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Displaying items by tag: La Solitaire du Figaro

Tom Dolan has had a great start to the 51st La Solitaire Du Figaro, the County Meath man's third attempt at the solo marathon race.  Dolan is lying in seventh place this morning, mixing it with the all-important top ten and just two miles behind the early fleet leader. Rookie rival Kenny Rumball from Dublin is lying in 28th place after the first night of an estimated one month of racing ahead over four legs. The first leg includes a voyage to Ireland and a rounding of West Cork's Fastnet Rock.

The 35 solo sailors who started the 642 nautical miles first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro on Bay of Saint Brieuc on France's northwesterly Channel coast enjoyed a spirited send off in perfect 15-18 knot northerly winds.

With sunshine threatening to finally split the leaden skies, the lone skippers set their course for Fastnet Rock, 300-odd nautical miles to their west- north-west, knowing that the first 24 hours of the out-and-back passage, will be battling through a ridge of complicated light winds in strong tides. This first night may yet prove decisive not just in terms of the first stage results but the whole four leg race.

France's Tom Laperche (Team Bretagne CMB Espoir), who won the Solo Maitre Coq and was second in the Drheam Cup, was leading the fleet on the beat out of the bay towards the turn left turn where sheets would be eased. Britain's solo skippers made solid rather than spectacular starts, Phil Sharp (OceansLab) recovering quickly back into the fleet after being called as being over the start line before the gun.

Solidarity between skippers in the Figaro fleet is well known in the world of sailing and it was exhibited again when Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola), runner up last year and local favourite on his home waters, tore his mainsail doing an emergency gybe to avoid a collision with another boat crossing his path. Friend and rival Xavier Macaire immediately proposed to lend him a previous mainsail of his Groupe SNEF. With the rapid response and collaboration of other support teams Mahe had the replacement set. He reached the start on time keeping intact his aspirations of winning Stage 1.

As the fleet negotiate the rocky north Brittany, English Channel coast this evening and into the night ortherly wind is due to fade, heralding the arrival of a high pressure ridge of very light, unstable and unpredictable winds.

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Published in Tom Dolan

Dublin's Kenny Rumball and Meath's Tom Dolan can expect a fairly fast, long, and open 642 nautical miles first leg, to the Fastnet and back, in the first challenge for the 35 solo sailors who embark on the 51st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro from noon (or 1300hrs local time) today (Sunday) on the Baie-de-Saint-Brieuc.

Experienced La Solitaire observers and competing sailors alike all agree that there are no standout favourites for the podium places on what promises to be an all-consuming, very complete test of the solo sailors’ skills. The course this year is a good mix of open offshore sailing and coastal Channel style racing. There there are probably fifteen sailors in the fleet who might have realistic aspirations to finish in the top three.

Kenneth Rumball (RL Sailing)Kenneth Rumball (RL Sailing) Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Irish Rookie Ready to Rumball

Ireland’s newcomer Kenneth Rumball comes to La Solitaire not as the realisation of any longstanding ambition or desire for a big sailing adventure but very much as a means to an end.

He is one of the first of what is expected to be a growing number of international sailors moving to the Figaro Beneteau 3 as one of the best pathways into double-handed offshore racing. An accomplished offshore racer and skipper from Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay, his original plan was a programme to get to the Mixed Double Handed Offshore Worlds with Irish Figaro racer Joan Mulloy. 

The Irish qualification trials were to have been in the Figaro at the Solo Concarneau due to have been in May. Mulloy subsequently withdrew as she is expecting a baby at the end of this month and so Pam Lee joined.

They did one week’s training before the COVID-19 lockdown and the double-handed worlds were cancelled.

“So I was left looking at the season wondering what to do then, I did not want to waste the season and to get better at shorthanded and solo offshore sailing this is what you do.” Recalls Rumball, 33, who is a qualified accountant and pro sailor who runs the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School and a commercial division Irish National Marine Services.

While the ‘Bizuth’ division, competing for the rookie prize, is hotly contested usually the rookies have come from solo racing in other classes such as the Mini650 or Class 40. But Rumball’s actual first solo race was the Solo Maitre CoQ three months ago and then the Solo Concarneau earlier this month.

Predictably he feels light on training with the fleet or a group. As soon as the lockdown was lifted in Ireland they took their boat back to Ireland and practised for five weeks to get used to the boat handling skills from late May until 16th June then he went to France and straight into the Solo Maitre Coq.

He made the lockdown work, though, doing French lessons, building up fitness and doing meteo lectures with Christian Dumard.

“To some degree, we really made it good for us. We were stuck at home but did a lot to prepare ourselves for being here.” Rumball recalls

“I am still a vertical learning curve. As a sailor I know I can get the boat to the Fastnet and back. I can do that. But getting the boat to the Fastnet and back and be racing in the fleet is a different thing entirely. But the whole objective is to finish, to get to the end and have learned and to enjoy it, a bit, and experience the French scene.”

“If you were to ask, yes, Olympic selection is the long term goal.” He acknowledges, “But it is one step at a time, but there are other sailors here agree, like Tom and Alan Robert agree that this is the best place to be to get better.”

Rumball has had excellent help from North Sails in Ireland who have in turn ensured he has had good help and service from North Sails in France, so the Irish skipper has built some confidence in his speed and his set up. 

Tom Dolan (SMURFIT KAPPA) Tom Dolan (SMURFIT KAPPA) Photo: Yvan Zedda

Dolan Looking For Solid First Leg

Rumball’s Irish compatriot Tom Dolan’s two previous challenges on La Solitaire du Figaro have found the Irish sol racer fighting back after massively disappointing first legs. So while he might harbour high hopes of a finish in the top fifteen of this year’s 35 boat fleet, 33-year-old Dolan who is from County Meath but has lived in Concarneau for 11 years, is looking strictly short term, aiming to sail a solid, assured first leg to build on.

