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Ireland is fielding three of the 34 solo skippers expected to compete in this summer’s 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro race in France.

The starting gun for the first stage of the 53rd edition of La Solitaire du Figaro will sound on August 21, off Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef in the Loire-Atlantique after the fleet has paraded up the Loire from Nantes.

And this year’s edition promises to be every bit as tough and challenging as usual. The three-stage course will cover an aggregate of 2000 nautical miles (3700kms) with 34 solo skippers set to take on the annual multi-stage solo race. The field includes five women and nine rookies.

Conor FogertyConor Fogerty

Among the International rookies is Howth's Conor Fogerty (51). The Dubliner's career-highs include the OSTAR (Gypsy Moth Trophy) in 2017, a transatlantic victory that earned him the Irish Sailor of the Year title.

Tom DolanTom Dolan

After just three editions, Tom Dolan (35) of County Meath, who scored a fifth overall, the best non-French result for more than 20 years, in 2020, has realistic hopes of finishing on the overall podium this season. Dolan's sailing highlights include 2021: 10th Elite Offshore Racing Championship, 2021: 4th stage of La Solitaire du Figaro, 2021: 5th Solo Guy Cotten, 2020: 6th Elite Offshore Racing Championship, 2020: 5th La Solitaire du Figaro, 2020: 1st ViVi Trophy La Solitaire du Figaro and of course in 2020: Irish Sailor of the Year.

Kenny Rumball Kenny Rumball

The third Irish skipper is Kenny Rumball (34) of Ireland's Offshore Racing Academy, who competes in his second Figaro. The Dun Laoghaire sailor's career highlights include a 2022 Round Ireland Class win on Darkwood J121

as well as fourth in the Volvo Cork Week 1720 Division. In 2021 Rumball was a Class Winner in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and also a class winner in Rolex Middle Sea Race in the same year. 

Over the years, the Figaro event has remained the proving ground for emerging solo racers, the very top competitors often going on to success on the Vendée Globe, the demanding solo non-stop race around the world.

Since 2019 it has been raced on the Figaro Beneteau 3, a 36ft foil-assisted one design which means that the sailors compete on equal terms. It is the yearly pinnacle event on the Figaro circuit as well as the highlight of the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship.

Three main race stages

This year’s course comprises three long, tough stages all more than 635 miles in length. Starting from Nantes the stages stop in Royan and Port La -Forêt before finishing in Saint Nazaire. The focus is very much on the start port of Nantes and the finish into Saint Nazaire, key cities in the Loire-Atlantique region, which is a Major Partner of the race, complementing new main partner Paprec.

The Grand Depart takes place in Nantes on the 21st of August and the finish, the Grand Final, is some three weeks later in Saint Nazaire. Both the start and finish cities will offer popular exhibitions and festivals for visitors to enjoy in the respective race villages.

The 2022 course is summarised by Yann Chateau the new race director of La Solitaire du Figaro, who will be assisted this year by Pierre Hays, deputy race director:

“ La Solitaire du Figaro 2022 takes place in 3 stages in a format that will be hard on the bodies and minds of the sailors. Typically each will start on the Sunday for a theoretical finish of the boats on the following Thursday morning, And so the solo racers on this 53rd edition of the Solitaire will compete over long legs of four consecutive nights at sea. Success on this race is also always about the ability to recover between stages. They then will only have three nights ashore to sleep and prepare the boat before attacking the next stage. And so this Solitaire du Figaro is fully worthy of its reputation as hard, committed, challenging and very technical.

The first stage will begin with a parade in the Loire on Saturday, August 20, before a start the next day in the bay of Saint Michel-Chef-Chef. Stage 1 races from Nantes to Port-la-Forêt via Skokholm Island, a small island in the SW tip of Wales. This 644 mile long leg passes Lands End and the tip of Brittany, returning to finish in Port La Forêt. The second stage of 635 miles is more of a Channel leg from Port La Forêt to Eddystone off Cornwall and the Channel Islands before a Biscay finale across the legendary Bay to La Coruna back to finish in Saint Nazaire, more than 700 miles.”

