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The Coronavirus outbreak has caused French organisers of the Solo Maitre Coq and the Transat AG2R La Mondiale to delay both events and with it the plans of Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan for an Irish bid in the Transatlantic Race. 

For now though, County Meath's Dolan, who is based in France, must sit and wait to find out how the French Offshore Racing Championship will be reorganised before the Solitaire du Figaro race begins this summer.

"I'm keeping busy with physical exercises, weather classes offered by Lorient Grand Large and a lot of paperwork", Dolan said on social media.

Also as Afloat reported earlier, Dolan is expected back to Irish waters for trialling with a new female sailing partner in a bid to represent Ireland in the World Offshore Sailing Championships. As also reported previously, these trials will now be sailed as part of June's SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow.

Published in Solo Sailing
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After April's Transatlantic race, Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is planning to bring his boat Smurfit Kappa to Ireland for six weeks to trial some potential female sailors with a view to forming an Irish campaign for the two-handed offshore class for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“I have had a couple of women who are interested approach me and so we will do some sailing and see how we get on. But this period will also allow me to do some data analysis with an Irish company who are keen to help me generally on data and performance analysis.”

The Transat AG2R will be a big test not just for the two co-skippers but for the Figaro Beneteau 3 boats which have never raced on such a long ocean passage.

“Keeping the boats dry below and stopping water coming in is the big test. There were problems enough on La Solitaire in the Celtic Sea so we really have been working on what can be done.” He explains, “I am really looking forwards to racing hard two-handed to be able to really push the boat. And there should be a chance for a good rest afterwards. La Solitaire is what matters and I want to be doing all I can to arrive at the start rested, focused and ready to put three good, solid legs together.”

Solo Maitre CoQ Starts on Monday

The 2020 season for the Figaro class is fast approaching with the Solo Maitre CoQ due to start in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on Monday. Irish solo racer Tom Dolan is pleased to have achieved a much more balanced, clearly focused build-up seeking to make last year’s weaknesses into strengths and return a set of consistent good results.

The Solo Maître Coq comprises two days of coastal courses followed by a two-day offshore race and is an important warm-up, a chance to benchmark against the fleet following the winter and early spring training period. It is an opportunity to check the boat is perfect before April’s demanding Transat AG2R from Concarneau to Saint Barths in the Caribbean. The pinnacle event of the season is once again La Solitaire du Figaro which takes place in September.

“One thing I have been working hard on is my personal preparation and management ashore and afloat.” Dolan asserts, “ Last year with the boat being new it was a bit of a mad scramble for everyone to find the time to train and to prep and optimise the boats. Maximising sailing time whilst requiring time to fix and optimise the systems, and remember it was all compressed by technical faults, all added up to a tiring, stressful season. Looking back that definitely impacted on my decision making and for sure making wrong decisions impacted much more on my season than any lack of boatspeed at any one time.”

“I am just trying to be more disciplined on and off the water so I can put myself in the best position to make good decisions when they really count.”

“So I am working from my programme as much as possible that makes things like safeguarding days off and not sliding into working on the computer and messing with the boat. Rest is vital and he has been taking time to learn from the meteo books and doing as much homework about the race courses, looking at different scenarios now so I feel prepared. I have just re-read all the information about the Vendée weather for example whereas this time last year I was worried about if blocks were in the right place.”

Dolan has worked hard on his pre-season preparation with his sailmaker Technique Voiles and feels he has made further gains. “It is a work in progress as it always is but with the cable-less gennakers I feel there is a definite gain but we will have to see against the whole fleet.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Due to poor weather interfering with his planned sail to Ireland from Brittany, and concerns with Hurricane Lorenzo later this week, Figaro veteran Tom Dolan has unfortunately had to cancel his scheduled visit to and sailings in Dublin Bay in early October.

Dolan said: "I’ve been on standby for the last week waiting for a weather window to be able to get from Brittany to Dublin but there has not been one and now with the forecast of Hurricane Lorenzo arriving I’m afraid that I cannot take the risk to sail the boat to Ireland into conditions where it might not even be safe in port.