“I want to do a good first leg. That is the dream. The first two years my first legs have been a disaster. Last year I was in the west on the first leg (to Kinsale) and came in six or seven hours after the leaders. So right now I am just looking to do a good first leg and then take it from there.” Dolan says resolutely.

When last year was all about learning the boat and compressing as much training in as possible before the start, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa has taken time to significantly improve his strength and stamina and to bolster his mental toughness.

“I have worked with the fitness coach in Concarneau three times a week and I really notice the difference. Don’t get me wrong I did stuff before, but it really was not enough of a priority. It came after the boat work and sailing, way down the list. And I really do notice the fatigue taking longer to affect me.” He says.

He has also worked on keeping to his game plan more and not letting frustration boil over into making risky decisions. Racing the Drheam Cup two-handed with Mini Transat winner François Jambou gave him the chance to focus solely on his strategic decision making.

Multi-Stage competition

The annual multi-stage race increasingly seems to reward the racer who makes fewest mistakes over the entire course as last year’s winner Yoann Richomme showed. Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) at 46 years old is gilt-edged podium contender, who was fourth last year and who starts the race for the 11th time notes sagely, "It's the real constant on La Solitaire, there are fifteen skippers starting out with a legitimate claim to the podium. As there are only three places, each time there are twelve disappointed skippers every year. In essence, you are trying not to be one of those. And it’s not easy. This is what gives the stage podiums and the general classification a special flavour. "

"Nobody really stands out this year, there are more than ten of us who could win it and that promises a great battle on the water.” Observes Anthony Marchand, 33, skipper of Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire, who became the local hero when he won Stage 1 into his native Baie de Saint-Brieuc in 2018 on the 49th edition, before going on to finish runner-up to Sébastien Simon.

Top picks for the podium include 23 year old Tom Laperche of the Bretagne CMB Espoir team who has been in the medals at all three warm up events. Also Pierre Quiroga who will turn 28 years old during the race who is on the Skipper Macif programme - which produced four times podium finisher Charlie Dalin and Vendée Globe winner François Gabart, whose MerConcept ecurie manages the Macif programme. Quiroga won the Solo Concarneau earlier this month, was fourth in the Solo Maitre Coq and fourth in the Drheam Cup. And Briton Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is among those tipped for the podium, returning to the Solitaire after a six year absence.

International interest is justifiably at a high as British sailors have finished on the podium in all three of the preliminary Figaro Beneteau 3 races of a foreshortened season. Goodchild lies second in the French Elite Offshore Championship after taking a second and a victory preceded Alan Roberts’ second in the Solo Concarneau race earlier this month.

But the shorter 350 to 450 miles warm-up races are a different level of challenge to the renowned La Solitaire which aggregates elapsed time over more than 1820 miles of mind blowingly intense solo racing.

Yann Eliès, who is one of three skippers local to the Baie de Saint-Brieuc, starts La Solitaire for the 19th time and if he won would be the first sailor to amass four overall wins. Despite his excellent racing record in the Figaro and IMOCA and his obvious marketability Eliès could neither find a major sponsor to back his Vendée Globe challenge nor indeed to mount a top drawer Figaro challenge this year. He is helped out by previous supporter Groupe Queguiner. At 44 Eliès says the physical challenge of the new Figaro Beneteau 3 is telling over the course of the entire race. Of the possibility of stepping clear of the other four three times winners, Poupon, Le Cam, Desjoyeaux, and Beyou. Eliès says, “It really is a big ask but it is always possible. Everything needs to fall into place. At 44 there is now a physical dimension to it that maybe wasn’t there before.”

He acknowledges. “To be honest I would be happy to be in the top five.”

As he starts his 12th La Solitaire du Figaro two times winner Armel Le Cléac’h remains tight lipped about his own prospects of joining the elite circle of triple victors. The skipper of Bank Populaire was tenth last year, one of the many big names drawn back to the race by the introduction of the Figaro Beneteau 3, and this race is his one main focus of the season.

“ I'm not fixated on that third win,” Le Cléac’h asserts, “Iif it is meant to come it will, but that's not my target at all, My goal is to sail well stage by stage and make as few mistakes as possible, like the winner Yoann Richomme last year. We'll do the count up at the end. I have concentrated 100% on this, in reality it is the second major sailing event of the year in world sailing along with the Vendée Globe. That’s why I’m really happy that the race is taking place. We have a good field and the race is going to be as demanding as any other year. Now, I will just take is one stage at a time I will not set myself clear objectives, the goal will be to make as few mistakes as possible. I made them last year, some cost me dearly, now it is up to me to be more consistent.”

Stage 1 is an open sea leg to the Fastnet. At 497 miles Stage 2 starts with open waters racing to Wolf Rock to the south-west of Land’s End but them moves east up the Channel to Dunkirk. Five hundred and four miles of Stage 3 tests coastal sailing and navigation passing westwards down the Channel, round the rocky, tidal tip of Brittany through the Raz de Sein to the entrance to the Loire estuary before a final 24 hour sprint out of Saint Nazaire of 183 miles.

At an estimated four days duration Stage 1 is the longest opening leg for many years, likely to finish Thursday afternoon. It not only has the propensity to be shape the whole race if the finishing deltas are opened wide by light winds and a change of tide but with the second stage start due on Sunday there is very limited recovery time after a long opener.

As ever from Sunday’s start gun the pressure will be relentess. Fastnet is the only mark of the course leaving the strategic options wide open. Northerly winds of 12 to 15 knots are expected at the start but the fleet will have to negotiate light winds in a ridge of high pressure off the NW corner of France. The new south-westerly breeze will fill from the left side of the course giving fast reaching before negotiating two frontal systems and the northwesterly winds towards ‘the rock’ which is Ireland’s most southerly point. But the high pressure ridge is expected to compress the fleet again as they return to the Channel which would ensure the fleet is compressed again. Maximum windspeed through the fronts is expected to be around 25knots during what Briton Alan Roberts considers a ‘boatspeed, reaching leg.’