Something new in this race is the integration of each stage of an intermediate sprint, a passage of a previously defined course mark (indicated in the notice of race). The first competitors to cross this mark will receive a time bonus towards general classification (5 minutes for the first / 3 minutes for the second / 1 minute for the third). This will be an opportunity to increase the stakes around these crossing points and to increase the tactical risk-taking during the last miles into these sprint marks. skipper, the last mile option.

A look at the Rookies and Internationals

The rookies who will participate for the first time in their sporting career in La Solitaire du Figaro are preparing to do battle up against some of the race’s biggest and most successful racers such as Fred Duthil who has 12 participations on the clock.

Typically the pathway to success on La Solitaire du Figaro usually sees podium positions on the stages progressively become overall podiums on the General Classification. A win in the Bizuth or Rookie division is often not just the first sign of emerging talent but it often is a passport to further sponsorship or commercial funding for the future. Among those who have been top rookies in the past are François Gabart in 2008, just four years before he went on to win the Vendée Globe at his first attempt.

Among the new talents, rookies on this edition are Basile Bourgnon, who is making a promising start to the 2022 season in Figaro (winner of the Drheam-Cup with Robin Follin, 2nd in the Solo rookie ranking on the Maitre CoQ, 5th at the end of the BPGO Trophy – On the Route des Îles du Ponant 2022 (with Yann Eliès), 1st Rookie, of the Le Havre Allmer Cup.) One of Bourgnon’s main rivals will be Chloé Le Bars (Région Bretagne-CMB Océane) who has already signed a 1st rookie place on the Solo Maître Coq.

Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie), selected to join the "Skipper Normandie" system over three seasons in Figaro Bénéteau 3 has an impressive CV in the 470 and in youth sailing, He has a Youth World Champion title in 470, 2 World Vice-Champion titles in 420 and several European Champion titles in 420 and 470. He raced the Diam24 on several Tour Voile (formerly Tour de France à la Voile), including two podiums and a victory in 2019. Last year Pirouelle worked alongside Alexis Loison co-skipper on the two handed races but this year it is his turn to be alone aboard the Figaro Région Normandie. Also present will be Davy Beaudart (Nauty'mor), a yard manager and skipper, who is already well known in the world of offshore racing, often co-skipper of choice of Louis Burton. He has 12 victories in the Mini 6.50 Class between 2001 and 2018.

Laurent Bourguès (#Become a Partner),is well known as a preparateur and technician working with the likes of Yvan Bourgnon, Yves Le Blevec, Tanguy de Lamotte, Thomas Ruyant. He sets out on La Solitaire du Figaro for the first time. He will be one of the rookies to follow, as will Romen Richard, twice runner-up as Youth National Champion and French representative at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China.

Among the International rookies are Scotland’s Piers Copham (Voiles des Anges), or the German Susann Beucke (This race is female) a silver medalist in the 49er FX in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics, a double European champion and numerous times in the top 5 of the World Championship. Then there is Irish skipper, Conor Fogerty. 

In general, the Figaro racers are getting younger but this race sees the return of some ‘old hands’ like Jörg Riechers (Alva Yachts), who last took part in 2005. The German skipper, 2nd in the mini transat in 2017, 3rd in the Normandy Channel Race in class 40 two years later and 6th in the Transat Jacques Vabre has a new IMOCA in build for the next Vendée Globe and sees his return to La Solitaire du Figaro as a good way to sharpen up his racing skills this summer.

Among the top International skippers who are back to try and improve on their career-best results are Briton Alan Roberts who will start his ninth La Solitaire du Figaro looking to better his ninth overall in 2015 and 10th in 2020. Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan) cut his teeth in Mini 6.50 before joining the Figaro Bénéteau circuit. After just three editions, Dolan scored a fifth overall, the best non-French result for more than 20 years. Both Roberts and Dolan have realistic hopes of finishing on the overall podium this season. Both are recent holders of the VIVI Trophy for the top non-French finisher on the overall General Classification

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With a ninth place earned this Sunday morning when, exhausted, they crossed the second leg finishing line back into Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Vendée coastline, Ireland’s Tom Dolan and English co-skipper Alan Roberts finish eighth overall in the Sardinha Cup, the two-stage, doublehanded race to Figueira da Foz on the Portuguese coast and back to France.

With an eighth on the outward leg, sailing Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, the duo achieve their goal of finishing in the top 10 of the 22-boat fleet.

