most of all about validating the new sails I have for La Solitaire and for sure I have been quick enough, but unfortunately that is not enough if you are going in the wrong direction.”

Afloat adds: RL Sailing Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee finished 24th in the fleet. Download results below as a PDF file

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After four of the eight races which constitute the Tour de Bretagne à la Voile, Ireland’s Tom Dolan who is racing Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan with coach Tanguy Leglatin, lies in eighth place in the 32 boat fleet.

Buoyed by his first-ever podium position in the Figaro Beneteau 3 class, finishing third on Sunday’s Saint-Malo to Saint Quay Portrieux passage race, Dolan and Leglatin today returned a solid ninth place on the longest leg of the contest’s eight races, the 133 nautical miles stage from Saint Quay Portrieux round the westernmost tip of Brittany to Douarnenez.

After the fleet split not long after Tuesday’s start it was an inshore group which included Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan that profited on the change of tide in the very light wind conditions. But things did not go so well for the Dolan Leglatin duo. By Roscoff they had slumped into the 20s but in the rock-hopping, tricky tidal sailing they were able to recover.

“It is not going too bad, we are pretty happy to be eighth overall as there are a lot of the good guys have been up and down whereas we have been relatively consistent.” Said Dolan sounding tired after the 23 hour overnight race which proved especially intense given the light winds, strong tides and regular dousing from the rain showers.

“It was great to get that first podium place, it was in light, shifty downwind conditions and we sailed quite well. Now if we can keep regular we should do OK. We are just 14pts off the podium so it all there to do.”

The fifth leg is a 46-mile stage from Douarnenez to Dolan’s home port of Concarneau which starts and finishes Thursday.

“"It would be nice to have a good result into our home port for sure, but I'm not getting carried away. We will do our best and see what happens. It should be raced downwind in 5 to 15 knots of wind. We’ll take that.”

Afloat adds: RL Sailing Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee are lying 27th in the fleet. Download results below as a PDF file

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The 13th Edition of France's Tour De Bretagne a La Voile kicked off yesterday (2nd July) with the Prologue race, which saw the 32 teams in a challenging battle with light winds around the Bay of Saint-Malo.

For the first time in race history, two Irish boats are on the start line.

Race debutantes Dun Laoghaire and Greystones Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee under the RL Sailing Team banner are sponsored by Hanley Energy. 

Tom Dolan, who achieved Ireland's best-ever finish in the Figaro last year, is teamed up with French Coach Tanguy Leglatin Tanguy. Dolan and Leglatin are sponsored by Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan.

Tom Dolan and Tanguy Leglatin (second from left) in the Tour De Bretagne a La Voile prologueTom Dolan and Tanguy Leglatin (second from left) in the Tour De Bretagne a La Voile prologue

THE RACE COURSE

The 13th Tour de Bretagne continues with the same ambition that has made it so successful: to welcome and bring together fans of the circuit, outstanding racers, as well as youngsters who come to learn their trade before launching themselves into shorthanded offshore sailing.

The short but sporty stages offer a lot of suspense thanks to the numerous difficulties of the coastal navigation. The double-handed race is filled with technical and tactical courses vary from 24 miles to 350 miles along the French Coast. Many of the skippers will have raced and experienced these waters before as part of the Figaro circuit, but for newcomers such as Irish ‘Bizuth’ Pamela Lee of RL Sailing Team, this will be a new, complex and tactical navigational challenge to take on.

“The landscapes are sumptuous and the playground exciting from a navigation point of view: currents, tides, rocks, sandbanks, mythical lighthouses, varied and sometimes changing weather ... there is really something to enjoy and/or tear your hair out.” - explains Jean Coadou, Race Director

THE COMPETITORS

The now traditional Tour de Bretagne A La Voile is a key event in the Figaro circuit, and is a part of the French elite ocean racing championship. The race has an amateur and a pro ranking, and like the rest of the Figaro circuit sees highly experienced ocean racing champions on the same race course as ambitious new-comers, as well as every level in between.

Ireland has had three skippers partake in the race to date, Damian Foxall in 1997 and 1999, Joan Mulloy became Ireland’s first female entrant in 2017 and Tom Dolan raced in 2019.