“Whoever gets out of the light winds and into the new south westerly first will profit. Getting furthest west as quick as possible might be the key but it is how and where you cross the ridge that will be key, going to the south or north, after that there is the decision where to pass the TSS, passing to the south at the Scillies or north.” Says Roberts (Seacat Services), “It should be quite straightforward after that a boatspeed reaching test really except at the finish a calm is expected so it won't be over until the finish”.

Follow the start live on the website www.lasolitaire.com with commentary and live images in French. Race start is 1300hrs CET, (1200hrs BST)

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Published in Tom Dolan

Eight of the 35 solo skippers who will start the 51st edition of La Solitaire du Figaro on the Bay of Saint Brieuc on Sunday are not French natives and so are eligible to compete for the Vivi Trophy which was inaugurated last year.

Representing Ireland are Tom Dolan, 33, (Smurfit Kappa), on his third La Solitaire, and race rookie Kenneth Rumball, 33, (RL Sailing) who has already written about his expectations this week on Afloat here.

GBR fields Alan Roberts, 30 (Seacat Services) who starts his seventh La Solitaire, Sam Goodchild, 30, (Leyton) who is on his fifth race, and Phil Sharp, 39, (Ocean Lab) and Jack Boutell, 29, (Fromagerie Gillot) who is half Australian. Italy has Alberto Bona, 33, (Sebago) and race rookie Nils Palmieri, 33, carries Swiss colours.

]The last ten years or so have seen high hopes of a British podium finish. But this second season of the new foil-assisted Figaro Beneteau 3 now sees strength and depth to the British challenge, one which is leant real credibility thanks to three GBR podium finishes in this season’s races so far.

On form Goodchild, in his first year in the new class, backed up a second in the Solo Maitre Coq by winning the Drheam Cup while Roberts took second in the recent Solo Concarneau Guy Cotten. Add in an excellent ninth place in that race by Bouttell, earned just days after stepping into the boat for the first time and there is some justification for high hopes.

All three very experienced and successful Brits Goodchild, Bouttell and Sharp come back to the race each after a long break, similarly drawn to the challenge of the new one design class and the high technical level offered by the multi-stage race which is the toughest annual challenge in solo offshore racing.

Six years on from his last La Solitaire this season Goodchild has impressed the top French cognoscenti and has been tipped as a possible podium finisher overall. He did four back to back La Solitaires aged 20-24, stopping in 2014 after his best result 11th in 2013. The intervening period has seen him amass substantial experience as an in-demand first choice crew on Ultime and Maxi multihulls such as Spindrift and Sodebo and Multi70s as well as Class40 successes which culminated in his second on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.

Goodchild has a good programme backed by Leyton who are one of the more active new sponsors in sailing and admits he has the skills and the tools to win.
“I am not sure I rank myself as one of the favourites.” Goodchild smiles in Saint Quay Portrieux, “ But, honestly, any pressure comes from me and me wanting to do well. I know that if I can do well then it will only do good things for me, it would make getting a bigger project and going further easier. This is why we go sailing, to win. When I was in the Figaro before I was looking to the top 10, now I have won an event and come second in two very different styles of event, one tactical and one boatspeed. It is encouraging but there is more to it than that.”

Goodchild has not been carried away by his successes this season, “My biggest weakness is that there are so many conditions I have not sailed in, but the light is difficult because it is hard to get a gauge, a feel, in light winds the winds are not very stable and you need a lot more time to know what works and what doesn’t. In the Figaro 2 you could always go at the same speed, now you can go a knot or two knots faster by driving, and now there are times when you can only lose 0.2 of a knot to go to sleep.”

He has fast tracked his learning of the new boat with the help of guru Pascal Bidégorry.
“I have managed to short cut to a lot of what people spent last year learning, Pascal came on board and said ‘this works, that doesn’t, it’s worth looking at this and not this’, he sailed with several boats and is a ‘details’ man. I thought I looked at the details until I met Pascal.”

He feels he is a more ‘complete’ sailor learning from some of the best, “I don’t think anyone is the perfect sailor. Sailing with Pascal, sailing with Brian Thompson, sailing with Thomas Coville, sailing with Rob Greenhalgh, when you sail with a bunch of really good guys I have had the good fortune to sail with, you put the pieces together and learn. And if all five of these good guys think the same things are important then you learn from that, you learn so much.”

Meantime Goodchild’s aim is not a number but to finish with no regrets. “It would be nice to finish and think I sailed as well as I could. It would be nice to come away with no regrets. I have the tools to win for sure, but on a race like this the stars do need to align a bit, I feel like I have a capacity to win, I have the boatspeed and I have the nav, I have made some good calls and some bad calls but that will always be the case on this race, I am capable of winning but there are many more here who are capable of winning.”

Back after four years, Bouttell

Three weeks and two days ago the thought of doing La Solitaire du Figaro had not even crossed Jack Bouttell’s mind. But the 29-year-old Guidel, Brittany based Volvo Ocean Race winning sailor, who describes himself as ‘half British, half Aussie’ will be on the start line Sunday, lining up for his fourth La Solitaire armed with a very competitive, well-prepped boat belonging to his Team Dongfeng crewmate, three times La Solitaire winner Jérémie Beyou.

When The Ocean Race was postponed recently Bouttell, whose La Solitaire best is tenth overall and was first rookie in his first edition, found himself looking for a sailing challenge.

“I wanted to go sailing. I was having one beer with Alan Roberts and he said ‘why not do La Solitaire?’ and that was it. I spoke with Jérémie and because it was a last-minute charter the price is acceptable. The boat has a new set of sails to do The Transat AG2R and obviously it was cancelled. It has fallen together quite nicely, but look last-minute stuff really is not my style. I prefer to have more time to prepare. It is a cool challenge, I have to look at the big picture and not get worried by the small details, remember what things are important.”
But Bouttell’s first race in the Figaro Beneteau 3 went well, in a craft he rather bluntly describes as ‘…..a boat after all.”