The second stage, which started at lunchtime last Tuesday, saw an incredible range of weather, from long, long periods drifting windless in searing heat, to a final night of thunderstorms and huge swings in wind direction with squalls to 30kts.

The duo stuck to their pre-race strategy throughout and while their fortunes ebbed and flowed between second and 18th at different points, they were in the main body of the peloton at the line and the solid finishing position gives them both confidence for the future.

“That was tough. I feel like we had a whole season’s worth of different weather in that one leg. At one stage we were doing sail changes every five to seven minutes. Last night the wind was going through 180 degrees it was hairy at times with more than 30 kts in the squalls. But we never really went off the plan to stay in the north of the route and it paid off in the end.” Dolan explained back in the Vendée fishing port this morning.

“We achieve our goal, finishing in the top ten, yes, and our strategy was good, we sailed the boat well and we really get on well, but the guys who won were right beside us in the middle of Biscay on the way back, they took one hitch away from by about a mile and went on to win. So on the one hand we were in the right place and were that close to being on the podium but I kind of don’t want to be missing out again like we did on the way down.” Dolan added.

“But that was one of the maddest, most intense races I have done. We saw whales, sharks, dolphins close up, Portuguese fishermen close up but we are very happy in the end.” the Irish sailor from County Meath enthused. “But I have to admit I am tired. We have had four big races back to back since the start of the season and now I need to make sure I get rested before the start of La Solitaire du Figaro in late August.”

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The Irish skipper Tom Dolan teams up again with his English friend and counterpart Alan Roberts to compete on the Sardinha Cup, a two-handed race which starts from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie on the west coast of France and races 580 miles across the Bay of Biscay to Figuiera da Foz on the Portuguese coast midway between Lisbon and Porto.

The duo will compete on Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan in a strong fleet totalling 22 pairs and harbour realistic hopes of finishing in the top five. Fresh from a seventh overall in the Allmer Le Havre Cup just over a week ago the Irish skipper is on good form ahead of a race which promises to be testing in terms of the weather patterns, especially during the first half of the race. Dolan and Roberts already finished seventh together this season on the Banque Populaire Grand Ouest Trophy offshore races series.

Even so, the County Meath sailor warns, the outcome of the outbound race might be decided from a cluster of boats in very light winds close to the finish.

“Certainly it is going to be intense over the first part and then I suspect just as intense during the second part, so all in all a real challenge.” Dolan noted on the dock in the Vendee town of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie ahead of Monday afternoon’s start.

“There will be a couple of fronts to get through to start with maybe up to 30knots in the gusts close to Cape Finisterre and after that high pressure and light winds into the finish. So it should be good with quite a lot of upwind sailing.” Dolan adds, “But that means different options and when you are going through fronts like this getting the timing of your tack right is key. Get it right and you can make a nice gain, get it wrong and you can be left behind.”

“I feel good about the course and sailing with Alan. I have been down the Portuguese coast eight or nine times but never as close in as we will go. And I still think this first race can be decided four miles from the finish with a bunch of boats floating around in light winds. But we feel good. We have done a lot of good miles together now and I know this boat backwards so we are hopeful.”

The outwards race starts on Monday afternoon from the Vendée coastal town and the return race starts the following Tuesday afternoon.

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Tom Dolan’s Beneteau Figaro 2 ( #15) (formerly “Smurfit Kappa”)  is the second generation of the Beneteau Figaro series. She was designed by Lombard and built in 2004 by Beneteau. She was raced on the Figaro professional sailing circuit until 2018 when the Figaro 2 was replaced by the Beneteau Figaro 3, the third generation foiling vessel in the Figaro series.

The Figaro 2 is a superb 10.3 metre to sail. She has a large cockpit which is set up for single-handed sailing or crewed sailing. She is very well designed and has excellent directional stability up wind and down wind. She is very responsive and feels like a large SB20! She is an absolute pleasure to sail downwind with a spinnaker in 20 kts + of wind. She can be raced under IRC and has an IRC certificate. She is fitted out for racing where every gramme matters! She can be also fitted out for cruising should a new owner wish to do so.

She is well kitted out with a carbon mast, 4 winches, an auto pilot and a central NKE controller, AIS, 2 VHF’s ( one fixed and one portable), 1 EPIRB, 3 batteries, Radio/CD stereo, two suits of sails ( one set is 2018 Technique Voiles) , PC ( with MAXSEA software), Life Raft ( serviced in 2021), VOLVO 20 HP engine ( serviced in 2021). See web link below for full inventory.