THE Tour De Bretagne a La Voile SCHEDULE

  • July 2nd: 12h30 - Prologue
  • Saturday, July 3rd : 12:30 - Start of the race Saint Malo -> Saint-Quay-Portrieux
  • Sunday July 4th : 10h00 - Start of the race Saint-Quay-Portrieux-> Saint-Quay-Portrieux
  • Monday July 05 : 15h00 - Start of the race Saint-Quay-Portrieux-> Douarnenez (arrival in Douarnenez on 7/07 in the morning) 
  • Thursday 08 July : 08h00 - Start of the race Douarnenez -> Concarneau
  • Friday July 09 : 11h00 - Start of the race Concarneau-> Concarneau Grand Prix " Guy Cotten
  • Saturday 10th July : 10h00 - Start of the race Concarneau -> Quiberon
  • Sunday July 11 : 10h00 - Start of the race Quiberon-> Quiberon 8:00 p.m. Prize-giving ceremony for the Tour de Bretagne à la Voile 2021
Published in Figaro

Top Irish offshore racer Tom Dolan will sail the upcoming Tour de Bretagne with leading French coach Tanguy Leglatin seeking to land a solid result for Smurfit Kappa and new co-sponsor Kingspan and to keep his preparation for mid-August’s La Solitaire du Figaro on course.

One month on from racing across the Atlantic on La Transat en Double Concarneau -Saint Barths with Gildas Mahé, Dolan is delighted to be back sailing his own Figaro Beneteau 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan and is raring to get going again, this time with one of France’s top offshore coaches, Tanguy Leglatin who has coached Dolan since 2017.

Dolan enthuses, “Tanguy I have always got on well with since 2017. We have always got on. I invited him to come race with me and he said yes, that was back in December. He has done a lot, lot, lot of coaching in all the classes, the Figaro, IMOCA, Ultimes. He knows these boats so very well, mostly looking at them from off the boat with the coach’s eye and developing them all the time, so I am looking forwards to racing with him.”

Leglatin is the principal coach at the Pole Lorient Grand Large and brings a wealth of experience on board Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan for the Tour de Bretagne which starts Friday 2nd with a Prologue before the 33 nautical miles race from Saint Quay-Portrieux to Saint-Malo. After that there is a mix of short 22-50 miles hops on either side of the longest stage, Monday’s 250-275 miles race from Saint Quay to Douarnenez. The race finishes 11th July with a final 24 miles sprint out of and returning to Quiberon.

It is a very positive reflection on the esteem that Dolan is held in among his peers in Brittany that the Irish sailor was asked to race the Transat by Mahé and now Leglatin has agreed to abandon the coaching support boat to race with Tom. “Tanguy is a good guy. He has a great outlook on sails and the sensations you should be feeling on the boat and so he is great to sail with.”

Dolan smiles when he recalls their first meeting back in 2017 when he was admitted to the elite Lorient group. “He is famously impossible to get in touch with, a real Breton in that way, he doesn’t answer his phone often and doesn’t respond to e-mails. In 2017 when I wanted to get in the good group with the Mini, one day I finally got him on the phone and I said ‘I’d like to come and join the group’ and he said ‘Sure, why not?’ But I never heard from again, he never answered his phone or emails. So I just rocked up at a training session and he pretty much said nothing to me but didn’t tell me to get lost. I’ve never looked back. And so we have got on since then, he appreciates I work hard and what I am trying to do. “ He adds, “Tanguy is very good on the weather and the tides and where to go, he knows these areas and the little local effects and he is good on boat on boat tactics which I am still not good at.”

The added sponsorship support of Kingspan alongside Smurfit Kappa has allowed Dolan to upgrade his sail programme from this race forwards, “It is great to have been able to get new sails, it is all new. The gennaker has changed a lot since last year and the mainsail a little bit too” He notes enthusiastically. “The Transat was great but it was mainly downwind and so I am really confident in my speed there but the great thing really is having spent so much time on the boat everything feels easy and intuitive. I learned a lot about just making sure you are completely in phase with the wind. The only thing I need to do is still look after my ankle a bit (Tom injured his ankle and had to pull out of his first regatta of the season in April), especially as the courses can be quite short, but in general the ankle is good and the muscle Is building again and I am running and working on it in the gym. The physio is happy. I never really had time to do that before the Transat as I was still pretty much rehabbing it before the start.”