“I had done a few days sailing in the boat so I struggled a lot in the first 24 hours basically getting my head back into racing in this class, where small mistakes become big mistakes become disasters as they do in this class, but I got back into it in the first 24 hours, and then I got into it. I lacked a bit of speed upwind and so lost a few places coming into the finish. This is obviously a bigger event with more boats.”

Some three weeks after the idea dropped to become reality he is on the race dock making final prep, “I don’t think I have really thought about it yet. It has not really sunk in that I am here. It is really cool to be here doing something in my own right. The Figaro is where I had my first start back in 2013. Last time I did it my objective was the top 10 and I made it. It is such a cool race and these are cool boats because there are so many ways to sail it. When I was in the Figaro before it was so refined it was ‘you sail it like this’ and that was it and if you didn’t you were nowhere. This is a more open ball game. There are so many more options.” He adds, “I feel good. I am back to my roots. I enjoy the class, it is super professional high level. I would like to get a good result, finishing in the top half would be good, I am saying that publicly but I am aiming higher.”

And he chuckles, “Who would have thought an Aussie who grew up in Britain and now lives in France is here racing the top French solo race with a French cheese sponsor. It is amazing.”
But he drills down to the core of solo racing, “More experience removes stress. Singlehanded sailing is about managing stress, that is it. If you are going fast you need to manage it. Having done a Volvo and spending three weeks in the Southern Ocean, all the things you go through in that project, I keep going through those days in my head…’is it worse than that day, no it’s not, carry on then and get on with it!”

Sharp back nine years on

Nine years after his one and only La Solitaire du Figaro Phil Sharp is now armed with bucketloads of hard-earned offshore experience, multiple successes and a real chance of the top ten overall finish which he is aiming for.

The 39-year-old Jersey solo racer who is now based in La Rochelle, France and who won back-to-back World Championship titles in Class 40 stepped into the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet at the start of this season looking to improve his level and to test himself in the toughest proving ground in solo racing. He has shown well in the early and middle stages of the races he has done, finishing 22nd in the Solo Concarneau Guy Cotton and 16th in the Solo Maitre Coq. With a limited background in the Figaro class, he is very much back in the class to learn and improve from the intensity and a very different style of racing to what he has been used to.

“The competition here is incredible, up against the likes of Yann Eliès and (Vendée Globe winner) Armel Le Cléac’h. This gives you a reference point to know where you at, it gives you a proper real structured training platform and it offers an incredible improvement curve, the amount I have improved over the last few months is really good. It is not easy to see in terms of results because it takes time to turn that into consistency but it has been rewarding to be part of.”

“What is interesting is looking at the level of the skippers and their experience of this racing. But that does not phase me, I relish the competition and do better if I have very highly skilled people around me, that brings out the best in me. After coming from podiums in Class40 to getting a bit of a kicking here it is a bit a of shock. But it makes sense and I am here to improve.”

Sharp joined the group in Lorient in the winter and then joined Saint Gilles training group near his home in La Rochelle where the best of that group is Xavier Macaire. “Since my first race I have focused on my weaknesses. I struggled for reaching speed and have worked on my sail trim and before I really struggled for control in strong downwind conditions. I took the rudders off to find them completely misaligned. The axes were more than five degrees off from the stock of the rudder. Since then the boat does not stall out as much. First of all to have confidence in yourself you have to have confidence in the boat and that has taken a bit of time.”

“ I am happy, the boat feels good, the sails are good, I am happy with what I have. But I am not here to do the Figaro year in year out. There are more exciting boats, more exciting ocean races out there to do. This for me is the ultimate training camp to push myself. I think I will do this year and then see how it goes, but it can be quite addictive!”

He is clear on his target, “I am aiming for the top ten. That is probably optimistic as there are probably ten guys here who can win it, but I believe in aiming high. I am used to offshore. Figaro racing is really stop, start and you have to find a rhythm and then you are back on land recovering, that is what I struggled with in 2011. On a Transatlantic race, it is about getting into your 24-hour routine, with the Figaro you have to push harder, you are getting much less sleep and then you have to recover as best you can.”

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Kenneth Rumball is in the final preparation stages before starting his first La Solitaire du Figaro which start this Sunday, 30th August in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc. Having made the twenty-four-hour delivery up from Port-La-Foret on Sunday, Rumball’s Team RL Beneteau Figaro 3 is docked with the rest of the fleet in the marina at Saint-Quay Portrieux while any last preparations are made.

“This is my first season racing in the Figaro 3 and on courses around this section of the French coast, with all the changing schedules and restrictions due to COVID 19 I haven’t had the opportunity to do much training so I’ve found it really beneficial to do the deliveries to the race starts myself. It gives me a chance to spend real time on the water and to familiarise myself with some of the navigation in the race areas,” says Rumball.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Rumball was a latecomer to the Figaro 3 circuit this year, originally intending to campaign doublehanded with Irish Co-skipper Pamela Lee with the aim of representing Ireland in the first Doublehanded Offshore Worlds, which were scheduled for October in Malta. When the Worlds and the majority of the rest of the planned schedule were cancelled, Rumball quickly made the ambitious decision to take on a solo campaign for the season, culminating in Le Solitaire du Figaro.

Kenny Rumball will be racing around the Fastnet Rock next week in the first leg of the 2020 La Solitaire du Figaro Kenny Rumball will be racing around the Fastnet Rock next week in the first leg of the 2020 La Solitaire du Figaro Photo: Alex Courcoux

“It’s very clear that the best way to get better at shorthand sailing is to compete in France with the French. The Figaro circuit is incredibly competitive with the best shorthand sailors taking part every year, the Solitaire is the pinnacle of this circuit and a great challenge as a sailor. My main goal this year is to learn as much as possible and the learning curve has certainly been steep!” says Rumball.

"We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!"