"It has been a hard decision to make and I only just decided this morning but the wind and especially sea state conditions that are on their way leave me no choice."

Dolan had been planning to entertain groups on board his boat Smurfit Kappa from Dun Laoghaire to raise funds for Sailing Into Wellness, which operates wellness programmes in Dublin, Cork and Kinsale to help rehabilitate people recovering from mental health and addiction issues.

He added that he has been in touch with Sailing into Wellness and they will together endeavour to reschedule the planned sailing trips to a calmer season as soon as possible.

Published in Offshore

Tom Dolan, the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa, finished his first season in the Beneteau Figaro 3 on something of a high note when he took fourth place on the last stage of the 12th Tour de Bretagne à la Voile writes Andi Robertson.

Dolan, who sailed with young Turkish sailor Ediz Onën on the multistage two-handed week-long race round the Brittany peninsula took a creditable 21st place overall in the 37-boat fleet.

The course took the fleet from Saint-Quay-Portrieux to La Trinité-sur-Mer via Saint-Malo, Brest, Concarneau and Larmor-Plage and included a testing, 330 nautical miles stage into the western Channel from Saint Malo to Brest via Hands Deep by Plymouth which gave Dolan some of his best, most exciting racing of the year.

But it was on the concluding light winds, tactical 26 miles stage from Larmor Plage to La Trinité sur Mer that Dolan and Onën made their best result on Smurfit Kappa. There were two choices, working offshore or closer to the coast. Choosing the course closer to the land paid and the Irish-Turkish duo lay third until the final three miles where they lost one place to French rivals Corentin Douguet and Christian Ponthieu (NF Habitat).

“It is good to finish the season on that note, with a decent finish, it will be a reminder to me of what I know I am capable of. But that said I am a bit annoyed to have lost a place on the final bit to the finish.” Dolan acknowledged at the finish in La Trinité.

“It has been a decent season all in all. I finish it knowing where I can improve, definitely the starts and I need to stick with my strategy and not jump to something else when I suddenly think it looks better. Nearly always my first-choice strategy has been good.” Dolan added, “On this race, once again, I found myself fast. I was good downwind in the big breeze after Hands Deep and took five or six boats on that leg. But I was also taking 20 litres of water an hour – so two or three big buckets – down below through the foil door so there is some work there to be done over the next few months.”

Tom is bringing his boat to Dublin Bay from 28th September where he is making some day and half- day sails available to guests who make a suitable contribution to funds for Sailing into Wellness as Afloat reported here

Published in Solo Sailing
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Update 30 September: Due to poor weather interfering with his planned sail to Ireland from Brittany, and concerns with Hurricane Lorenzo later this week, Tom Dolan has had to cancel his scheduled visit to and sailings in Dublin Bay in early October.

Dolan said: "I’ve been on standby for the last week waiting for a weather window to be able to get from Brittany to Dublin but there has not been one and now with the forecast of Hurricane Lorenzo arriving I’m afraid that I cannot take the risk to sail the boat to Ireland into conditions where it might not even be safe in port.

"It has been a hard decision to make and I only just decided this morning but the wind and especially sea state conditions that are on their way leave me no choice."

Dolan added that he has been in touch with Sailing into Wellness and they will together endeavour to reschedule the planned sailing trips to a calmer season as soon as possible.

From 1 October you could sail with Figaro veteran Tom Dolan in Dun Laoghaire to raise funds for Sailing Into Wellness, which operates wellness programmes in Dublin, Cork and Kinsale to help rehabilitate people recovering from mental health and addiction issues.

All funds raised through this initiative will be go towards an award-winning programme which uses the experiences of sailing to help create stable lives for people suffering from poor mental health, addiction and social exclusion.