Having been in the top 3 for much of the race to Saint Barth’s and finishing eighth, Dolan regards the race to the Caribbean as very useful experience, highlighting the positives. “ We were disappointed with the final placing in the race but we did a good race. We sailed a good race and did not get the finish we wanted which is better than doing a bad race and jagging a good finish at the end, getting lucky. That gives me way more confidence up against the very good guys, the rock stars.”

Their goal for the Tour de Bretagne is a top five. Dolan smiles….”…at least. It is a key race on the French Elite Championship and important training before La Solitaire which is the big one. And this is the first race in the colours of Kingspan so I want to do well for them especially.”

But right now all courses work up to the ‘big one’ La Solitaire du Figaro which will be especially brutal this year with no fewer than three stages of more than 600 nautical miles in length. “ The main thing I am looking to do it is to be all ready and prepared super early so that in the weeks leading up to the start I am maximising rest and minimising stress and effort. That is really all I can do, but for example, I have been doing all my homework early, looking at the tides and all the potential scenarios so that I know them backwards, and even like now, doing the delivery up to Saint-Malo (from Concarneau) is valuable because it covers a good section of the course so we can stop and look carefully at some of the rocks and tidal flows at different times.”

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Irish skipper Tom Dolan strengthens his long term solo and short handed Figaro Bénéteau offshore racing programme after agreeing an exciting new support package with Kinsgpan, the building materials and insulation group which operates in 70 countries worldwide and is headquartered in Kingscourt, County Cavan, close to where Dolan grew up.

The objectives are to increase the company’s profile and strengthen knowledge of its core values and to highlight its ten year global strategy for sustainable development, ‘Planet Passionate’. This plan acts on three major global concerns: climate change, circularity and the protection of our natural environment. The skipper for whom the oceans are both his valued workplace and a playground is a daily witness to impact and damage that plastic waste causes to the seas and oceans and has long since established himself as an ambassador for change, seeking to educate as many people as possible about the future of the planet.

“Planet Passionate” includes twelve ambitious goals that focus on four key areas: energy, carbon, circularity and water. Through this effort, Kingspan aims to contribute to the renewable energy mix of the planet, to reduce its carbon emissions, to recover waste initially going to landfill, to preserve water resources, to provide recycling solutions for plastic waste and to help clean up the world's oceans and protect biodiversity.

By committing to offshore racer Tom Dolan the company sees itself as taking a small step further in line with the actions that 'it is already working with ECOALF to collect plastics from the sea and integrate them into the production cycle through its partner Synthesia Technology.

Common objectives include recycling one billion plastic bottles per year until 2025 as one of the axes of the Kingspan group's“ Planet Passionate ”sustainable development plan. Their mission is to accelerate the transition to carbon neutrality by putting people and the planet at the heart of its action.

“This is completely in step with my own philosophies, how I have evolved my programme to run, and corresponds to my objectives: to have the most eco-responsible boat possible and to set a new benchmark for monitoring the carbon footprint ”, explains Tom Dolan, who is supported by Smurfit Kappa the global specialist in the manufacture of paper-based packaging who are also very committed to the environment through its “Better Planet Packaging” initiative.

“I am honored that a company like Kingspan chooses to trust me. This is a company that I have known for many, many years as I grew up in a village located right next to the town of Kingscourt. Kingscourt where my mother would take me for a walk in a park, Dun na Ri, next to Kingspan's headquarters. I feel like I grew up with them and having their support is a huge boost, not only for me but also for Irish sailing and ocean racing more generally ".

Being involved with an international sporting programme like Tom Dolan’s project represents an opportunity for Kingspan to broaden the scope and reach of their international action. Dolan races are the highest level on the Figaro Bénéteau 3 circuit, the first mass-produced sailboat equipped with foils, a highly innovative marine technology which is expected to become a key part of maritime transport of tomorrow, without depending on fuel fossils.

Even more, the sailor from County Meath in Ireland beside where Kingspan is headquartered, is very much hoping to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games in the offshore mixed doubles, which is an excellent means of communication with a global audience to highlight the importance of the future of the planet.