So far Rumball has raced in the Solo Maitre-Coq from Les Sables D’olonne, the Dhream Cup (doublehanded) from Cherbourg-en-contentin and the Solo Guy Cotton from Concarneau. The Solo Guy Cotton was the last lead up race before the Solitaire and was a final opportunity to really focus on addressing a number of speed deficiencies, to test the new North Sails wardrobe, as well as experiment with managing sleep while racing – one of the biggest challenges. It proved to be a tough race with very fluky, light wind conditions. “Although disappointed with the final result, I took a lot of positives - good speed, smart decision making, good boat handling and above all strong mental power,” said Rumball of the race.

Now in the final days before the beginning of the first Solitaire leg, which is a 642-mile course to the Fastnet and back, Rumball is focusing on ironing out any last issues onboard, familiarising himself with the course and the navigation as well as analysing the upcoming weather and tidal patterns. Of course, a vital part of the pre-race preparation is mental and physical too, so there’s a strong focus on rest, eating well and exercise with an effort to be in a focused headspace on Sunday. “I’m certainly nervous,” says Rumball, “This is a long leg and a long time to be intensely racing with potentially some adverse weather coming through! So far the experience here in France has been great with all the other Skippers being extremely helpful and welcoming. This racing is tough, but that is exactly why we are here. We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!”

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s solo racer Tom Dolan gave his hopes for this year’s La Solitaire du Figaro solo offshore race a significant boost when he and French co-skipper François Jambou finished second overall on Smurfit Kappa in the Figaro duo class of the 428 nautical miles Drheam Cup yesterday.

For most of the race, the Irish/French duo enjoyed a spirited match race against the eventual category winners, French 2012 Olympian Pierre Leboucher sailing with Benoit Mariette, and finished less than five minutes behind the class victors.

Dolan and Jambou were eighth across the finish line overall in the Figaro class which was won outright by Briton Sam Goodchild.

Dolan was pleased with the Smurfit Kappa duo’s race and the result, atoning for a disappointing light wind Maitre-CoQ solo offshore race two weeks ago when he finished mid-fleet.

“I am pretty happy. We sailed well. We went the right way all of the time and stuck to the roadbook, our strategy, and that paid off. We were quick enough all the time and that augers well for the future. I have sailed with François eight or ten times now and so we are a good team.” Smiled Dolan at the finish in La Trinite.

The course took the fleet from Sunday’s start off Cherbourg-Cotentin north across the Channel, turning west to Wolf Rock then south to La Trinite.

“I am especially pleased because the race was a complete test starting out in light winds, with some stronger spells with some upwind and downwind but lots of reaching when you have to be fast. We started badly – again – but worked our way up through the fleet progressively and then held our own. We had a little bit of an error during the second night when we were working to keep a boat in check which we thought was Leboucher but the lights were those of a different boat.” Dolan recalled, “But the key takeaway from this is that the course was like a leg of the Solitaire and we did well enough, certainly I am a bit more confident than after the Maitre-CoQ.”

"Need to check for damage after hitting an unidentified object during the race"

“The game was played on the first night really when the wind came from the east towards the end of the crossing of the Channel and we were to the right of the fleet and so that was good and paid off. Then we stuck to the strategy, to the roadbook I had prepared, and raced the boats around us. That is a good lesson in itself.”

Racing with the Mini Transat winner Jambou, the duo elected to put in some time now to enhance their prospects for next year’s two handed Transat AG2R, Transatlantic. And Dolan is preparing to diversify his programme towards selection for Ireland for the 2024 Olympics’ mixed offshore racing. The race also represent a gilt edged opportunity to run what will be part of this summer’s La Solitaire course.

On returning to base today (Wednesday) Dolan will have the Figaro Beneteau Smurfit lifted out of the water to check for damage after hitting an unidentified object during the race.

“It is a little bit of a worry because in terms of repairs and preparation I am just working myself at the moment with no help. But there is no sign of damage to the inside skin of the boat so I am hoping it will be OK.” Dolan concluded.

Published in Tom Dolan

As I type this, I am currently motor sailing along the Brittany coast having left Port La Floret and am delivering Figaro3 Number 20 to Dun Laoghaire with my co-skipper Pamela Lee.

There has been a lot of speculation in both the media and also amongst the sailing community regarding the inaugural Double Handed Offshore Worlds that were due to be held in Malta in October 2020. This is my story and my views on the handling of the event and the challenges that have had to be overcome if anybody wants to compete at this level. It also our plans for the future for double-handed offshore sailing.

As early as 2017, World Sailing announced there would be a potential new discipline for the Olympic Games of a mixed crew double-handed offshore style discipline. Sailing and sport is constantly evolving with commercial pressures such as sponsorship and TV rights having an influential effect on the style and format of sailing events. There has been talk of this new discipline involving constant live streaming of cameras onboard the boats with drama and images fed ashore continually. This concept was turned to reality with the proposal of the inaugural Double Handed Offshore Worlds that were/are due to be held in Malta in October. There were/are 20 international teams due to take part in this event. One team per country. Irish Sailing representing Ireland was one of the countries that applied for one of the spots for this event. This occurred in November 2019.

Kenny FigaroKenny onboard the new Beneteau Figaro 3

There next came the challenge as to how to select the best Irish team to represent Ireland at this event. There has been some speculation as to how effectively Irish Sailing promoted this opportunity to the sailors of Ireland. In my own personal view, I believe that anybody looking for this information could have easily found it. There were no hidden secrets or emails sent to selective potential representatives, teams were invited to submit expressions of interest to Irish Sailing. Myself and Joan Mulloy were one of a small number of teams who sent in an expression of interest to Irish Sailing. We did this in December 2019.