Dolan’s boat Smurfit Kappa — which will sail from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire from Tuesday 1 to Friday 4 and Tuesday 8 to 11 October — can host up to six guests for a three-hour sail which can be booked for a donation of at least €600.

The state-of-the-art Beneteau Figaro 3 offshore one design yacht, on which Tom recently completed the 2,100-mile La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro race in 25th place overall, will be sailed to Dublin Bay from its current home base in Brittany.

Dolan says: “I have always wanted to be able to take time to share the experience with others and to be able to give a little insight into what it is like sailing offshore like I do.

“And there are so many people have helped me along the way, literally hundreds of people over the years, that I would like to be able to help others who are less fortunate.”

“I want to be able to give a little something back to others who I know will benefit. If I can even help get someone’s life on course it would mean so much to me,” he says.

Thirty-two-year-old Dolan grew up in a small farming community in Kells, Co Meath before he left Ireland 10 years ago to pursue his offshore sailing dreams.

He is a dedicated supporter of Sailing Into Wellness, a not-for-profit social enterprise whose corporate sailing events provide vital revenue to fund its community projects.

Founders Colin Healy and James Lyons say they are passionate about sharing their love of the sea to provide long-lasting social impact, working with those affected by substance abuse and poor mental health to help build their recovery.

One hundred percent of Sailing Into Wellness’ profits are used to fund community sailing projects — so by sailing with Tom next month, you would be directly funding vulnerable groups to experience a completely new environment on the open sea.

“One of the things about Tom is that he wants to see sailing as totally inclusive,” says Lyons. “He is totally down to earth and did not come up through the traditional sailing club systems, and feels strongly that it is fun, challenging activity which should be accessible to as many people as possible.

“And he clearly sees it as a catalyst which can change lives for the better. We are really looking forward to working with him.”

To book your charter with Tom onboard Figaro 3, contact [email protected] or 083 442 9629.

Published in Offshore

Finishing into Dieppe today 22nd place less than 45 minutes after Stage 4 winner Eric Peron (French Touch) after just under four days of hard racing Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) finishes in 25th place overall on the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.

For his second participation at the famous French multi-stage solo offshore race, Dolan is taking away the positives which have been evident throughout his season so far and throughout an unrelenting edition – one of the longest and hardest courses ever – which saw the strongest, most competitive entry ever. He has proven fast in the breezy conditions, able to match the best in the fleet. He needs to work on the start lines and in the light, random conditions. Crossing the finish line into Roscoff in eighth place was the high point of the race for the French-based sailor who is originally from County Meath.

During the concluding miles of the first stage from Nantes to Kinsale, as he rounded the Fastnet he was given to reflect that less than ten years previously he was a sailing instructor working out of Baltimore. Dolan is pleased with the learning from this race.

"Crossing the finish line into Roscoff in eighth place was the high point of the race"

Red-eyed from the extreme lack of sleep and visibly wearing the fatigue of three weeks of racing over the four stages, Dolan said, 

“I was fairly happy with the start, to be honest. It was a good first night we were screaming along, I was with the lead group. Then I had a set back at the south of England after Wolf Rock. Then everything was all over the place, we fell backwards. I took a little chance on the race course. We were okay along the coast and we were with the lead group until we got done at Owers mark. The wind came in from the north and then we struggled to make it back up.”

Assessing his race overall, Dolan concludes, “It was hard, when there was wind I seemed to figure it out. But it was a particularly hard race and I am learning, I’m getting there. It’s my second solitaire. I could’ve done with more rest days before the start of it, more preparation- physical and mental- so I was more rested. There was plenty of times in the races where I was up there with the best and I had a hell of a speed so that’s positive.”

Published in Figaro
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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 Figaro

Ireland's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) achieved his best result of this, his second La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, as he took a provisional eighth place, just ten seconds ahead of British rival Will Harris (Hive Energy) in ninth when he crossed the stage three finish line.

British and Irish friends and rivals Will Harris and Tom Dolan had a great match race to the finish line, Dolan in eighth place pipping Harris by just ten seconds after 400 miles and three days and four hours of racing.