The Figaro 2 (# 15) has a nice Irish link. It was the previous Figaro 2 raced by Tom Dolan, the Irish Professional Sailor who is based in France under the name “Smurfit Kappa”. He used her in the 2018 Professional French Sailing Federation Offshore Sailing. Since 2018 she has been lightly sailed mainly due to COVID. She had a thorough revision in 2020 by a professional workshop. She has been professionally maintained and is dry sailed. She is available to see at the Off Shore Sailing Centre in Lorient in South Brittany by appointment with Ronan Beirne the Broker at Network Yacht Brokers Dublin office. Tel 086 2543866.

For more information please visit Network Yacht Brokers Dublin office website here and enjoy this video of her starting the AG2R Transatlantic Race in 2018.

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Ireland’s solo skipper Tom Dolan of Smurfit Kappa Kingspan finished in a very creditable seventh place overall today in the second event of the French Elite Solo Offshore Championship, the Allmer Le Havre Cup which was raced out of the Channel port of Le Havre for the fifth time.

Dolan of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour finished in 12th in today’s 27 mile coastal race in the Bay of the Seine. Added to an excellent fifth on Friday on a slightly longer coastal race the Irish skipper has shown a marked improvement on the shorter inshore races which have been his Achilles Heel before now.

“I could have done better and by finishing 12th in this final race, I let a top 5 slip away. But in the end it's still a Top 10 which is pleasing after a disappointing Solo Maitre Coq earlier in the season. In terms of the fleet then Tom Laperche maybe seems a bit untouchable at the moment but otherwise he first ten places are very open and that is encouraging.” Concluded Dolan who lines up with Briton Alan Roberts in the double handed Sardinha Cup, from June 3 to 19.

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and his Beneteau Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan are back in the English Channel ready to take on all of the many challenges offered by the Le Havre Allmer Cup which starts on Sunday with a 340 nautical miles offshore race.

The event, which was last run in 2018, is the second event of the French Elite Solo Offshore Championship and has attracted 28 solo Figaro racers including home favourite Guillaume Pirouelle, a past 470 youth champion who grew up in Le Havre and is looking to follow in the wake of French star Charlie Dalin who is the town’s favourite ocean racer as a four times podium finisher on La Solitaire do Figaro an who was recently second in the Vendée Globe.

Dolan has some work to do if he is to climb the championship leaderboard after a disappointing Solo Maitre Coq in April. After tearing his spinnaker on the offshore race in the season opener which took place on the French Atlantic coast the Irish skipper had little chance of making it back into the top ten overall on what proved to be a very light winds event.

“It is certainly good to be back in the Channel and everything that brings. I like all the challenges, the tides, the winds and the races here are never over until you get across the finish line. It is often about easier gains and, equally, easy losses.” Dolan explained after his delivery from Brittany to the busy Normandy port which is one of the busiest in the Channel, “Oh, and the cargo ships are always there, you need to keep an eye out for them!”

The course looks set to be a rectangular shape starting with a very typical passage across the Channel to a turning mark at the entrance to The Solent, down the English coastline to Eddystone light off Plymouth then back across the Channel to a turn to the east at Portsall on the NW corner of Brittany to return to Le Havre. A low pressure system should bring winds of 20kts and but then lighter winds closer to the finish.

“It’ll likely be three days and nights at sea, finishing Wednesday. I am looking forwards to finally getting some wind as it seems that we have had a lot of light winds so far this season. And this is very like a typical Channel leg of La Solitaire so it will be good practice. I do like racing in the Channel as it is always interesting. I feel like I have proven to have good allround speed so far this season and now I need to stay with the pack and make smart decisions.” Dolan concluded.

The long offshore race starts Sunday afternoon at 4 pm CET.

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Tom Dolan and his English co-skipper Alan Roberts were taking the many positives from the seventh place finish that they secured early this morning (Thursday 5 May) when the Trophée Banque Populaire Route Sur La Route Iles Ponant finished into Concarneau, Brittany after nearly four days of very intense, high-pressure racing.