Irish Selection

Irish Sailing then needed to find a way to select the best team to represent Ireland. It is my belief that Irish Sailing enlisted the services of Marcus Hutchinson who has for many years managed IMOCA teams and is heavily involved in the Figaro 3 class and organisation in France. The Figaro class and race calendar of single-handed & double-handed events is arguably the pinnacle of short-handed small boat offshore sailing in the world. Marcus and Irish Sailing proposed a three-race series of two races for Irish teams only with course lengths of 50 and 100 miles and then the Solo Concarneau race due to be held in April 2020. There were questions as to this selection process including; Why France?; Why Figaro 3s; Why a race that is part of the Figaro circuit? Other questions stemmed from these including costs, Figaro 3 boat time & experience. The simple answer is that if Ireland wants to have the best possible representation at these world championships the Figaro race circuit is the best proving ground available. For me personally, if you want anything in life, you will find a way to make it happen. This you will see is a running theme, there have been a lot of unforeseen obstacles that have had to be tackled and overcome to get this far.

"The simple answer is that if Ireland wants to have the best possible representation at these world championships the Figaro race circuit is the best proving ground available"

The first of which was Joan’s fantastic news which is far more important than any sailing campaign. Joan was pregnant and as a result, would not be able to realistically compete in either the qualifying events or the event in Malta. Therefore I approached Pam, who had only recently returned to Ireland after eight years abroad offshore racing and professional crewing on superyachts and race campaigns in Australia, UK, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, to join the team. Pam subsequently forfeited and rearranged her existing personal and professional plans to get onboard for making this campaign a reality.

Figaro3 learning curve

We then needed to get sailing, Joan had worked with Marcus previously in her earlier Figaro sailing so between Joan, Pam and myself with input for chartering a boat and logistics advice from Marcus, we went to France with Joan acting as a coach and Pam and I learning how to sail a Figaro3, this was a month before the original Irish Sailing qualification process in early March. We had a great week and learnt a lot but it became clear how much more we really needed to learn if we were to seriously compete not just to win the qualifiers to represent Ireland but to represent Ireland at the Offshore World Championships in Malta.

RLSailingteam 3Hitting 20 knots on the foiling Figaro3

Covid-19

Unfortunately, as we were leaving France, the Covid-19 pandemic was just starting to unfold… Yet another challenge to overcome and also a lot of uncertainty as we all now know. Despite the uncertainty, the end goal was also at the forefront of our minds as to represent Ireland in Malta in October. To accomplish this we had agreed as a team then as soon as the various lockdowns around the world were lifting or showing signs of lifting, we were straight out to France to put the boat back in the water and get sailing. Our plan included getting the boat to Ireland as soon as possible. This was because it had been hinted that the Round Ireland yacht race may be used as the qualifying event for Malta. So on Thursday the 14th of May, with various letters and my father Alistair to help with transport logistics, I was on a ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg to get to the boat, Pam armed with similar letters was flying on one of the five scheduled flights in total the next day out of Dublin airport.

Plan B - La Solitaire du Figaro

As a team, we had discussed the possibilities and probabilities of the event in October actually occurring and naturally had come up with a plan B. A simple plan but one that would give the team more overall experience of short-handed offshore racing in the Figaro class. The backup was for me to do the solo Figaro circuit including the Solitaire du Figaro to learn the boat and also improve short-handed offshore sailing techniques. Reality quickly came into play three days ago when we were leaving France on the 20th May that plan B would have to be put into place as World Sailing cancelled its World Offshore Championships for 2020.

Sailing home to Dun Laoghaire

Rumball Fiaro 2 0544(Above and below) Kenny and Pam arrive back into Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Afloat

Rumball Figaro

Complying with all the social distancing guidelines in both France and Ireland, we got the boat back to Ireland yesterday evening on the 22nd of May after a two day 317nm spin from Port La Floret. The plan is to train here from Dun Laoghaire Harbour gaining boat handling skills for the next 5 weeks before returning to France for the newly revised Figaro calendar that will include events such as the Drheam Cup, Solo Concarneau, La Solitaire du Figaro and Spi Ouest (Double-Handed). This should hopefully give us a firm grounding in the boats and discipline of sailing ahead of a double-handed season next year and seeking to qualify to represent Ireland at the rescheduled double-handed offshore worlds, hinted to be in Malta in 2021.

You can follow all our races and adventures for the year ahead on https://www.rlsailingteam.com/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RLSAILINGTEAM Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rlsailing/

Published in Figaro

In the wake of the two-month lockdown from which it emerged on May 11th, France has reopened the coast and allowed all types of marine activities along the Atlantic. This is, of course, good news for Tom Dolan. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa, who kept busy during the two-month lockdown period, will launch his boat this week to get back training on the water. 

"It's going to feel good to be back at sea after two long months, even if I feel a bit like it was non-stop. In mid-March, I made a long list of everything I wanted to achieve and I still haven’t reached the end yet!" says the Irish sailor, who managed to keep up a certain rhythm in his overall organisation.

“I tried just to keep to a normal schedule, getting up, getting dressed, working, and then switching off at the weekend and evening, except all that within 1km of the flat. People suggested that it must have been like being isolated at sea but I don’t see the connection much because we are doing what we love and by our own choice, I think I’ll pinch the quote of the great single-handed sailor Eric Tabarly who once said “Sailing means accepting the restrictions that you have chosen. It is a privilege. Most people are subjected to the obligations that life has imposed on them.” The only real comparison that I see between the two is our mindset as we come out of lockdown. The difficulty and the time it has taken to readapt to being around people reminds me a lot of coming back to land after weeks alone at sea.

A busy lockdown for Tom Dolan

"A good chunk of the weeks were made up of theory courses organised by our training centre in Lorient, all conducted by videoconference. During these sessions, we prepared in detail each leg of the upcoming Solitaire du Figaro, the dangers, important points of passage as well as local weather and tidal effects. Another week we worked on performance analysis and then I dissected the numerous traces of last season's races in order to work on the polar charts (graphical representations, expressing the speed of a boat as a function of the wind direction and strength) then the Sailects (creation and display of the places where the sails are used). I am starting to become a real geek (laughs)! I've also managed to get myself a bit more up to speed on all the paperwork involved in running a small business, which has never been my strong point. And then at the same time, I got to do a lot of catch up on physical preparation, doing a lot of muscle-building sessions and running around the house. I even lost a bit of weight, which is pretty good", explains Tom, who has set his sights once again on the famous Solitaire du Figaro, the only race on the class calendar which should remain in the running this season, if all the health and safety indicators stay in the green.