"The keel must have hit twenty times"

Dolan however, now faces a jury decision as to the penalty he expects for using his engine to get away from the rocks in the tidal race at Alderney. 

“The keel must have hit twenty times,” Dolan recalled. “Tanguy got stuck and I was so lucky not to. I expect to get a penalty, maybe 25 minutes or something like that, but what else could I do?”

"That’s the maddest thing I have ever been through"

Dolan, whose career best before today was his ninth in the third leg last year, continued: “That’s the maddest thing I have ever been through. I had a terrible start as usual, a real Tom Dolan start, and the fleet were gone. There was no wind at the coast and I managed to skip around them and get into the top 10 and then I got all excited saying, ‘I am doing well, I am doing well.’

“I missed the tide at Alderney by no more than ten minutes, I would say. If there had not been that general recall at the start I would have got through and then there was a whole load of us ended up in this washing machine. The tide was pushing us back and the wind was taking us forwards and Tanguy and I got sucked into this thing. The boat was hopping off the rocks and so I turned on the engine to get out. Tanguy ended up getting stuck.

“After that I had to put my head back together and I was going to give up, I said ‘what am I doing here’, the whole fleet got through and I thought this is useless. But I thought I might as well keep going. And then luckily, or not, most of the fleet tried to go around the TSS to the north but the ridge of high pressure was moving north, so I anchored and I got this weird sea breeze, a night breeze along the coast of Alderney and managed to crawl west. Then the wind came in from the west and I was back in the top ten again. From there it was a battle of wills to stay there. 
It was a mad race. I have never had so many ups and downs in the one race. 
That was the hardest race I have ever done. 
This was the same as the Solitaire last year; two terrible first legs and then a good third one which dragged me back from the brinks of giving up sailing and going back to delivering pizza or whatever. It is a mad sport.”

At the top of the leaderboard, crossing the Stage 3 finish line at 18:16.54hrs local time, Yoann Richomme finds his lead cut to just 1 hour 26 minutes and 14 seconds over the new second placed skipper Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola-Equithe), who finished second on Stage 3 this morning.

Finishing in to Roscoff, emotionally drained at the end of an incredible Stage 3 on which he finished 13th, but nonetheless delighted to have held on to his overall lead in the 50th edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, Yoann Richomme (HelloWork-Telegramme Groupe) admitted that after the leading trio broke away at Alderney, he had no idea of how much time was ahead of them at the start of the leg.

As it was, the margins of between ten and 11 hours that he had in hand over Gildas Mahe (Breizhe Cola-Equithe), Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) and Alexis Loison (Region Normandie) pre-start were enough, although Richomme has had his cushion cut to one hour and 26 minutes and 14 seconds. Mahe is now second overall and Loison is third at two hours and 22 minutes 12 seconds behind Richomme who has led since the end of Stage 1 in to Kinsale.

Leg four Baie De Morlaix to Dieppe (500 nm) starts Saturday 22 June.

Published in Figaro
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Following a general recall which really underlined how competitive and keyed up the 46 strong fleet was to get under way, the 460 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro started this afternoon from Roscoff on the famous Bay of Morlaix in the north of Brittany.

After some early disappointments, Irish solo skipper Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is hoping the course which is much more confined will offer him the opportunity to post his best result so far of the four-stage race.

Stage 3, Roscoff to Roscoff, started in 12-15 knots of SW’ly wind which proved perfect for the initial 10 miles circuit on the bay. With thousands of spectators watching in one of the crucibles of French solo offshore racing, the home waters of Vendée Globe winner Armel Le Cléac’h, the first 10-mile circuit was fast and intense.

The challenging course comprises a loop across the Channel to Hands Deep mark by the Eddystone Lighthouse and down to the west of the point of Brittany before a 40-mile leg to finish back to Roscoff. A succession of tidal gates, especially at the Alderney race tomorrow, may divide the fleet. The race finishes back in Roscoff on Wednesday afternoon, perhaps evening.