Having led the 12-boat fleet for much of the first half of the three-day, 18-hour race, sailing the Irish skipper’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, one strategic decision off Roscoff cost them a potential podium place on this new two-handed race around the Brittany course and the Ponant islands.

“After that mistake there was really no way of getting back into it in the light winds. We were in that scenario in the Channel where those who were first into the west going tide took a gain you would not get back,” Dolan said.

“But we sailed well enough; it gives us a lot of confidence to not just have been leading, but leading comfortably at times and clearly having good boat speed.”

The Irish-Anglo duo profited from a very good ambience on board and now consider themselves to be in good shape for the upcoming Sardinha Cup, the two-handed race from the Vendée coast across the Bay of Biscay to Portugal which takes place in one month’s time.

Tom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan | Credit: Alexis CourcouxTom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan | Credit: Alexis Courcoux

“I feel like we sailed our own race and made good decisions – other than that one – and kept the boat fast and well positioned,” Roberts added. “It was a pleasure to sail with Tom and we worked well together.

“We worked it so that we shared the big decisions – looking at the available information and agreeing together – while I did probably more of the sailing the boat with Tom trimming and keeping us fast as well as doing the navigation.”

Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan finished just 18 minutes and 46 seconds behind the winners Lois Berrehar and Erwan Le Draoulec on Skipper MACIF and 15 minutes shy of a podium finish after racing more than 540 nautical miles around the Brittany coast, passing as far south as La Rochelle and north to Roscoff.

Dolan concluded: “I think we learned we can be more disciplined in sleeping and not getting over tired but this was a very intense race with boats only a few hundred metres away all the time.

“The next race, the Sardinha Cup, is more of an open ocean race across Biscay and so there should be more chance to get into a watch type system and make sure we are better slept.”

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan pairs up with England’s Alan Roberts looking to cash in on new 800 mile Trophée Banque Populaire Grand Ouest race.

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan paired up with on-form top English racer Alan Roberts on Sunday when the duo seek to land an Anglo Saxon win in a new 800 nautical miles French double-handed race for the Trophée Banque Populaire Grand Ouest.

The race started Sunday at 1330hrs (local time) from Dolan’s adopted Breton home port of Concarneau and looks set to take the 13 competing duos round the north coast of Brittany between the îles Chausey in the north and the îles d’Aix in the south on what will be the longest race of the 2022 season.

Light winds are expected to prevail throughout the passage which is expected to take around four days. Although the entry is relatively low for this new event it has attracted a very high standard including three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès who sails with young French skipper Basil Bourgnon and past La Solitaire winner Pascal Bidégorry sailing with Gaston Morvan. The only other non-French pairing are German Vendée Globe skipper Boris Herrmann sailing with English racer Will Harris.

“The thing about this race is that of the 13 entries at least half of them have a good chance of winning. It is a good standard and a chance to stretch our legs and put in some miles racing at a higher intensity because there are two of us on board.” Explains Dolan.

The Irish-Anglo duo will race on Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan and the Irish sailor feels they have a strong partnership:

“I have known Alan for many years and we get on great. I even worked for him as a preparateur before I started in the Figaro. We have the same kind of profile and backstory – both coming to France and living here to crack the offshore solo scene – and so it will be good to team up and see how we do. Plus for me it is a nice wee bonus to be starting out of Concarneau where I live!”

The duo have complementary backgrounds. Roberts is a past British dinghy champion who cut his teeth in high performance dinghies before turning to solo offshore racing whilst Dolan started out as an offshore sailing instructor who moved directly to the Mini 650 class. Roberts is very much on form, winning the final race of last weekend’s Solo Maître Coq to take third overall. Dolan tore his spinnaker on the long offshore race and ended up 19th.

“I am still a bit frustrated after last weekend so I am looking forwards to being back out on the water and going again. Alan had a good race so hopefully here we can do something good. He is stronger on the starts and is one of the best in the boat for boat stuff and so he will steer early on whilst I will trim and make the boat go fast as I know the sails and settings as it is my boat which I know well.” Dolan said.

“ I think when we get up to the north of Brittany in these light winds where we will be rock hopping to avoid the tidal currents then we need to be really lucid and strong then and so we will try to be quite disciplined in looking after each other and not getting too tired too early.” Sums up the Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan sailor.

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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.

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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.”

Follow the race here

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