The Solaire du Figaro maintained for the time being, Plan B on the cards

"We will know on 15th June whether the race is to take place or not, and whether it will be on the scheduled dates (from 30th August to 20th September) or slightly later in September," explains the skipper of Smurfit Kappa, who keeps a plan B in the corner of his head in case the current pandemic turns the programme upside down once again.. "I have a great Plan B in mind, but it is top secret for now! So while waiting to find out more, I'm going to continue to prepare my boat in Concarneau. At the same time, we hope to organise sailing days with the teams from Smurfit Kappa as well as the different companies around Concarneau who had signed up to support us for the Transat AG2R La Mondiale and some of whom continue to accompany us. We will also take out the local council workers who kept working and supported the local community during the lockdown, such as the bin men, bus drivers and people from the town hall. We hope it will be a way we can thank them." concludes Dolan.

Published in Tom Dolan

On 30th August in Saint Brieuc bay, France it is going to be a demanding and difficult start for the 51st edition of the Solitaire du Figaro for Ireland's solo sailor Tom Dolan and the rest of the foiling Figaro 3 fleet.

After achieving 25th place last year, Dolan is set to re-enter this three-week-long French marathon race.

It looks like being a fascinating programme with four legs to be raced, three of which are 500 miles long and more, which is the sort of racing the sailors love. They will then face a final 24-hour run to complete this marathon. Among the highlights, the Fastnet and Wolf Rock stand out in this racecourse with several Channel crossings, the need to deal with the shipping lanes and sandbanks all the way to Dunkirk, then the rocks and tidal currents all the way down to Loire-Atlantique.

Francis Le Goff, the Race Director, has once again decided to leave things very open with few marks along the way, in order to allow the solo skippers to find their own strategy. This looks like being a classic edition with an exciting finish in prospect at the mouth of the Loire…

With some keen newcomers aiming to discover the delights of the Figaro Beneteau circuit (Robin Follin, Erwan le Draoulec, Elodie Bonafous, Estelle Greck...), some who are used to the event (Xavier Macaire, Anthony Marchand, Alexis Loison...) and some previous winners, including the winner of the last Vendée Globe, Armel le Cleac’h, more than thirty competitors are expected to line up in Saint- Quay-Portrieux on 25th August. Aboard their Figaro Bénéteau 3 foilers, the skippers are going to have to remain determined and focused to try to win the Holy Grail of sailing in Loire-Atlantique at the finish of the third and final leg. This year, the Solitaire du Figaro will be returning to the Pays de la Loire region, which proved so popular during the fiftieth edition in 2019 with the start in Nantes.

Analysis of the racecourse by the Race Director:

Leg 1: a 642-mile voyage to the Fastnet and back

“The only waypoint in this first long leg will be the Fastnet Rock, which they will have to leave to starboard. It is going to be very open for the solo sailors from the start, with everyone attempting to find the right tactics and avoid the traps in the Channel and the Celtic Sea,” explained Francis Le Goff. Once they have left Saint-Brieuc Bay, the skippers will head for Ireland while avoiding the rocks around the Isles of Scilly and respecting the various shipping lanes (TSS) to the West of Cornwall on the way out and back. Anything is possible.

They can go inside or outside the islands, so we can look forward to an exciting tactical game…

Leg 2: 497 miles to Dunkirk via the English coast

They will have to watch out for all the shipping and sandbanks. “From Saint-Quay-Portrieux, the fleet will head for the Wolf Rock to the South West of Land’s End, and then make their way towards a waypoint close to Antifer light near Etretat before heading for the finish off Dunkirk. In this leg, they are going to have to make sure they are able to remain alert and focused over the final miles. “This is a leg, where keeping a clear head for the final few miles will be key to the outcome,” explained Francis Le Goff. In this second leg, it will all be very open between Wolf Rock and the Alabaster Coast of Normandy, but there will also be a lot of traps lying in store, such as the TSS, which means the room for manoeuvre will be limited all the way to Dunkirk. There is all the cross-Channel shipping between Calais and Dover, and then the tidal currents and sandbanks all the way to the finish. They will have to manage their sleep and that is going to be vital in this leg for them to be able to stay fresh for the final stretch…

Leg 3: a 504-mile coastal leg from Dunkirk to Saint-Nazaire

There are going to be some great sights along the way in this third leg with a wide range of backdrops. The Opal, Alabaster, Mother-of-pearl coasts of Normandy and the Pink Granite coast and craggy cliffs at the tip of Brittany, the Megalithic Coast of Southern Brittany, the Love Coast and Jade Coast of the Loire Estuary area. So many brilliant things to see, yet the leg is full of hurdles: tricky headlands and capes, tidal currents, islands and rocks, fishermen… 500 miles of high-tension sailing, with one eye on the charts, and the other on the sails with some sleepless nights ahead.

Leg 4: a 24 hour and 183-mile sprint between the islands for the Grand Finale

After three hard, testing stages, the solo sailors will have to draw deeply on their reserves for 24 hours of racing, a loop which should take them between the Ile d'Yeu and Belle-Île via the Ile de Groix before seeing them return to the Loire-Atlantique to crown the big winner of this 51st edition which promises to be full of twists and turns.

From tomorrow, the publication of the Notice of Race will open entry registration for this 2020 edition.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan started the fourth and final leg of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro this afternoon off Roscoff, looking to finish inside the top 10 on the stage, just as he did on the previous stage finishing into the Bay of Morlaix.

“The body is holding up but only just. It is like doing three Fastnet races one after the other. On your own!” cautioned the Irish skipper from County Meath with a smile as he left the dock in Roscoff’s Port Blocson. “This will be another mainly light winds leg with lots of tide, lots of transitions and lots of opportunities. I just want to make sure I finish with no regrets having given my best. For sure the pressure is off slightly after that last leg. I had been doubting myself and my ability and now I just want to go out and fight for another good result.”