Dolan said on the dock in the Blocson port before he left "It looks complicated. This is a potentially difficult stage. But the good thing is that the weather files we received this morning show some more wind than we saw yesterday. So we should be a bit quicker on this first leg across to Videocoq mark at Granville, when the tide will turn. Then we have to go play in the rocks to stay out of the tidal current. The most complicated bit will probably be the passage of the raz Blanchard (the Alderney race between the Channel island point de la Hague) where you really have to get there with the tide, otherwise we can expect huge gaps to open up.”

Having been careful to bank as much sleep as possible these last three days and night in Roscoff Dolan added, “It will be a long time before we will get the chance to sleep, really not until we are across the Channel. Until then it will be really full on and you will need to stay alert. I have been in the position on Stage 1 where I made a mistake because I was just waking up, so I need to guard against that. It is a hell of a battle this race but I can’t wait to be out there again.”

Race tracking here

Published in Figaro
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Delighted with the warmth of welcome in Kinsale and the interest shown in La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro and his project Tom Dolan, solo skipper of Smurfit Kappa, put to sea this afternoon on the 545 miles course to Roscoff.

See Bob Bateman's report of the Kinsale Figaro race departure here

A last minute course change did not concern Dolan any more than it did the 44 other solo racers. The decision not to take the La Solitaire racers north to the Isle of Man in potentially difficult 35-40 knots winds which were predicted for Tuesday was only announced at 1130hrs this Sunday morning. Dolan immediately fell in step with his team's new weather and strategy briefings for a stage which will now take the fleet into the English Channel where much more sedate, even light winds are promised.

As he left the dock in Kinsale Dolan smiled, "The stop has been short, intense and with a lot of things to do, seeing old friends and so on, which has been lovely. But it has been so great to be here and be able to be doing something which should gain a bit of interest in the sport in Ireland. It is nice and there has been such enthusiasm in Kinsale it has been lovely."

Figaro Race Kinsale10

The 530-mile course goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles then up the Channel to the Needles by the west point of the Isle of Wight before racing back down the Channel to Roscoff. Winds along the southern English coast are set to be light to moderate, dropping for the rounding of The Needles in strong tides.

" This last-minute change is because of the tough weather forecast over the next few days in the Irish Sea. It would have been a bit rock and roll with more than 25 knots of wind, especially in the St. George channel where we also had to deal with the traffic separation schemes, sandbanks, and ferries and that would require us to do more gybes. We know that the seas can get big and messy in the channel in the strong currents. I understand the decision of Race Direction even if all the homework and preparation we have done here in the last two days goes in the bin. We have to start all over again! 
Dolan adds " And the last 24 hours I had really got into my head the course, thinking about the long upwind and looking forwards to the downwind. But there you have it. You have to adapt, roll with it."

The Irish skipper admits he is as unfamiliar with the Channel as he would have been racing up around the Isle of Man, as planned,
"It will be quite new to me, I do not know the South coast of England that well at all. Now we are expecting a lot of reaching in 10, 12, 13 knots of wind and then we sail into this low-pressure system which is off England, so it could be quite chaotic going across the Channel. I would say it will be one after the other and then at the end it will be light, like the end of the last one, tide, wind all over the place. 
I am grand. After the result I got in the first leg I just want to be back out there with the counter set to zero and going again. I took a bit of a kicking on the first leg and so I want to get out and do better."

The second stage started in perfect conditions off Kinsale, 12-13kts of westerly wind and sunshine. Smurfit Kappa was in the middle of the 45 boat fleet as they headed towards Bishop Rock after a characteristic conservative, safe start. Two boats collided on the start line. Alain Gautier, a previous winner, was heading directly to Roscoff with damage to his boat. That's part of the game, however, and it's the same for everyone, "

Published in Figaro
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About boot Düsseldorf: 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. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting 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.

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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