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Gildas Mahé have been coming to terms with a slightly disappointing outcome following a very close finish to the Transat en Double Concarneau to Saint Barthélemy race.

The Franco-Irish duo finished very early on Monday morning, crossing the line in eighth place in the 18 boat fleet. After more than 3,890 nautical miles or 18 days and 8 hours of racing, during which they spent the majority of the time in the top three or top five, when they crossed the finish they were less than 15 minutes shy of a top five position which was their pre-start target and less than one hour short of the elapsed time of the third placed boat.

At three days before the finish into the Caribbean island the Smurfit Kappa supported Dolan and his French counterpart seemed to be well set for a placing on the podium, tussling within a handful of miles of the leaders. But their strategic choice to stay south, along with many of the leading players in the class, found them suffering with less breeze – and although they bit the bullet and went north to try and consolidate with the fleet – the duo on Breizh Cola ­lost places and had to settle for eighth.
“That is the way it goes sometimes in this sport. It is a tough one to swallow because with Gildas I feel we had sailed a good race. We made the right choices all the way and we were quick downwind, clearly, eighth is a bit lower than we had hoped for.

But even until the day before the finish we could still have got on the podium. At the end of Sunday we crossed with the northerly group and we considered they had gybed too early so we went on so we thought we would get a better angle to th line at Saint Barths but that was our mistake. We held on too long and let a few of our rivals get away from us at the last minute. We lost big time and that is hard to take.” Said Dolan on the dock in Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy.

“After 4,000 miles of racing where we were constantly in contact and even racing in sight with some boats, it was finally a gybe that cost us something like ten miles and our podium chances. But that is the way it goes in the Figaro.” Acknowledged Dolan.

He adds wryly, “All that being said, in my head I am happy that we had a good race and got stung near the end which I would actually much rather than have a mediocre race and then jag it, getting lucky near the end. And being honest this is actually the first time that I’m disappointed like this because we didn’t win or end up on the podium when we had the potential, the game and the boat to do so. With Gildas, we did things well and we have don’t have anything to be ashamed of. We fought well and gave it all we could. The Figaro Bénéteau3 is tough, demanding and you have to work hard. We finished pretty much completely burnt out, especially since we had to fight with the weed and some rudder issues. On starboard tack, the boat was bad. We were always on edge and you had to steer with both hands to keep it under control.”

Dolan concluded, “We had a lot of trouble but with Gildas we formed a great duo. We hit it off and I learned a lot of things that will help me a lot in the rest of the season and especially on La Solitaire."

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The last 450 miles of the Transat en Double Concarneau to Saint Barthélemy sees the leaders of the 18 boat fleet finely balanced with a group to the north which has been gaining and the long-established leading pack which have been slowed slightly in lighter airs.

In the southern pack are Ireland’s Tom Dolan racing with Gildas Mahé on Breizh Cola were lying in fourth place, less than one mile behind third-placed Guyot Environnement sailed by Pierre Leboucher and Thomas Rouxel. The leaders are TeamWork, Nils Palmieri and Julien Villion who are only seven miles ahead of Dolan and Mahé after 17 days of racing.

Weed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and Mahe, as the Irish skipper reported, There is seaweed everywhere wrecking all our fun. That and Teamwork up in the north who are screaming towards the finish stealing away hope of a podium at every pointage. They have a very light ridge of high pressure to get through though, so that is our hope, the same ridge we have dived south to avoid. They should be able to sail straight at the finish, but in very light winds, whereas we have to zig zag along the south of it, in winds that are not exactly strong. Up until now it has been all about wind pressure rather than the angle of heading, let’s just hope that it stays that way.”

seaweed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and MaheSeaweed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and Mahe

They were six duos on the north route eight on the south route. If the southerners had an advantage in recent days, the balance seemed to have turned. Since Thursday the routing had swung to favour northerners including the current leader who are also positioned in the north: TeamWork.

“The southerners were faced with sluggish winds today, Friday,” confirms Yann Château of the Race Direction, race director. “The southern group has regained speeds in line with the weather forecast while a soft zone is forecast for the next few hours in the north.”

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