"It is like doing three Fastnet races one after the other. On your own!”

The final leg start was delayed until the fitful SE’ly breeze filled in and remained settled enough to allow the 47 strong fleet to be sent on their way on a 500 miles finale to Dieppe via the Great Bass Portsall 40 miles to the west of Roscoff, to Wolf Rock at Lands End, to the South Owers mark by the Isle of Wight, St. Marcouf and Roche d'Ailly.

"It will be tricky along the south coast of England where we will be in a transition zone from Start Point to the Owers. And there will be different options emerging. Even the last miles to the finish will see some different options so there will be plenty going on and once again the chance for big splits to occur.” Explains the solo skipper of the Figaro Bénéteau 3 which is supported by Smurfit Kappa.

“ I do think the whole fleet will regroup between Start Point and the Isle of Wight but I am looking forward to the race across the Channel to Wolf Rock where we should finally get some downwind stuff in a nice 20-25 knots.” Says Dolan who is in 34th place overall. The leg should finish late Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Published in Tom Dolan

“You need to be mentally strong for this type of sailing. You have to make tough decisions when you’re tired.”

“Being by yourself, sailing solo, depends very much on the person and how you use your own resources,”

The first of those comments was made to me by 32-year-old Tom Dolan, the second by 33-year-old Joan Mulloy.

"The Kinsale Figaro stop-over did achieve a deal of coverage for Joan and Tom"

They summed-up quite a bit about the tough world of professional solo sailing and trying to establish a reputation and career at it. Tom, from Meath and Joan from Westport in Count Mayo both impressed me when I talked to them at Kinsale during the Figaro race stop-over. They’d had a disappointing time in the first leg from Nantes in France.

Tom Dolan FigaroTom Dolan

Tom was philosophical. 39th place was not the finish he had intended. He’d been in the top six of the 47-boat fleet for a while as it raced 550 nautical miles to Kinsale:
“It was a bit tough on the old morale, but when the successful day comes it will be all that much better won’t it?”

Joan fared even worse, but remained determined: “You can’t really let one thing put you off, maybe lots and lots of things going wrong, if they all started going wrong might, but that’s the training, to be able to deal with the good and the bad. You have to have some structure in your head to deal with things when they go bad.”

As well as the sailing, there is the financial side of being able to race in major events, the need for support, so we also talked about the search for sponsorship and the response of Irish companies to those engaged in sailing, a sport which does not feature at the top level of national media interest, though the Kinsale Figaro stop-over did achieve a deal of coverage for Joan and Tom.

JOAN MULLOYJoan Mulloy

She told me of her focus on the Vendee Globe and they described sailing the new foiling Beneteau 3 Figaro yachts: “A bit wet, but more interesting,” said Tom.

I started the interview by asking Tom what started him sailing:

Leg Two Update from Roscoff

With the breeze off Roscoff shutting down to become very light yesterday evening and through the night, the later finishers on Stage 2 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro struggled against the tide and unfortunately saw big increases in the time differences behind the leaders and some of their rivals. 

Such is the uncompromising nature of this race, the combination of missed tides and light winds, means hard earned minutes can very suddenly turn to hours.

Last night Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) came in just around midnight local time to finish 29th. The Irish sailor was disappointed with his finish. He said he became stuck twice on the first under big clouds with no wind and watched the fleet sail away. He lies 38th overall. After finishing last night.

Tom Dolan IRL (Smurfit Kappa): “ It was a bit difficult from the first night. I got stuck under two different clouds on the first night and I found myself deserted by the fleet, I was pretty much last at Bishop Rock. Then again I got stuck at The Needles with no wind again. And then again at the finish. So, apart from that it was good. I found a pigeon at the Scilly Isles and he came and sat on the boom. He stayed with me even in the strong winds, reaching in 30-35knots, doing 18-19knots. The boat just lifted and sat on the water and it was so nice to have some strong winds for a while. But the race for me has been difficult. It has not been good for me so far. It has been difficult. It can only get better. I look at that way. I’ll nit be taking the pigeon on the next legs.”

Joan Mulloy IRL (BusinessPost.ie/Believe In Grace) just beat the time cut off in 38th position: “ It was really hard. It was a very difficult race. Last night was very hard as I had no wind and thought I was not going to finish before the cut off. It was really tough to be three miles from the finish and see it is going to take you 15 hours. It was tough. On the second leg there was a bigger range of conditions. Coming back to France and in to the Channel it feels like the open ocean stages are over. I made the finish by an hour.”

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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boot Düsseldorf, the International Boat Show

With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. Around 2,000 exhibitors present their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

boot Düsseldorf FAQs

boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair. Seventeen exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology.

The Fairground Düsseldorf. This massive Dusseldorf Exhibition Centre is strategically located between the River Rhine and the airport. It's about 20 minutes from the airport and 20 minutes from the city centre.

250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair.

The 2018 show was the golden jubilee of the show, so 2021 will be the 51st show.

Every year in January. In 2021 it will be 23-31 January.

Messe Düsseldorf GmbH Messeplatz 40474 Düsseldorf Tel: +49 211 4560-01 Fax: +49 211 4560-668

The Irish marine trade has witnessed increasing numbers of Irish attendees at boot over the last few years as the 17-Hall show becomes more and more dominant in the European market and direct flights from Dublin offer the possibility of day trips to the river Rhine venue.

Boats & Yachts Engines, Engine parts Yacht Equipment Watersports Services Canoes, Kayaks, Rowing Waterski, Wakeboard, Kneeboard & Skimboard Jetski + Equipment & Services Diving, Surfing, Windsurfing, Kite Surfing & SUP Angling Maritime Art & Crafts Marinas & Watersports Infrastructure Beach Resorts Organisations, Authorities & Clubs

Over 1000 boats are on display.

©Afloat 2020

At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

Organiser
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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